|Amezmiz Valley, High Atlas Mountains|
Blog Entry #12: Morocco Day 4: Closing Thoughts
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
|Ait Hmad and Atlas Mountains|
Our final day in Morocco involved a short hike down the Oued Amezmiz valley through well-tended gardens to meet our buses to take us back to Marrakech.
|Gîte rooftop, Ait Hmad|
We had a final couple hours there for shopping and walking around New Town – Pat and I even ventured to a sidewalk café to try some traditional tajine – and then we were back on the train bound for Casablanca.
|Countryside from trained|
|Countryside from train|
The countryside from the train seemed much more familiar on the return route, but the traffic in Casablanca at 5:00 in the afternoon was much more congested than our early Saturday morning first trip had been. Returning to the ship felt a bit like returning home, and Cabin 4077 gave us a good night’s sleep after an energetic and energizing four days in Morocco.
Still, impressions abound. For both Pat and me Morocco was our first Muslim country, and we were struck by how much less monolithic it appears than stereotypes of Muslim nations often present. One sees this superficially in Moroccan dress: both men and women wear everything from very traditional to very modern Western clothing, and freely intermix without any apparent pattern; we would even see a woman in full birka covering everything but her eyes walking together with an unveiled woman in Western clothing. Everyone we met was very friendly toward us, and – outside the marketplace – genuinely interested in talking to us and learning about where we were from as well as answering our questions.
|New Apartment buildings in Marrakech|
|New Buildings outside Marrakech|
|Berber kids playing on rooftop, Ait Zitoune village|
Yet the contradictions of Morocco’s place in the global economy and as the African gateway to Europe are not hard to see. While families and rural communities we visited in Berber country seem largely intact, many have family members forced to leave their home regions in search of jobs in the cities or in Europe. Morocco’s emphasis on building a tourism industry means that people who might otherwise be employed in professional sectors instead work in tourism.
|Brian and Kristin with Mohamed & Lhaucine, Reforestation Project|
|Goats bedded down at night, Ait Hmad village|
|High Atlas Mountains from Ait Hmad|
Particularly moving for me was being in the country where my brother Stu spent a couple years in the Peace Corps as a veterinarian, working particularly with Berber herders. Seeing the presence everywhere of goats and sheep, the reliance of village life on herding, and the environmental impact of grazing, I so wished I had had Stu with me to orient me better and to hear his reflections on his time in Morocco in the late 80s and what has changed since.
Final impressions: warm, friendly people, the hourly rhythm of Muslim calls to worship ringing from village to village in the countryside, colorful and flavorful food laced with olives and fresh vegetables, the contrast of green gardens and arid countryside, the frenetic energy of the souks – market stalls – in Marrakech, the importance everywhere of water, the dry and high Atlas Mountains rising from the brown plains, the Hassan II Mosque dominating the night-time skyline of Casablanca as we departed at night. Salaam Alykum to this beautiful land!
What follows is a potpourri of some of my favorite images from our time in Morocco...
|Old & New: Cat & Satellite Dish on Traditional Berber House|
|Old & New: Latches and Lock on Berber door|
|The Face of Globalization: Coke available in English and Arabic|
|Nick Colletta dancing with Berber cooks, Ait Zitoune|
|Camels awaiting tourists in Marrakech|
|Photo taken by Berber boy in Ait Hmad|
|Hillary Hardy with entrepreneurial young Berber woman|
|New friends on the rooftops of Ait Zitoune|
|Marrakech Train Station|
|Pat in the Souks in Marrakech|
|Trekking through arid Berber country|
|Another face of Globalization: McDonald's in Marrakech|