After two weeks of recovery and cleansing in EcoForest and several nights in Marbella and Tarifa, we shipped the laptop away for repair, left half of our stuff, and took the ferry from Algeciras to Tangir. It took two hours to arrive in a different world, our first time in Africa.
The plan was to just have a taste, and our route was quite traditional - Chefchaouen - Fes - Meknes - Volubilis (roman ruins) - Casablanca - Marrakech - Setti Fatma (Atlas mountains) - Essaouira - El Jadida - Rabat.
Besides what most people would say about the colorful markets, the old Medinas, the friendly people, and the annoying people, we have compiled a list of our own highlights (In no particular order, pictures follow):
Here, cloth diapers are not an 'alternative parenting' thing, it is the default choice of diapering. The most popular was the gauze model (what we used with Momo) with two strings attached to help in the tying up. As for covers, we saw mostly a simple shaped thin plastic sheet which ties around the diaper, or sometimes the plastic underwear thing. We could see the cloth diapers hanging with the rest of laundry on many roofs. Yes, disposable ones for the middle class plus, were widely available as well in stores, but they were also visible in the ocean and in open spaces.
Baby slings were also widely used. These were mostly a long narrow sheet tied around the mother and the baby on her back, with an extra nicely decorated sheet for warmth. Middle class women seemed to more often use the manufactured front carriers, and unfortunately sometimes they used strollers! It was both pathetic and funny seeing the 'westernized' families trying to push their poor baby through the bumpy narrow Medina alleys.
It was a custom for most people who passed us to kiss Momo. She got dozens of kisses a day, from both kids and adults. They simply smiled to us, approached closer, and kissed her on her cheek.. sometimes a whole group of kids would come up and wait their turn to do this. Soon enough Momo caught on to this custom, and initiated kisses on her own.
Most hotels we visited (the cheap yet nice ones) did the laundry (big double sheets included) by hand in the sink, and then dried in the sun on the roofs. This and the cleaning of rooms was done exclusively by women. We felt bad for making them wash everything just for one night, so we always stayed at least two. (Yet we of course fully support and encourage this economic way of washing).
All cities were easily walkable, and a bus or a small taxi would take you anywhere. The streets were alive! So many people, buying and selling every day almost without a break. We noticed that people don't stock up or buy ahead, this is why the markets are so busy, the bananas and avocados were always perfectly ripe to be eaten right away.
Trains were very modern and comfortable, the (cheaper) buses take you where the train doesn't, and most of the time they were okay. Momo was amazingly patient, five hours she would sit with us, sleep, eat, and eye people.
Only at the end of the trip did we spot one empty supermarket in El Jadida. Other than that, there was a separate small shop for each type of food - a shop for fresh fruit (and sometimes separate for bananas, melons, etc.), a shop for veggies, a shop for olives and preserves, a shop for cheese, a bakery, a shop for meat (chicken live in-shop), and packaged food groceries.
The non food markets were sadly mostly cheap plastic imports (another reason why people have to return to the market every so often), and outside of the old cities, everything was quite west-looking, just a bit dirtier and more lively. It was interesting to see all donated European clothes for sale in piles in the streets.
Coming from Spain, it was a relief to actually never see a single dog pile! Do Moroccans see the injustice of having pets? or is it just too much of a luxury? They simply don't fit, that's all. People are close to each other, they have children, and they don't need this kind of submissive companion - where would they put them? On the other side, westerners see "owning" THREE cats an excuse to live in a 3 bedroom apartment and to travel by car that's bigger than a Moroccan grand-taxi that wouldn't leave until it's full with 7 people.
A popular fast-food street snacks that in the west would count as a health-freak thing, were mobile bean or chickpea pots, which would be distributed for a Durham, in a paper cone made from used office paper. Of course, fresh orange juice is everywhere, especially in Marrakech, where there is just stall after stall, with the young person behind, practically almost pulling the customers in. We had to make sure they make it right there on the spot, or we would get it from their 'ready-made' jug, which was diluted with water and with added sugar.
On one of our last days, we finally went to a Khamam, the public bath. OfeK went into one door, and Erika and Momo to the other. Erika was totally lost, and using a few pantomimes she found out that no, they did not give out towels (uh oh), and paid for what she thought was a woman to watch Momo but instead turned out to be a rough body scrub by the same lady. She also found out that there wasn't actually a bath or a shower. Instead you were given buckets and inside a large fully tiled room there was a hot and cold tap where you filled up. You were supposed to bring something to sit on (oh well) and you sat around with all these other women who scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed the dead skin off their bodies for at least an hour each. Momo was in heaven in a place where she could splash water all around the room. Erika also learned that the Moroccan diet is not so forgiving to it's women's bodies. OfeK, on the other side, was yelled at for taking his underwear off (he didn't have clean ones with him, and didn't know he was supposed to wash himself with underwear on), and was also lucky to witness a young "masseur" scrubbing and working very hard on a huge moley body. We also saw that even middle class people came with their cars and used the public bath, just think of all the energy and space saved by avoiding private bathrooms and boilers!
Besides one that was totally trashed, there were no playgrounds. The city parks were full of murmuring students studying for exams. In Essaouira, one of the market "stalls" was a home-made merry-go-round, pushed by the inventor, who also provided some sort of a whale-type sounds as he pushed it around. Though there were no flashy colors, and it was made of rusty metal, Momo knew this was a quality ride.. once we put her on she wouldn't get off.
We might be mistaken, but though Morocco is a monarchy, it didn't feel any more oppressive than the "democracies" we come from. Public services such as transport, education, and health seemed to be in line with the north. There were poor people, and their were rich people, depressed looks and smiles. We didn't see any violence, and the streets in most cities felt safe, though police presence was very low. But why would there be a difference? In the US (or any other country), every four years, people vote and nothing changes, and here in Morocco it's the same king, and the whole bullshit of elections (waste of time and paper) is avoided.
More than being both Arab, Palestinians and Moroccans seemed to have a similar relaxed and warm mentality. Most Jews left Morocco, once the idea of becoming part of an exclusivist western colonizing overdog became popular. Zionism successfully divided people once again. But still, visiting Morocco helped to visualize what Palestine used to be and could be today, without the Zionists and their lies, imposing themselves on a land which should have been open to all, an example of peace and non-violence.
Without the laptop we had to lower the quality a bit while in Morocco - this way we could fit more on the camera.
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