We wound up the year with a bang. 6 days in Morocco and we still could have spent so much more time there, although I think we had exhausted our traveling patience.
The first leg of our journey we spent in the tranquil Atlas Mountains. Not knowing what to expect in our first Muslim country that we’ve visited, we decided to splurge on this trip in order to have as relaxing and enjoyable of a holiday as possible (of course things happen that are outside of our control and that we can’t couldn’t plan for). So we were picked up by our hotel at the airport. You cannot buy Moroccan Dirham outside of Morocco, so our first task after landing was to find an ATM and some bottled water in an attempt to ease my germaphobic and overly cautious ways.
After that, there was a line-up of probably 50 Moroccan men all waiting to pick up wide-eyed tourists. We went through the line-up twice before finding a sign with our names on it. Then the adventure began. Our hour long drive consisted of Moroccan techno music, hundreds of scooters that we nearly side-swiped, donkeys pulling carts of various sizes and loads and the realization that lines on the road mean nothing. In all honesty, Marrakesh at night looked more like a deserted wasteland than an oasis. What I found most interesting is that there wasn’t one woman in site. Outside of stores and workshops and filling the streets, the only gender to be found was men. As we got nearer to the mountains, the rode we were driving on turned to dirt and wound back and forth as our altitude progressed. Lining the streets was what looked like abandoned homes and stray dogs. We arrived safely at our hotel and immediately felt at ease as we were given a tour around the grounds. I could not recommend the Kasbah Bab Ourika enough. They had a vegetarian dinner prepared for us after we arrived and were shown to our beautiful room and private balcony. The place was an absolute sanctuary that we were reluctant to leave 2 days later.
(image via here)
Everything was so beautifully designed and style.
Surprisingly, the weather was warm and we were able to sit poolside for parts of the day.
We hired a local guide to give us a hike through the forest and show us what life is like as a local Berber (meaning native people of the Atlas Mountains). Our guide was one of three people from his village that went to university and he still regrets dropping out after 2nd year. He said girls are generally educated at a much lower level than boys. Often in the villages, the teacher doesn’t show up to teach and students are pulled out of school to work at home. The school we passed wasn’t in use because it was on the verge of collapsing.
We were invited into the home of one of the local families. They share a home between two families. One of the families alone has 7 children. The dwelling was passed down from the previous generation to the two sons. Inside the home, you enter an open courtyard. The entire home has dirt floors and yet one of the women was still sweeping up as we entered. They insisted that we could take photos, but it just didn’t feel right. Somehow, our Western ways seemed absolutely absurd and embarrassing. How could we worry about the things we worry about? Last year, this village of probably about 100 people ran out of water in the searing 40 degree heat because a Swiss man built a mansion on a hill above their village and had used up twice as much of the water supply as the entire village. And yet, they didn’t resent the man. They welcomed him to the area and he in turn hired them to build his home and work as cooks and cleaners. The surprising thing is that the women were refused to be allowed to work at his home, so he went to the next village and hired women from that area to cook and clean. The livestock, which consists of 3 cows, a couple of goats and rabbits and chickens, are housed inside of their dwelling and tied up so they can’t escape. The houses are built with mud that they collect from close to the river and are supported inside by wood slats until they set. The houses virtually disappear when you look at the landscape because they are the same colour as the earth that surrounds them.
There is one bedroom and one communal living room that doubles as sleeping quarters for everyone else. This is where we were invited for tea and bread with fresh olive oil. Phil and I were hesitant to partake because we had read so much about how not to get sick in Morocco. Rule #1: don’t drink the water. It would have been incredibly rude though to refuse and thankfully we were fine afterwards. In order to cook or shower, they start a fire and do things the way we imagine they happened a long time ago in our Western world. The thing that was most striking was that the people are happy. They don’t worry or stress. They have a close community that enjoys having dances together in the evening while the children play football. I asked our guide what the average age of people is an he guessed about 75-77, but interestingly, he said there is 5 people over the age of 100 just in his village alone. In a community of a couple hundred people at most, that is impressive. The funny thing to me is that we were coming here to escape the chaos and relax and these people didn’t need any escape from their life. They are perfectly content in the way things are. Our guide did say that he could foresee many changes coming since all houses now had satellite and access to television. Two of the young boys we met were huddled around a cell phone when we visited, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the long run.
So here’s my New Year’s Resolution: to stop stressing and worrying and complaining about things that are not worth stressing, worrying or complaining about.