Morocco – a whirlwind of a country! Our tour took us to the 5 imperial cities: Rabat (the current capital), Meknes, Fez, Marrakech, and Casablanca. It was a quick 6-day trip so here are some thoughts and lasting impressions in no particular order:
Cats! They are all over the place. Dogs are usually only in the country where they might be working as sheep dogs. It was sad to sometimes see that the cats were not healthy but usually a delight to see them basking in the sun.
Non-Muslims are not allowed in Mosques in Morocco. That is not a universal rule in Islam but was passed in Morocco after it became a French protectorate. Our guide said it was in response to the bad behavior of some of the French soldiers way back when. The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca does allow tours, but we were there on a Friday, the holy day, so it is something to see next time.
Olive Trees: there is a current initiative to plant up to 10 million olive trees through out the country so we saw them often as we drove from city to city. The oil is sold to Spain where it enters the European Union market. It was a good reminder that while the bottle I buy in the store might say Spain, the oil could easily be from Northern Africa.
There seems to be much admiration for the current King, and he has many initiatives to improve the lives of Moroccans such as increased affordable housing.
The Medina in Fez: wonderful and overwhelming. Most of my time was wisely spent watching where I was stepping and making sure I stayed in site of the group. However, it would be delightful to get lost in that maze if I thought I could ever get out again. So much commerce, so much life. I was glad to see the new wooden doors and coverings on some sections to know it is being preserved. Many traditional crafts and are still being practiced.
We had a meal at a “normal” middle class home. The newness of the home and the amount of tile (even on the walls) made it feel much more luxurious than what we consider middle class. The amazing thing was the ease at which they entertained 34 guests. It was probably an easy repeat of a standard dinner for their extended family.
The souks in Marrakech: difficult for someone like me who likes to look over the selection before she buys. I felt such a sense of accomplishment when I realized I could find my way out on my own. The wonder and sensory feast was off set by the pressure of the salesman and the schemes. Everyone seemed to have a brother who had the best argan oil for sale, and anyone in costume would take a picture with you, then ask for money. Our guide had cautioned us that if we were to get a henna tattoo, to negotiate the price before sitting down. Easier said than done. I kept repeating the price I was willing to pay, but the woman pulled me in to the chair, refusing to discuss the price. So for me it wasn’t a relaxing experience. I don’t think I received her best work but still enjoyed having the tattoo for a few days as a souvenir.
Overall Morocco was beautiful and vibrant. I hope I get to go back someday. The food was wonderful. I enjoyed the mix of savory and sweet such as dried fruit in meat dishes. The architecture and all the tiles are amazing.