Notes from Morocco

IMG_9161A country of mud-spired kasbahs, olive-tree infested countrysides, of rolling hills peppered with idly grazing sheep and mules, and warm, friendly people always enthusiastic to help, Morocco comes across like an Indian woman wearing an African jelabaa.

Passing through the Moroccan countryside, one could be anywhere in the world where a farmer is growing food to feed his family. The same broken mud huts house multiple family generations eating slightly different food cooked with local ingredients; the same weather beaten women wearing slightly different garb carry the burden of everyday life — hunched over with kilos of dry wood bundles tied to their backs or pails of well water precariously balanced on covered heads; the same shabbily clad children wandering unsupervised mud tracks in search of playmates with foraged sticks for toys; young girls barely more than children themselves hoisting babies on their hip while the adults around her work to live off the land.

IMG_8969  Get off the motorway and you pass through towns separated from their cohorts around the world only by GPS coordinates. With no official speed limits, mainly because foot and auto congestion allows for nothing over 40mph, these towns are their own little universes. With no need of the bigger world around them except for trade, the town lies around its main artery lined with shacks selling everything from dirt-cheap snacks to car tires, from fresh butchered meats to local pottery, from hot tea to heat balm.

IMG_8998Shopkeepers lounge on woven mats right outside their closet-sized stores chatting with a neighbour, packs of chickens nibbling at their feet, during the slow hours of the morning. A little out and the bustle gives way to rickety roads carrying tractors overflowing with harvested crop and mules bent under a load of cowdung for the stove or water for domestic use. Smoke billows out of these houses clustered close together at all times of day reminding men that no matter how hard life gets, no matter what a shitty day they’re having, home is never far away.

IMG_9421Where else but in a rural countryside where humanity lives off the bare minimum will you find hilarity in the absurd? A barely 4-passenger car carrying no less than 9 people of varying ages isn’t so uncommon. Why does a child need a full seat when she can hop onto a lap? Why, indeed. To a Western sensibility, it is unthinkable to spot a whole row of grown men peeing at the side of the road, but when there’s no bathroom for miles ahead there’s nothing else to do. A lone shepherdess clapping to get her sheep to graze is be funny sight for sure but it probably fulfills a purpose learned from experience. And anyway, that’s the fun of travel: to see in real life what your mind couldn’t conjure up in its dreams.

IMG_9527In that sense, Morocco might not be the most flashy destination to visit but it sure is an interesting one.

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