Morocco, The Assessment

Marrakech Souk

This was the second visit to Morocco and although essentially quite similar Fez was significantly different to Marrakech with fewer tourists and much less evidence of western influence.  We were quite clear and fully aware that we were temporary guests in an Arab country with a wholly different culture to Europe.

I use the term guests in a wider sense here because it was clear that in some places we were tolerated rather than welcomed, taken advantage of rather than warmly embraced and mostly kept at arm’s length, treated with suspicion and excluded.  The Riad was different from the streets because the owners were French and the staff were mostly Christian Armenian so there was a certain European atmosphere but once outside the front door it was a different world altogether.

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12 responses to “Morocco, The Assessment

  1. Sigh. Your top shot is so lovely! Theadora

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  2. As always, I enjoy your ‘tours’.

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  3. Andrew,

    You say:
    “I am forced to compare this with our own balanced approach which certainly (I hope) wouldn’t exclude a Moroccan visitor to the UK entering, for example, Westminster Abbey”.

    Providing they have the money!

    As Woody said “Oh, if you ain’t got the do re mi, folks, if you ain’t got the do re mi…” !!

    (And come to think of it, that view chimes with that of the Berber tradesmen …)

    Hope you are in fine fettle Andrew.

    You also say:

    “I think it may be some time before I return to North Africa as we resume our travels through Europe.”

    As someone once bitten twice shy, serious money would not get me back to Morocco. But I am disappointed to hear you talk about “travels through Europe”. By your own admission there is so much of the UK you still need to discover.

    I would contend that there is no more varied country in Europe than the UK. And despite my having worked as a salesman in every town in GB with a population of over 20,000 people (I would hazard a guess that this makes me unique); and despite me having spent 179 nights in the past 4 years in UK hotel and caravan stays; and despite me being a full member of both the National Trust and English Heritage for the past 17 years; I have not even SCRATCHED THE SURFACE myself!

    I humbly submit that the phrase “travels through Europe” is a telling one. Okay, I understand it is a common and innocent phrase. But, one that is loaded with a subtext.

    What am I saying? I’m not altogether sure, but I guess I am trying to say that travel should be less about THROUGH somewhere, and more about that “somewhere” travelling through … you and me!!

    Like we discussed Andrew, start with submerging yourself in the wonderful GLASGOW.

    Kindest, as ever,
    Dai

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  4. oh, how sad! I can’t disagree with you, I suppose, as I also experienced every annoyance you noticed in Morocco. I would only point out that Morocco is not England (clearly). It’s mind-numbingly poor, yet visited by some of the richest tourists around, and when I was there I really couldn’t blame the kids in the street or the shop keepers in the souk for hustling the foreigners. You get the same crap in NYC, or Camden Marken in London, for that matter, just minus the explanation of the vendor actually needing that very last penny to eat.

    I also met some amazingly nice people in Morocco, especially in Fez: strangers who invited us into their homes or their shops to meet their mothers or their wives, and to feed us to bursting while drowning us in mint tea. I’m pretty sure they weren’t getting a commission. I sat in a shop and discussed the history of the world (I’m a geologist) with a toothless, illiterate old man, who still spoke French better than me or, I would say, most Parisiens I’ve met. I didn’t buy anything, he just wanted to talk to some odd foreigners about the rocks near his house, and what they might mean.

    And yeah, I only managed to get the local price on one single item in three weeks. And yeah, I came home with two carpets I really didn’t need (but which I do love…). I guess I just think half the joy of travelling actually _is_ the hassle, and the inconvenience, and the annoyance. When I want to try on every pair of shoes available, make an informed decision, and then find the best price, I stay home. And when I want to see the world, I try to accept that I’m probably gonna get stuck carting around a couple donkeys, a hookah, and a stupid-looking over-priced hat, having never found my way out of that labyrinth they call Fez 🙂

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  5. I thought you said I could come with you…oh well ..too late now! I would soon have sorted out those pesky Arabs, I would whack them with my walking stick…but you are right. It is a beautiful country..well worth a visit but always be BEWARE, never ever trust an Arab.

    Maybe one day I might get back there again…however that has reminded me of a post that I could write about …..Arabs

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  6. It’s sad all this, isn’t it? You can very well understand how it comes about in a “have not” society, and I do take the point of the cost of visiting somewhere like York Minster (exhorbitant! I do hope it all goes in maintenance) but there are lots of poor people who make you welcome. I always thought it was part of the Arab tradition too to share with the stranger, but commercialism is what it is. I’m in no position to judge as I’ve never been, but have always dreamed of staying in a riad. Of course, that’s the idealised version!

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  7. i was in Fez 12 years ago, Andrew with a friend.The constant hassling got too much for us so we took the boat to Algeceiras and stayed with some friends who had moved to Nerja to live for 10 of the 14 days holiday we had, guess what led me to decide to live in Spain! That was in August that year by November of that same year i had bought my house in Sagra. We had to return to Morrocco to get the plane to back to the UK and some old fella tried to extract money out of us to get our passports stamped- a real headache trying to make him understand i could do it myself for free as it was my passport. I understand what poverty is but i call it taking the biscuit! Morrocco is not and will not be high on my list of travel possibilities and from your post things have´nt changed much in 12 years!

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  8. Whenever I read of other countries and their customs and difficulties I try to open my eyes to the wider picture.. I mean WIDE. I am still trying to place each concept in its place and probably always will. I guess it is a bit like me digging into an ants nest and trying to work out who is doing what and why. Love your travels and insights to the reality of life, for someone who has never travelled, it is a wonderful insight to the rest of our world. M

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