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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Friday, 29 Apr 2016

Location: Malaga, Spain

MapImpressions of Morocco: As we leave this magical country, there’s some things that we will take with us…

The scenery: there’s a constant among the many fantastic sights we’ve seen – mountains. We’ve either been in the thick of them or sighting them in the distance. Rock is one of the hardest substances known to man, yet these mountains have been eroded and shaped by the weather gods over a mind-boggling time, to form what is now Morocco. Even in the desert, we were amongst mountains of sand.

Speaking of the desert, the Sahara sand was the finest sand I’ve ever had run through my fingers. It flowed like water, as though under some mystical spell that brings it to life. It was extraordinary, again created by the overwhelming passage of time.

Water: Abundant in the north, scarce in the south. Roads invariably cross rivers by dipping down into the river bed and crossing it with a concreted section. There’s no need to build a bridge when the river never flows. It hardly ever rains, but then again, there is always evidence of massive water movement at some time in the past, judging by the size of the river beds and flood plains, and the massive gorges and canyons. There are dams in the north that hold back vast volumes of water for irrigation and hydro power. The south-north contrast is noticeable.

Animals: Cats are everywhere throughout the country. They are tolerated but not domesticated. Their job is to keep the rodent vermin under control, and they do it very well - we saw no evidence of mice or rats anywhere. Storks are everywhere throughout the country, creating huge nests anywhere that’s high and out of human reach. Donkeys are common on both country roads and cities. Known as the medina taxi (a horse is a medina Mercedes), donkeys are an essential part of simple Moroccan life. Sheep and goats are always grazing at the roadside, under the watchful eye of their shepherd. Your heart is always in your mouth as you drive past such a flock - all it takes is for one to break away from the flock and run in front of oncoming traffic.

Houses: people live in houses of concrete blocks or mud and straw, and most of them are only half finished. The bottom floor is inhabited, and the floors above are empty with reinforcing steelwork poking through the concrete framework. We learned that people don't pay tax while their house is under construction. So, they never finish. Aesthetics are never a consideration.

Satellite dishes: In Morocco, it only takes a once-off payment of 50 Euro to buy and install a satellite dish on your roof, to give you have access to hundreds of European and African channels. We saw the biggest concentration in Fez, where the numbers of dishes at roof level could only be described as a forest. Here’s a recommendation for a good business opportunity – become a satellite dish technician in Morocco.

The rubbish: sadly very disturbing in country areas. Plastic bags are like snow on the ground. Ugly, worrying, and very eco-unfriendly.

The King: Mohammed VI is obviously a very popular monarch, after 17 years on the throne. Well educated, very wealthy and only 52 years of age, he could be described as progressive with some of his reforms. His picture is everywhere – shops, cafes and hotels, where he is either in a suit or at play with his young family. We only ever heard endearing comments about him.

Finally, the people: Always warm, friendly, welcoming … and Muslim. If only those people around the world who have come to distrust Islam in recent years, could experience the Moroccan hospitality and kindness, they would realise their folly. Yes, Moroccans are different – most women cover their heads, and do all the work; men only socialise with men and pray five times a day. Most live simple lives, doing whatever it takes to survivie, but they are eager to help, do not discriminate on race or creed, and will greet you with a smile.