Morocco is a country of about 34 million people. Located on the northwestern corner of Africa, it is an area known for its organic agricultural exports. Fishing and phosphate mining are also big sources of revenue for the country. Rabat is the capital and other familiar cities are Casablanca, Fez, Tangier and Marrakech.
The political makeup of Morocco is a constitutional monarchy. The current king is Mohamed VI. He is popular and has a focus on education for all citizens and improving infrastructure, in part, by bringing electricity to everyone, including those in remote villages.
It is 98% Sunni Muslim, with small populations of both Christians and Jews. It's been occupied for centuries by different groups, starting with the Phoenicians in the 12th century and finally gained its independence in 1956.
I've never been to Morocco before. You'd think that since we were docking at the port of Casablanca that I'd want to check that city out, especially the famous Rick's Cafe, from the movie Casablanca, but nope a doodle. I kept hearing the song by Crosby Stills Nash and Young - Marrakech Express, in my head. Over and over and over again. Sigh. So I signed up for an all
day tour to the famed city, 200 kilometers away. 3 hours one way on a bus. Sigh. 12 1/2 hours total.
Was it worth it? Nope a doodle. Oh, it was okay. There were some nice parts. The bus ride was actually quite comfortable and the time went by quickly.
Our tour guide was interesting and excited to show us his country. He's quite proud and that was nice to see. He grew up in a nomadic Berber family and used to herd goats as a child. But he had a bigger calling than the bleating of goats. Wait, do goats bleat? Well anyway, he left home and went to school and learned English and French and has made his career in tourism. He's well suited for it as he has a great personality.
I guess the reason why I wasn't a big fan of Marrakech is because it just looked like a lot of other cities in this neck of the world that I'd been to. Dry and hot, souks and squares and vendors hawking knockoff items and "authentic" goods made in China.
Gosh. Am I getting jaded? Probably.
Marrakech was quite a big city and seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Tons of hotels and resorts and lots of international tourists roaming about. The drive to the city was also not exactly what I expected- there was a lot of farmland with herds of goats and cattle, along with the occasional desert farmhouse communities.
Once arriving in the city, we visited the older area where there is an ancient palace, a main square where horse carriages would carry you away to parts unknown. Not to be outdone, there were a million motorbikes riding around every which way so you had to be careful where you stepped while walking in the streets.
We had a nice lunch, complete with musicians and a belly dancer, who nearly fell out of her costume, if you get my drift. It was a typical Moroccan lunch, with small plates of different vegetables and potatoes to start, followed by roasted chicken from a tangine, an earthenware bowl with a funnel top that helps to cook the meat in a somewhat steamy environment when placed in a hot oven.
We finished off our tour by visiting a mudrassa (spelling?) which is a place of learning, and walking through the souk. Some were excited to shop a little and bargained hard for their purchases of scarves, slippers and chatztkies.
Others did their best to just enjoy it for what it was.
Outside of the souk, in the square, I agreed to hold a snake while the charmer played his music and one of those cobra snakes oozed up into the air in that special slithering way they do, and then I sat in a cafe for a bit, sipping a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
And then it was back on the bus for the long ride home.