Wednesday, September 7, 2011
9/7/11: En route to Ghana (Morocco in the rear view)
Only one day out from departing Morocco, I find myself wanting more time in the medinas, wishing that we could have seen the town of Fes, a place where time has stood nearly still, things still being done in the same ways they were centuries ago. The haunting call to prayer over loudspeakers both near and far, the extraordinary sights and sounds of Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakesh, hustle and bustle in the dark corridors of the souks; all provided an experience that will stick with me, despite the fact that we still have 12 more countries to visit. Being that Morocco was our first international experience as a family, I think it will serve a lasting impression on the boys, as well.
Some things that never quite fit in with previous blog posts while in Morocco follow. Mostly observations, some factoids learned along the way, etc.
Morocco’s government is still a monarchy, but a democratic one with a parliament (women hold 30 seats), etc. King Mohammed VI seems to be well liked, probably one of the more progressive kings for an Islamic country. The ‘Arab Spring’ that is currently taking hold in other Islamic countries appears to be less prolific here, at least we saw few overt signs (no political rallies, etc.).
Fashion is alive and well in Morocco, and despite what is described as a traditional Islamic culture, many locals could be seen baring skin that a decade or two ago would have been unthinkable. Apparently people can freely dress however they wish (especially in big cities like Casablanca), but assumptions will be made as to one’s character, based upon one’s choices in clothing. Morocco is 98% Islamic (mostly Sunni), with a smattering of catholics and fewer of the jewish faith.
30% of the population is less than 15 years old (55% <25 years old) and unemployment remains high (13%), as evidenced by the plethora of people wandering the medinas, looking for various creative ways of parting tourists with their money. Average annual income is less than $2000 USD per year, with more rural populations making only $1 to $2 a day. Birth rates are coming down (currently <3), as are mortality rates.
Phosphates are the primary export while tourism is growing rapidly, with services topping 50% of the country’s GDP. Almost every light fixture I saw in Morocco was fluorescent; funny to think that they are ahead of the U.S. in implementing this energy-saving technology. As described previously, satellite dishes could be seen on even the most modest shack, and internet cafes abound. Cell phones are very common, with people able to use them even deep in the cavernous souks, physical locations where AT&T couldn’t provide a signal in the States if they tried.
Lastly, as story told by one of the Lifelong Learners during the Post-Port reflection meeting tonight:
After she had watched Moroccan women using rocks to bang open the nuts of an argan tree, she stood in line to buy some argan oil (rich in Vitamin E), a specialty of Morocco. She got to the cashier, who asked: “Is that a 3 or a 4?” She was puzzled, and had to ask her what she was enquiring about. It was the iPhone in her hand.
Such a fascinating intersection of ancient tradition and modern culture.
Posted by Jeff Warner at 8:44 PM