Deserts and Kasbahs
Trip Start Sep 12, 2005
40Trip End Dec 12, 2005
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The landscape in Morocco is certainly variable. There's the green agricultural land of Fez (including many cacti and succulents), the sand of the desert, the dry and rocky (and sometimes lush) Atlas mountains and the very rich farmland of the oases. Morocco is also a major producer of roses (first brought to Morocco from Saudi Arabia), hence the rose soap, face cream, etc. The roses must be spectacular in the spring. (We also learned that Morocco is the second largest producer of phosphate in the world.)
En route to Ait Benhaddou we stopped for lunch at Quarzazate (pronounced "war-za-zat"), the home of Atlas Studios
On the various hillsides there's messages in Arabic that are spelled out in white rocks; several of these read "God, Country, King" (the order of importance of these things to Moroccans). Another we came across stated "The Desert is Ours". Morocco has held on to the desert for hundreds of years, despite efforts of dissidents to change that. "The Green March" was one such campaign when thousands of Moroccans flooded into the desert to reinforce their claim - and a very successful strategy it was.
I find the public toilets here a contradiction to their fierce determination of keeping men and women separate as all the toilets are available to either men or women. It's kind of strange being in a stall beside a man. I never did see a local women use the coed toilets, though - only the men and the tourists
It was very cold in our hotel rooms both here and in Tinerhir and there was no heat in the rooms. During the summer months, temperatures reach 55C in the desert and 45C elsewhere, so the cool accommodations (tile floors, swimming pools) are probably greatly appreciated. Because the weather is getting so cold, our tour is the last of the season for Imaginative Traveller; tours will begin again in February.
Of course, since this is Sandra's last tour, she has been reflecting on her experiences as a tour guide. She has attributes that make her a natural leader - she is outgoing, enthusiastic, personable and unafraid of the challenges that this job has presented her. She says it has been particularly frustrating at times dealing with men in Morocco; so many of them that she deals with on a regular basis try time after time to make a pass at her, but she repeatedly lets them know that she is not interested and that their gestures are inappropriate. (She asked one Moroccan why he persisted and his answer was that for every 10 women Western women he tries to sleep with, one will capitulate.) Also, at over six feet, Sandra is an imposing figure; her physical stature alone helps people here to understand that they shouldn't mess with her. (We also found out that Sandra is a ballroom dancer! In her four-inch heels she would have quite a commanding presence!)
Because of her experiences, we talked at length with Sandra about the relationships between men and women in Morocco. She feels that the strict code of social conduct that governs all life here is changing. One of the major influences is access to the Internet which permits secret liaisons between the sexes.