I finally managed to leave Algeciras when my parcel arrived, and had the fortune of not having to wait for the second one as Jorge, my host in Algeciras, would be visiting Morocco himself a few days later. We arranged to meet up in Rabat and I was finally away. I’m writing this more than 8 months later, and have barely got any notes, so there’s not going to be much detail. Mainly pasting of the notes that I sporadically took.
I had a Warmshowers organised in Martil, but had to call him to organise things. I asked a guy called Farouk if I could borrow his phone, and instead of doing so he took his SIM card out (he had two) and gave it to me and helped me get credit on it. When that was finally done, he asked me what I was trying to call for and hearing that I was going to call someone to let me stay at their place he invited me to his instead. That seemed easier than making a phone call so away we went.
Three answers given to me come to mind from talking with Farouk.
1. Should the government ban smoking and alcohol? It’s a Muslim country so should be done and it’s their fault people smoke as they provide the temptation
2. Morocco has security, at what cost? Well, it’s worth it. Spoke of heavy police presence and thus protection meaning it’s the only safe Arabic country. A theme that would come up many times during my stay in Morocco from people who think it’s a police state with people spying on each other and reporting to the authorities.
3. Western Sahara, if there is a referendum then whatever the result there’d be a war. All the fault of Algeria supporting POLISARI. I didn’t find a single Moroccan who believed that Western Sahara had a right to be independent. At a simple political level, I think that people have the right to be free and if those living in Western Sahara want this then they should be allowed it (the same way I feel about Scotland). Morocco has done its best to counter this by filling it with people sympathetic to its cause.
Another interesting view on life in Morocco came when I was in Rabat. I stayed with a French/American couple who live and work there called G&A. They told me about the hypocrisies that are present in Moroccan society (as in every society) which include things like wine basically sells out just before Ramadan as people get stocks because it’s not on sale for the month. As well as this, many people will pretend to observe and fast, but then go around to the French couple’s place to eat in secret. Another thing was that G&A live together, and have a cleaner who comes in. After a few weeks of coming in the cleaner asked one of them “I know that one is your bedroom but where does he sleep? None of the other rooms ever need as much cleaning. He must be very neat.” because that was easier to digest than that they were sharing a room which just didn’t enter the mind of the cleaner.
Near Taroudant I stayed with Jonny & Marion from Warmshowers. Jonny had hosted myself and Gaz up near the Giant’s Causeway but was now living in Morocco for a short time with his girlfriend. When I initially sent him the message on Warmshowers I hadn’t realised this, but he twigged on after a while and it was great to see him again. I didn’t have a bad experience, but Marion did. She and I walked around the souk and then we parted ways. When I got home a couple of hours later she was distraught after one of the vendors had been very aggressive towards her. She had been looking for a birthday present for someone and so looked around the jewellery stands. She was interested in buying something and looked around, but decided to come back later. The man working there started shouting at her a lot about how she should buy things and if she wasn’t going to buy anything then she should go back to France. I don’t recall anything like that happening to me, which I’m sure is partly down to being a man, but also not understanding everything helps. I can just pretend the Arabic that is being said to me is full of positivity when it might be less so.
Another thing that comes to mind is when I was staying with another host. He had to nip out to get something, and he left me in the house without any problems. His mum was there, but that was it. Later on, I was told that he would never do that with an Arab as 90% of Europeans are trustworthy, but only 50% of Arabs are. He lives near Agadir, a beach resort filled with Europeans, and the beachfront felt more like Europe than Morocco. The only Moroccans I saw along it during the day were trying to sell things to the tourists (Europeans only) or working in the hotels there. Going back in the evening was interesting as it completely switched with me being about the only European I saw.
I had a number of very positive experiences with people inviting me to stay. One happened in a small village. With the sun going down, I saw a school and decided to stay there. It was empty, but there was a building that was open that I could sleep on the floor of. As long as I was up early the next day there’d be no problem and no-one would see me. No-one that is other than the farmer who lived a few hundred metres from the school and saw strange lights flashing in it which he decided to investigate. When he got there and saw me, instead of getting angry or aggressive he told me to follow (in his limited French) and took me back to his place where I was treated wonderfully. The first photo below is from us having breakfast the next day in his field.
Another one came about riding through the mountains. The weather was a bit crappy, and I’d already been rescued once by some people inviting me into their shed to share tea and lunch. Later that day, I found the only community along the road and stopped there. I was looking for a place to put my tent, and while doing so some young kids decided to follow me. We played a bit and then some adults finally turned up. I was invited inside, given the living room and of course served a large dinner in their incredibly basic but cosy Berber home.
The worst experience that I had was with some kids. They were around 10 years old and one of them put his hand up to high-five me. I did but instead of high-fiving he thought it’d be hilarious to grab my hand instead. Thankfully I wasn’t going that fast, so I didn’t come flying off my bike, but my bike did end up on the floor when I threw it down and chased after the brat screaming. He ran into the mosque and I shouted at his parents who came out about what he did. I’m not saying it was the grown-up way to react to that situation, but if it stopped him thinking it was funny and repeating it with another cyclist then I’m fine with it.