It’s impossible to see the plastic bottles that litter Morocco when you look over from Southern Europe.
Across the Strait all that’s visible are white coastal settlements clutching onto exposed limestone bluffs; like limpets fastening to a Mediterranean wharf. .
In a similar fashion Morocco’s litter does just the same. Shredded, flapping bags cling onto everything from roadside scrub and town flowers, to farmland and beaches. What’s really tragic is the indifference exhibited by locals.
Perhaps the shear volume of waste is considered too big a problem, or, that it’s someone else’s issue. Either way, it’s a shame to see a country so rich in geographical diversity looking like a bit of a landfill..
The Bad: (or nearly bad, or sometimes bad; depending on how we’re feeling!)
In no particular order…
- Smoky cafe interiors, reminiscent of what we all used to all endure – 15 years ago.
- Cars so full, the driver’s seat transports two people.
- Buses with smashed front and side windows, still in use.
- Squat toilets – blighting any prospect of a relaxed (mini) internet surf or catch up with e-mails… purely inconvenient.
- No beer. Not necessarily a bad thing most of the time, except for those mellow evenings that follow a long day on the bike…
- Discovering that couscous is only available on Fridays, as it’s the holy-day’s main meal. Kind of like finding out that the West only offers fish, chips and gravy -one day a week.
- Lack of campsites, bike shops and road signs – Normally things like this can also be good, adding to the adventure.. Just not when you’re tired!
- Drugs: Morocco cultivates marijuana for most of South Western Europe, but the closest we got to getting stoned was when local kids chucked road debris at us.
- Arabic hospitality – I know this was mentioned in a previous blog (yawn, yawn), but those we met really did make us feel more like old friends, rather than whiffy, sweat encrusted tour cyclists that we were – for that matter, still are.
- Minarets and Mosques: Between 5:45am and 10pm you’re never too far from the wailing cry of an Imam. Their voices radiate from the minarets out above towns and settlements, calling the devout to prayer whilst serving as a constant reminder to us that we were in the Maghreb.
- The Drivers: Despite Morocco’s shocking road stats (4000 deaths per year) we experienced nothing but courtesy from fellow road users – the exception being Grand Taxis. Large, looming 90’s model mercedes normally yellow or light blue. Fortunately, their screaming engines -as they roared up towards us, allowed time for evasive action.
- Food: From the single dish –everyone get your [right] hand in- tajines, to the friendly road vendors selling pigeon kebabs -at a steal of 7 dirhams ( 50p / $1.00NZ)- right through to the locally produced winter strawberries, bananas and mandarins (50p Kg). We tried them all, and kept going back for more!
- The Souks: Deep in the Medina (old town) is where you stumble upon the market souks -a medley of shops, bustling street vendors and roaming road vendors. The street vendors have the advantage of selling under your nose as you flow past in the crowd. Here, time becomes irrelevant and it’s not uncommon to wait for a game of draughts to finish -between rival merchants- before the day’s purchase can be effected..
Souks are like a weekend swimming pool: you can stand on the verge and look on, not really being part of the action, or you can throw yourself in, surrounded by the close proximity of others whilst being swept away in the wash of it all..
Each new passageway filled with the ubiquitous smells of briny olives, aromatic spices and sizzling meat grilled over a charcoal fire.
If you choose to follow your nose in such locations, you’ll never get out…
Which, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, right?