|After a great bus ride thru two mountain passes on some really fine roads!!! we arrived about 230pm and spent an hour in pow wow in bus station discussing our plans for the coming week. Our days in Morocco are numbered, it has been a bit more expensive than I had anticipated, food mostly...but good, but good! The French influence is evident, bread and pastries especially. Our group has a push pull about travel, we've got a certain amount of time(Feb 5) to get to Cameroon and we know the travel will take a turn for the worst. Mari is not particularly interested in fast travel(moving every day), but she is resigned to it not happily however. She had not been in on our planning during the summer so was not really into our pace from the start...now is more inclined to understand the need to keep moving, not knowing what the next few months will require to get from country to country.
Marrakesh is the tourist heart of Morocco...the place in the medina is the convergence of all Morocco with the foreigners who come from all over Europe and the East, even some
Americans(almost always in a tour group, altho we met a few younger "kids", ha!).
We had in mind to stay in one of the LP recommendations for ON but either they were full or too expensive or...so ended up in one next to one of the LP hotels Hilal Hotel...inexpensive, shared bath(squat), clean, and in the middle to the medina. Went to see the tombs of the Saadian family. It is all that remains of what had been a fantastic palace which was basically stripped of all its art,architectural extravigance by Mouley Ismail subsequent ruler who became the first of the line of rulers who rule today...he apparently didnt want to mess with the dead so sealed up that part of the palace, now preserved for tourists to see(rediscovered in 1918).
We stayed long enuf here to see that most of Europe probably looks at Morocco the way US looks at Mexico...
The scene here is tourism, tourism, tourism, groups from Germany, France, Spain, Brits...see pics
Morocco has a tradition of smoking kif(means pleasure in Arabic)known as marijuana to us. Due to economic conditions(very poor) the Rif Mtns grows most of it, exported as hashish. Under pressure recently from US and EU Morocco has made it illegal but for personal use authorities still turn a blind eye, focusing enforcement on foreigners mostly.
Tourism is both an economic boon and an environmental time bomb...in a country suffering from 10 yrs of drought the increase in urbanization to service tourism diverts scarce water to cities and away from agriculture(20 to 30% of population depends on agriculture). With 20% unemployment, a middle class is growing based on services to tourism, the result is bigger spread twixt rich and poor as well! When ave income is $2 a day, tourism affords the possibility of making alot more but usually only for a few more educated. In the market place you find tortoises as decorative firebellows or banjo like music instruments(estim 10,000 killed annually). The 4 wheelers and motorcycles in the desert/dunes break up the surface and strong winds carry it aloft, a primary cause of more drought than a consequence since it shields the earths surface from sunlight and hinders cloud formation...of course, it didnt help that the Romans basically deforested the entire region 2000 years ago! Exploring the desert by camel is infinitely more environmentally friendly, ha! And technology moves us forward!