Morocco was the first third-world country I visited and since I haven't located my diary from this trip the details are often pretty hazy. I drove there from France in early 1986 via a ferry from Spain with my then girlfriend Dominique, going to Meknes, Fez, Marrakech and Rabat. One not only has to watch out for thieves and scammers in Morocco but in Spain as well. There was a booth for passport control before one drove on to the ferry in Spain. I handed over my passport and then realized that the men manning the place were a group of gypsies rather than officials. I luckily got my passport back and just drove on when they claimed some kind of fees were to be paid. French was widely spoken in Morocco, so I was glad to be there with a native speaker. A good friend of Dominique's had grown up in Morocco and gave us the address of friends of his. We showed up unannounced on their doorstep feeling thankful if we would be invited for tea and given a few tips on what to see. We got taken in with unbelievable hospitality by this couple Memon and Badia and spent over a week together. Here was Dominique with Badia, her daughter and sister-in-law.
We learned to eat like the locals, which meant taking food with your right hand from a common dish set in the middle of the table. It was always some kind of meat with veggies. I hadn't given up meat yet and don't know what I would have done at the time if I had. I had learned to make a good couscous, which has practically become the national dish of France. I was surprised then to go to the area of its origin and find out that many people preferred the fine-grained version as a desert, sweet, with hot milk, sugar and cinnamon rather than the middle-grained variety as a main meal, salty, with veggies and/or meat. Sheep and goats seemed to be the most common animals eaten locally, often butchered horribly right in the markets.
Our hosts took us to relatives on a farm where we experienced the traditional lifestyle in the countryside. The patriarch of the large family, with I'm not sure how many wive, was very curious if his cows imported from Holland shouldn't be producing much more milk. Although Dominique and I were living on a rural farm in France, I had to admit ignorance of such things although I supposed that the abundance of nice green grass in Holland must make some difference.
Memon was a teacher and we went to the rural one-room schoolhouse where he worked and I made a juggling show for the kids. There were at least 2 classes in this room, 1 always had to wait while the other was taught. This was one appropriate place where we could donate pens and colored pencils, which we had brought along from France. We had taken a tip from our French language travel guide to take these along as gifts. We found that every kid on the streets of Morocco would come demanding "stylo, stylo" or "pen, pen" so obviously others had taken this tip and freely given pens away. I really have to recommend that people don't do this because it just encourages kids to beg.
Together we visited many places we would never have dared or though to have seen alone including the inner courtyard of this mosque and school.
Many Moroccans dressed in robes and one saw lots of goats and donkeys around. It reminded me of the old biblical movies one used to see on Sunday TV in the States during my childhood, it was all very colorful and intense. While visiting Memon and Badia, we left Dominique's car on a guarded lot. The attendant was an older guy bundled in such robes who carried a large staff. He not only looked the part but I suspect actually was a shepherd who had found work in the city, keeping the thieves at bay from the cars not unlike keeping wolves from the flocks.
It was also a bit awkward that Dominique as a woman would have to do the talking for us both. While visiting some places, she was off with the women and I would be left alone with the men. I asked about the attitude towards women and was assured that their religion and culture much respected women and any restrictions were only to protect them. I keep it to myself but wondered what they needed protection from if the men would really respect and not mistreat the women.
I have to mention that there were many Lebanese engineering students at our University. They were predominately the stereotyped super machos who would go to the discos to dog after women for quick sex. A couple of them confided in me that if one of the few female Lebanese students as much as kissed or dated an American that they should be killed to save the family's honor. This sick concept of honor killing is often argued in terms of Islamic teachings yet these students were all Christians! Obviously, it is a cultural thing rather than strictly a religious one. Still, it was strange for me to see women shoppers on the street in such dress.
One often saw the men hanging around somewhere, chatting with each other, drinking tea or like in this photo, playing a dominos like game.
The landscape on our travels was dry but not quite the barren desert one would find father south. Occasionally, we stopped and chatted with such people riding horses or grazing their animals.
One would come across these villages or towns with their fortified walls, which seemed like a mirage in the barren surroundings.
Kids in such places were very curious yet just like in more touristy spots they tended to beg shamelessly.