Laura and I and Kerry Kangaroo are enjoying the full tour of Morocco, aptly named Morocco Encompassed. (Intrepid Travel – operator). I am so glad we had chosen to the do the full circuit because the north and the south of Morocco are very different in many ways. Tradition, Islam, national pride, Berber community and their way of life does not change. Berbers are amazing people. Really – amazing. More on them later. (And I might even share with you why I’m always saying affectionately “damn Berbers.”)
The north is much more condensed. The distances between places is less. There is a greater network of public transportation. It is more populated. It is FILLED with pattern, colour, tile, carving. Every turn is something new and beautiful. The places are more modernized (insert grain of salt). There are cities. Its not westernized but its more urban. Its stunning.
The south however is very different. We changed groups so the dynamic changed but we also changed terrain and there was a cultural shift as well. Thank goodness we kept our Mustapha. What on earth would we do without Mustapha?
In the south, things are MUCH more traditional. It is not uncommon to drive for several hours, away from urban centres, along vast landscapes and winding roads, and to look out the bus window and see someone standing in a field. Or sitting by the side of the road. Or leaning against a tree. Damn Berbers. Always wandering. Working. Collecting. Herding.
The south brought long, long travel days. Endless it seemed at times. Absolutely remarkable landscapes. Gone were the 14th century buildings only to be replaced by date palms, river beds, oasis’s, (oasis’?) (oasii?). Here is a land that is partly uninhabitable because of its sheer size and slope. There are mountains. High mountains that include Mt. Toubkal (the second highest in Africa) and the mid Atlas, and the low Atlas mountains. There are chasms sliced through the earth. Incredible. And winding roads. In one area we ran into a long stretch of roads that had been washed out by a flash flood a few years ago. The damage remains. There is no money to rebuild the whole thing. No supervision or infrastructure. In places the roads were diverted. Some rebuilding is happening, slowly.
And then there is the desert. The Sahara. Running along the border with Algeria. As you get closer to it, there is less population. People are highly aware of where they are. The desert is vast, and rocky, and hot and all the things they tell you in school. Its also full of nomads. And thats pretty cool too.
Which do I like better? I loved the north. Because it was fresh and new and now I’m tired and sick? Maybe. There is more design and beauty and urbanization in the north. Things work better there. But the south is a whole other game. The coast line is stunning. The desert remarkable. The oasis’s’ii are incredible. And the dates……..wow!
Really….I just love it all. All of it. But its a lot hotter in the south. And its October.