Morocco NB: ISIS activity in Morocco in December 2018 suggests that travel in Morocco is not currently safe for Americans; check the State Department advisory before planning travel there.
The Kingdom of Morocco (founded in 788) conjures up images of intrigue and shadows, mostly based on Hollywood's view of Casablanca and Tangiers - but the country is certainly not of one character. Even though 99% of the population is Muslim and the influence of Islam is everywhere, there is no proselytizing (gratuitous at this stage): alcohol is not readily available; art work is generally devoid of human figures; every town is dominated by one or more minarets from which the call to prayer is discreetly broadcast five times each day. The locals do not smile, especially at strangers; they are camera averse either forbidding pictures or turning from a camera or, in touristed areas, demanding payment or trade. There is high unemployment and one sees many, alone or in small clutches, sitting – apparently for hours – in out of the way places. There is little crime except perhaps in big cities where tourists may be targeted; we were cautioned. The architecture has much in common with southern Spain – which is to be expected given its proximity and history of occupation, but it is not clear which country contributed which part. The many internal courtyards open to the sky (riads) are a strong, common characteristic.
In some locations we jokingly say that traffic laws are mere suggestions; in Morocco I believe they are only rumors - as the traffic is generally a free-for all and anything goes; the same is true for pedestrians in the streets – but there seems to be no rancor behind it, merely a competitive spirit. There are many round-abouts but apparently no right of way as between those in the circus and those entering or leaving. The traffic in Casablanca was as bad as (or worse than) any I have seen in Italy, Vietnam or the US.
Smaller towns continue to be built, in large, part of adobe – mud and straw. There is little color to be seen across the countryside – except the pink of the buildings, the occasional green of oases – and, of course, the wild and energetic colors of the textiles and the painted filigree of the arches, ceilings and doors. Much of the countryside is flat and sparsely foliated and populated; some of it is quietly beautiful, and reminiscent of America's “old west”.
Rabat the capitol, Marrakech and Casablanca (among other cities), seem more sophisticated than others - sporting cinema, theaters and new and interesting architecture. But they also maintain their medinas of small, winding streets chock-a-block with homes, restaurants, vendors and shops hawking all kinds of goods and produce.
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