Personal Impressions

The "Personal Impressions" section is a collection of thoughts and personal experiences.

Berber Village Children

The people in the Moroccan mountain villages are called Berber. Having their own language and customs, they are different from the Arabs who occupy most of Morocco. We had the chance to hike through Berber villages in the Atlas Mountains led by a Berber guide. The most astounding aspect of Berber life is the level of responsibility given to Berber children. Although we are guessing at the ages, it appeared that 2 year olds fed the rabbits, goats, and other small animals kept within the house walls. 3 year olds spread washed clothes in the sun to dry. 5 year olds accompanied their older siblings leading goats and sheep to pastures. 8 year olds washed the clothes and cared for the babies. Various village chores were accomplished by young children without adult supervision.

Keep Your Shoes On?

On the 5 hour bus ride from the ferry port in Tangier to Casablanca, we took off our shoes and snoozed with our head against the window. An hour or so later, the bus driver, as if losing concentration on the road, turned around hissed at something behind him. The Moroccans in the seats ahead and behind us pointed to our feet, shaking their heads, saying something in Arabic. With questioning looks, we slipped our feet back into our shoes and order was restored. Are shoes to be kept on when riding the bus for hours and hours? We separately asked 2 Moroccans in Casablanca about it. "You can do as you please. I always take my shoes off on the bus," one said. "No. You must keep your shoes on in the bus, but you can take them off on the train," the other said.

How much for that...

If you're not prepared to bargain, you're not prepared for Morocco. The initial asking price seems to be about double the accepted selling price. Paying the "right" price immediately after arriving to Morocco is nearly impossible. But after a few days of price comparing between taxis, food stalls, souvenir shops, hotels, and tour guides, you start to get to feel for what's reasonable and what isn't. We learned to ask the hotel receptionist what a Moroccan would pay for certain things and try to bargain down to that price on the street. Sometimes we were successful and other times we gave up and paid a little extra. The best tactic seems to be to decide how much you'd pay for a particular service. Offer ½ of what you eventually want to pay (this price is often about 30% of the initial asking price). In a good humored manner, joke around with the seller, gradually raising your price as he lowers his. If the price doesn't lower to your pre-decided pay price, walk away and shop elsewhere.

Star Wars

Much of Star Wars was filmed in nearby Tunisia, but the dress in Morocco is similar. Many men wear a one-piece hooded garment called a gilaba, identical to the brown garb worn by Obiwan Kenobi. When we first reached the market square, Djemaa el-Fna, in Marrakech, we felt like we stepped into the interplanetary bazaar of Star Wars. Hundreds of hooded men roam about creating the ambience of a land far far away.

Carry Your Toilet Paper

Most places in Morocco have no toilet paper in the bathrooms. This applies to hotels and restaurants, in addition to public restrooms. Don't leave home without it.

Can You Help Me Write a Letter?

Moroccans are excellent sales people. They think up the most creative ways to lure customers. In Ouarzazate, store attendants asked if we could help write a letter in English (requested of Wes) or Japanese (requested of Masami) to their very good foreign friend. Once in their store, we were shown an endless chain of carpets and jewelry while the attendant desperately looked for his "best friend's" coincidentally misplaced address. In other towns, hotel workers tried to convince us that such and such bus doesn't exist or that the hotel in such and such town is closed. "Fortunately, my hotel is nearby, and you can stay there," they claimed. The worst sales pitch was made by a man trying to sell an expensive desert tour to Mohammed. "Don't go to Merzouga. There's no desert there. The only real desert in Morocco is 70 km south of Mohammed." We knew otherwise. In fact, Merzouga is on the edge of the Sahara Desert, only 30 minutes walk onto 200 meter high sand dunes.

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