Circa. February 11-13, 2020
As always, click upon any image to make it BIG!
Morocco appears to be a place of dueling paradigms. As I’ve written, it’s a highway along which cultures moved each moulding what they’ve found along their way. It’s customs are a gift of its landscape. Today Arab/Muslim totems form a shell that’s kneaded by current and historic European and African ways.
Virtually everything in life is a product of cultures and customs coming from very different places. That tradition appears to have created opportunities for Morocco to drill a hole into barriers to change. Much like Turkey, which has acted as similar bridge for mass migrations, Morocco’s secularized its way of life particularly in its modern cities.
What happens when two historical cultures collide?
How much can a tourist learn about Morocco through a bus's window? At rest stops? Lightening tours through road markets or tourist stops? Or quick-walking the streets of a town to leg-stretch? Do we learn or merely clot feelings together into a harebrained heap? I dunno. Let's see.
It's a nine hour bus ride from Erfoud to Ouarzazate back down through the Atlas Mountains and across the cultivated Draa valley. Verdant? In reality, much of Morocco is desert. But snowy peaks collect on mountain tops and then melt to fill some creeks and underground aquifers and there's sufficient rainfall near to the coast to supplement the runoff.
Millennia ago Moroccans learned how to tap those underground flows, unplugging them with wells and pipes then letting gravity irrigate fields of wheat, olives, dates, spices, nuts, fruits, and tomatoes. Yep, you've noticed in the images so far from this shoot, how similar Morocco looks to the U.S. Southwest, right?
See Hank Rettew up there in his Clint Eastwood pose? Actually the engineer was studying a deep well whose weathered support-apparatus looks eerily like the ruins of native American workings in Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, or Colorado. How come? Shrouded in prehistoric mist, lies an explanation.
Look at any world map and you'll see how South America fits neatly into the African coast line. Geologists tell us that both the Americas, Europe, and Africa were once joined into a vast Oceania that ripped apart to ride upon plates to their present global positions. Which might mean that Africa's upper western tip nestled neatly into what's now the Gulf of Mexico so that the geologies of the two regions match. Look at the image above. Can you imagine 1950s Western movies filmed there filled with cowboys, stage coaches, and teepees?
Similarity of climate and geology have lent to the exploitation of identical building materials - largely adobe rectangles - which dot both the North American Southwest and the rugged countryside of Morocco. Geologists love Morocco... and so do fossil collectors since much of this area was, as was the U.S. Southwest, undersea during the wanderings of tectonic plates.
The rugged countryside allows for hard-scrabble subsistence and larger estate farming: Many feeding country markets along the route or selling their handcrafted rugs and jewelry through a valley of hooded men.
Here's where the Sahara inexorably encroaches along the valley's edges. It’s where nomads stop for a while to raise donkeys and some livestock. Does this guy wonder each morning if this sunrise will mean the last of rainfall here on the edge of land's end? Hmmm...
The immense plates continue to shift beneath Moroccan’s feet - quaking down the adobe villages. The waves leave behind eerily empty bands of structures surrounding new, hopefully, sounder construction. These abandoned strips are like rings on a tree marking the times between vicious quakes which reproduced disciplines of scarcity.
The new walls though are built around memories of ancient Berber and Arab design. As if a lost-wax method was used to pour the new around a mimesis of history or legend. And the core of the matter is always about changing customs.
For example, notice how the Hotel Rosa is designed around the Moroccan style, yet it lacks any Arabic writing. Now, look carefully at The Komar Lounge up there. See the signs above each doorway. Intriguing how twin cultures mesh here, yet don’t. Is there a wall between the two interiors? I guess to the left they eat, drink, dance and be merry.... While on the right they eat and be merry? Morocco's - a place between - whose people have adapted since way before Carthage ruled them.
It's continually restructuring atop the leavings of the past. Here ancient ways meander through modern tag sales.
One thing's clear on every Moroccan street. Customs are a residue of coping, and men are allowed to transition more quickly than women.
Are there lessons from the other side of a bus's windows? More likely there are only feelings which we filter through whatever it is we bring to a place.
Coming soon: Morocco VII: Ouarzazate: Africa’s Hollywood