WHERE : Marrakech, Mirleft, Tiznit, Tafraoute WHEN : November 2014 - January 2015 OBJECTIVE : Explore Morocco's West Coast DISTANCE : 800 kilometers (Moped) / 497 miles CLASSIFICATION : Wings, Wheels, Walks
Last year I celebrated Diwali in India’s Himalayan foothills, forgot all about Thanksgiving in Pokhara, and intentionally avoided Hanukkah, Christmas, and NYE by disappearing into the Nepali jungle. Afterwards, something liberating occurred to me: the majority of the planet knows nothing of the corporate-driven, consumerist orgies that count as Peace on Earth & Good Will Towards Our Fellow Humans in the heart of Empire. I resolved to do something similar each year, and the holidays were once again approaching.
“Where to?” I wondered, sitting in an Istanbul cafe, the muezzins’ evening prayers echoing around me, unspeakably beautiful. Perhaps–with Islamophobia metastasizing throughout the West–an act of solidarity was in order. Yes. It was (and is). That settled it; in three shakes of a pre-Eid lamb’s tail I had roundtrip tickets to Marrakech, Morocco. I would spend two months in and around a sleepy fishing village named Mirleft, on the north Atlantic coast. Places I hadn’t even known about an hour earlier.
Random. Intriguing. Perfect.
Things went more-or-less as planned. (I’ve found this happens quite often when you don’t make plans.) There was a bit of paragliding, some coastal hitchhiking, and the intriguing matter of Moped Moses–my new alter-ego. Moses-me traced an 800-kilometer, Christmas-to-New Year’s Eve loop through the northwestern edge of the Sahara desert. On a tiny moped. (Like the original guy, I had no idea where I was going. Unlike him, I was smart enough to find my way home in somewhat less than forty years.)
Morocco is wonderful: a fascinating, labyrinthine interweaving of French, Arabic, Jewish, and Berber cultures dating back to civilization’s faintest recollections. The sights, scents, and sounds of the old-city medinas are evocative–[R/r]omantic beyond measure. The country is North African and Mediterranean, Mountain and Desert blended and distilled into a cohesive whole. It’s population–overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims–are kind, curious, helpful, and shrewd.
Of course almost everyone I met and spent time with was Muslim, and I was sitting amongst a group of these local friends when news of the Charlie Hebdo attack first broke. My new friends were horrified. The discrepancy between their unanimous shock and outrage (expressed equally by Moroccan public media broadcasts), and the logically incoherent, opportunistic, racist hate-mongering and Islam-bashing subsequently pouring out of Western media outlets (and my Facebook feed) was shocking. And illuminating.
I was right to be here; right to choose solidarity with Islamic reality over hateful, xenophobic “patriotism” and hollow invocations of democracy from the Oligarchs-in-Chief.
Je ne suis pas Charlie, ou un Américain; je suis un Transglobaliste.
Peace & Good Will,
January 20, 2015
I spent five lovely Moroccan weeks in the cozy, quiet coastal town of Mirleft. My guesthouse nestled the wall of a tiny cove facing the north Atlantic, with stellar sunsets each evening and roaring surf to sleep by. My arrival coincided with a once-in-a-decade flood, which took the lives of over forty people, destroying countless homes and vehicles, and washing out bridges in every direction. Mirleft had become an island. For the next seven days we were marooned–no traffic in or out, dwindling food and water supplies, no electricity, and nightly threats of a repeat performance.
Every afternoon we would sit on the front porch and watch the high tide roll in, scanning the churning waves for interesting cargo. After sunset we would prepare a communal tajine with whatever we had been able to scrounge up in town. Our local friends supplemented our larder with fresh-caught fish.
It was a special moment–a double-edged sword honed with sadness and camaraderie.