Monday, June 28

Life in Morocco moves so much slower than it does in the states and I think I could grow to like it. Without a car and with everything organized in mini villages around courtyards with the same shops every few blocks. Each business stays open because people here are not loyal to a specific brand they are loyal to the business owner, the people that are around them.

You really feel your own place here. You feel time move by slowly like currents down a lazy forest stream. There is always time for conversation with a friend or introspection over lazy hours and a single cup of nouse-nouse (Moroccan Late).

Last Tuesday Aydin and I left for the Gnowa music festival in Essuara on the southwest coast of Morocco. I had never heard of Gnowa music before but a huge number of Peace Corps volunteers would be there and who could pass up what promised to be an epic beach party lasting from Wednesday to Sunday.

Our bus was scheduled to leave at 9:30pm so of course by Moroccan time we left just past 10:00pm. We drove through the night, switching from the fancy CTM buses to a normal, groty Suk bus in Marakesh around 6:00am. We arrived in Essuara around 10:00 am Wednesday morning. Taking long bus trips like this is normal here but it is still a fascinating experience for me. I take flights for granted but there is something almost wonderful about having so much Time to just sit with no pressing concerns, nothing to do, just to look out the window and watch mountains turn into fields, turn into desert and then into coastline.

I finished the first of what I hope to be many books during the trip. A prequel to Frank Herbert's, 'Dune' called, 'The Butlerian Jihad'. This is not a book that I would recommend to most people unless, like me you are simply in love with the entire wold of Dune, enough that you can put up with terrible writing. The book was written after the death of Frank Herbert, by his son. It is one of the first books written by Brian Herbert based on Frank Herbert's notes and the book has about the structure and focus of a Dune fan-fiction and not the best of fan-fiction at that. Brian does go on to write better stories in the future but 'The Butlerian Jihad' and its sequel 'The Machine Crusade' which I am now reading are not examples of them. That all being said, I'm still in love with the world and cannot bring myself to move on to another book until I finish these.

On to Essuara, it was a madhouse. People come from all over Morocco and Europe to spend time at the Gnowa festival. I knew nothing about the music before I arrived, though I had heard it was supposed to be a fusion of traditional Moroccan music with Spanish Flamenco influences. However what I found was a sound very similar to Reggae music. The sound was certainly enjoyable to dance to but it also attracted a crossover of reggae fans who brought with them not just their awesome hair and extravagant clothes but also a strong drug culture.

This festival is also so large is causes the population of Essawara to explode and draws not just fans from all over the world but professional thieves from all over Morocco.

We stayed with the Peace Corps people in a house/apartment building within walking distance of the festival but because there were so many of us there was always someone at the house so we didn't have to worry to much about thieves stealing from our rooms. Having been warned before hand though about pickpockets at the concerts we left everything behind at the house including our keys and just relied on the people staying at the house to let us in later. It is a good thing we did because I have never been felt up so many times in my life.

Teams of young boys would run through the crowd. The first ones patting targets down then signaling the the boys behind them who had valuables who then slipped hands into pockets and darted away. Because of our planning ahead we had nothing to worry about and just danced and enjoyed the spectacle. I personally had time to marvel at their technique though I do wish I had had the foresight to write inspirational messages in English on the pieces of paper the approximate size of dollar bills. It would have taken them a while to translate them, if they bothered to at all, because English is the last language anyone expects you to use here but I still would have found the joke hilarious.

My favorite means of relieving tourists of their valuables were probably the groups of Moroccan teenagers that hung out near the beach who would invite tourists to dance with them.

One of the Peace Corps people I met in Essa, a very attractive gay man named Jeramey, described his experience with these guys at the Gnowa festival last year. He had been approched and asked to dance and like most of us unsuspecting westerners when approched by a group of very very attractive men had redilly agreed and had the time of his life.
After a very enjoyable impromptu dance the men waved goodbye and wandered off. It was only after they had gone that Jeramey realized that he had been relieved of everything. His cellphone, money, keys, cigarettes, and even the lint in his pockets had disappeared and like his attractive dance partners, never seen again.

My friend Khadija was invited to dance by a similar group of men this year but she was carrying everything in a backpack over her shoulders that she had then wrapped in a sarong around her shoulders so there was no accessing the bag at all. Apparently they danced for a long time and eventually Khadija had stopped and waved goodbye. The one of the dancing thieves had started to stop her but then he and his friends conversed for a second among themselves and waved her off. It just wasn't worth it.

Both Jeramey and Khadija told their stories with a laugh and a smile because really what else could you do? And at least these thieves had had the courtesy to give you a very enjoyable show before taking everything you owned.

I myself experienced the legal thievery of the exhibitionist prices the shop owners in Essawara had set just for the festival. Unless you learned to haggle you could easily expect to pay at least twice what anything you bought was actually worth. Despite my lack of knowledge of any language commonly spoken in Morocco I headed out on my own several times to wander the markets and learn to haggle successfully. And if I do say so myself, with a little more practice I could become quite proficient at it. Though I know I still go ripped off I did not spend nearly the amount that even many of the more experienced Peace Corps volunteers did. Among the things I bought were a pair of new sandals that are quite nice. I paid 179 durums for them which would equal approximately $20 US Dollars.

I also spent all of Thursday lounging on the beach with Aydin and Khadija and swimming in the remarkably cold ocean waters. Oh it was so beautiful. The sun was so bright everything seemed to glow and the water sparkled like diamonds. The sand was elegantly soft and I couldn't help but fall asleep for an hour in the warm sunshine. I also forgot to completely cover my back in sunblock and paid dearly for it. The sun burn is now starting to fade but it has yet to peel thanks to a very liberal application of aloe-vera lotion several times per day for the last several days. I've learned my lesson but still I regret nothing.

Aydin and I left Friday and headed back to Azrou ahead of the crowds that would begin to leave Saturday afternoon and to make sure we had enough time together before I head out for Spain on the 29th. Which is tomorrow... wow.

I think I am going to miss Morocco so much. I am not going to miss the toilets or the street animals that hang out on every corner but I will miss the relaxed atmosphere and the people i have met and more than anything I will miss Aydin. 

It will be at least a year and a half before I might hope to see him again but we both have our own journeys ahead of us and I am looking forward to keeping in touch as past partners and good friends. It is always important to know you have those people out in the world, no matter how far away they are, who you know love you and keep you in thier thoughts. Just as I keep you in my thoughts my friends and my family.

Though I am looking forward to this next month of travel I can not help but also look forward to its ending and the people waiting for me back home. I can not wait to hold you in my arms again.

No comments:

Post a Comment