So I realise that I droned on for two posts about just getting to a country, but when things go wrong that aren’t life threatening, and really nothing more than inconvenient, then it’s kind of funny…to me.
Moving on: there I am in a beautiful country, to take part in a really fun, educational program about robots, sustainable design and green energy. The trip was a series of amazing experiences in beautiful cities around Morocco, all of which were connected by the continuing glorious theme of Everything Going Wrong. Every day there were technical difficulties or something wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. This didn’t work; that wasn’t right; this person was sick; that person was late; this building was upside down; that section of the internet melted; this iguana was insane and stuck bananas in their ears. And everybody was totally calm about it, rivers were jealous because we were so go-with-the-flow. I could not have asked to be with a better group of people, we did the job in front of us and laughed at the ridiculousness of it all, and all the time were reminded how lucky we were. That’s a great position to be in, to know that any problems you’re having are in fact not problems at all, but just fodder for a hobby blog that has an impact on absolutely no-one’s life.
One of the things I discovered about Morocco, is that it is forward thinking in the green energy movement. Were you aware that it is home to the largest solar energy field in the world… and they made it look nice? Yay Morocco! They’re also heavily invested in wind power, and my Moroccan companions informed me that they don’t have organic sections in the grocery stores because everything is organic, and pesticide free. The cynical part of me whispers, “Are you sure? Really? Don’t we think that maybe Fred the Farmer might have sprayed the odd chemical here and there? Just a teensy bit.. when no one was looking… in the dark.” Perhaps Fred uses a special home-made organic spray, with a secret ingredient, one that comes from a bottle …with a black skull on a yellow background maybe? Just a thought.
I got to see four different cities: Casablanca; Tangiers; Rabat and Fes. Well…I saw the bits that we passed in between the hotels and the venues where we were teaching. They looked charming, although Casablanca.. not quite as charming as the decades old film would lead you to expect. Bogart, Bacall and the studio stage make it look a lot less industrial than it really is.
In Tangiers and Fes, we got to stop and take in the surroundings for a while. Tangiers is home to Hercules’ Grotto. A magnificent set of caves that were reportedly a place of shelter for Hercules, drawing hundreds of visitors a day to admire the seafront entrance to the cave which apparently is the shape of Africa.
Um… I guess you could say it is… from a certain angle. You know, in the same way that you could the say the UK is the same shape as tea kettle.
Disputed shapes aside, the caves are a magical series of chambers where you could easily imagine legendary folks having a good old sulk. I don’t have anything against all those tragic heroes and brooding men and women of myths, but they do tend to be on the sulky side. Attractive to look at; interesting to talk about; but not the best company. No-one ever said, “Oh yeah me and Herc, we caught up the other day had tea, slice of cake. So good to see him, he has such a great sense of humour. You know he’s been going through some rough times but he just keeps his spirits up.”
Noo… no, no, no, no. It’s more along the lines of, “Fucking hell, who invited Hercules? He broke the screen doors; snogged my cousin Lucy in front of her husband; drunk all the beer; and I don’t know what he’s done to the dog but Mr Noodles won’t come out from behind the sofa; and now he’s passed out on my bed, and he smells like he’s pissed himself.”
And that’s with the fun ones. You get Achilles coming to a party and you’re in for a night of the great warrior stealing the host’s girfriend, and not letting anyone else get a word in edgeways whilst he whinges about his lost love Patroclus, how life’s not fair, and he’s doomed to die. Got news for you Achy – we all are.
Meanwhile, back in modern day Morocco. The grottoes are situated at the point where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic ocean meet, and I couldn’t help but be impressed by that even though it is basically just water with imaginary lines that some humans decided they’d conjure up a few thousand years ago. Similar to the spots where you can have your feet in two different continents/states/countries etc… They’re really just patches of ground where once upon a time someone drew a line with a stick and said “Mine! You have to stay on your side…unless you give me the secret password. No? No password? Then you’re not coming in, and we’re going cake and jammy dodgers without you.”
In Fes we got a tour around the old medina from a tin and brass artisan who has his shop right in the centre of it. It is a step back in time, the medina’s narrow streets are far too small for motorised vehicles so donkeys are still the mode of transport. Completely freaked me out having to walk close to donkers, and in particular, their freakishly strong back legs with exceedingly hard hooves.
Narrow shops fronts and stalls form passageways that twist and turn, rising and falling, and completely rob you of any sense of direction. The brickwork of the buildings looks a little shabby and forlorn, but once inside you see that some of them are in fact small palaces within the city. The belief was held that no person’s dwelling should look obviously wealthy from the outside since the rich and poor walk the same streets side by side, and it would be dishonourable, or uncouth, to flaunt your wealth and make others envious… makes sense to me. Behind closed doors however the opulence runs wild, and what might only be a six foot entrance on the street gives ways to massive chambers and five story dwellings resplendent with swimming pools, gardens, fountains, courtyards.
Dr Who has a similar thing going on with the Tardis…perhaps one of the earlier time lords was from Morocco.