Crouched down on their haunches by the side of the dusty road, astride a mule, under an awning in a café, on a stone fence wrapping and rewrapping their yellow turbans, men here have mastered what looks like the Zen art of sitting.
They aren’t looking at their Iphones, texting friends, emailing, watching television. No white earbuds are evident. They aren’t checking Facebook or tweeting.
No. They seem comfortable in their solitude, watching the day, working hard, letting time pass, their skin browning in the sun.
And then, walking.
They walk to get from one place to another. Across their farm. Across their city. Yes, some ride bicycles and some mopeds or motorcycles. But mostly, people are on foot.
Their labor is manual and honest: they farm, they lift, they tote. They don’t need a chiropractor.
The only sign I saw that a gym or trainer might exist.
And oh, by the way, these people live a very long time. Forget supplements and trainers. This may be the secret. Be here now. In the moment. Move naturally.
Of everything I’ll take away from this trip, I think the best and most useful memory will be of the obvious ease at being in the moment without being tethered to technology. Here in the rocky desert where survival is the goal, our self-importance about updating our status every few minutes does seem rather silly.
Another memory will be of women and how differently they live than men.
Women are in motion, walking rapidly, clutching their robes close, women on a mission to shop, care for children or do some other chore.
Women do not sit. This woman works harder than any of us could imagine.
I never saw any females relaxing in cafes over a glass of mint tea, but I saw plenty of men doing just that, in groups or alone.
It’s true that I saw both men and women farming, the men riding donkeys, mules or horses carting harvested grasses or palm fronds. Once in a while I’d see a horse-drawn cart with a man at the reins and a few black abaya-clad women seated on the cart’s rough floor, the moment too fleeting to capture.
Life in this country is not all riads and philosophy. It can be hard.
In the desert, the prevailing impression is of sand: sand, dust and dirt everywhere. The grit was our shoes, in our shirts, in our bags. I saw blankets, rugs and clothings hanging on lines in the desert wind which carried with it drying breezes—but also sand.
The primitive mud and straw walls of the kasars (fortified cities) make them look like ruins.
Inner corridor of a kasar
Our guide told us that people actually live in these places, and although the outside looks rough, very rough, Moroccans make the insides of their homes very beautiful.
The only really pretty kasar we saw.
I can not see it. It would seem impossible to escape the sand, inside or out. Walking through the kasars’ dirt corridors, I caught glimpses of dusty mosaic floors through open doorways. They didn’t seem beautiful to me. It seemed a primitive and difficult way to live and I was glad it was not mine.
But then again, everything is relative, isn’t it?
Exposure to hardscrabble cultures like Morocco’s provides insight into how their people must view the Western world, especially a culture like ours in which we seem to take our luxuries for granted, if we even recognize them as luxuries.
The ability to keep a floor clean for more than 15 minutes. To cook on an electric stove instead of over a fire. For our clothes to emerge fresh and clean from an automated washer and dryer. For shoes to stay shiny. We don’t give thanks for these things because we take them for granted.
Children, though, are still children everywhere in the world. And teenagers are still teenagers. We ran across this delightful group of teens one day.
WOW! That brought memories flooding back too my mind. I lived in Tangier in 1971…it was THE Journey of my lifetime.
Thanks–how lucky you were! We just spent 10 days in Morocco and I started blogging about it around March 18 if you want to page back–daily posts while there and more coming. Morocco’s got its grip on me…won’t let go.