how “another world exists” in marokko, by mandus¶
As good skillsurfers, we as “the african delegation” of course try to
continue our search for “another world existing” also in marokko;
but squats, communities or eco-villages we did not find in two weeks
overviewing the country.
Nevertheless i would say, that we found a lot of “other worlds existing”,
mostly by the reason, that Marocco is more than all countries in europe “a
world with many worlds” and many truths.
First of all: since we are here, we did not see one single shopping mall,
even in a big city like Fez there was no supermarket as we know in Europe
- with individual wagons and anonymous cases – and it seems normal to go
to decentralized small shops and markets with mostly regional products.
Although trademarks like Nestle and Danone are in almost every little shop
viewable, the line from the raw material to the consumer has one
centralised criminal capitalist (look: “blackbook trademarks” for details
) part less, when its not going upon the big shopping companies like Aldi
For many ecologists and NGO-activists in Europe its a far
utopia to have regional and decentralised production and consumption, but
here its normal to get the wool from the uncle, make the clothes with wife
and children and sell it from the same family. Its communities selling
their own stuff – just with the point, that they are biologically related
and that the roles between genders are normally fixed and far away from
their flexibility and freedom in Europe.
But the gender-aspect is another example for the plurality of truths in
Marocco: although there are fixed rules for gender behavior especially for
women, there is a huge amount of strong business women – even in
car-repairing, which i have never seen in Europe – who seem to be accepted by men
and in no way are outsiders.
The gap between theory and praxis in politics and law is
unimaginablly big – but the social control still prevents a society with
lots of criminality. On the other side it also hinders people from
individual freedom because the spaces for yourself are much smaller – for
example many people don´t read books.
More and more Europeans use the practical freedom in Maroc for example for
organising festivals like a psytrance-festival in Merzouga in the Sahara
(which was unfortunately commercial organised).
Very interesting to see was a tannery in Fez, which seems to be a
community project of the street quarter: between small narrow dark streets
with lots of leather stores there is in the middle an unexpectedly big open
air place where the tannery seems to be shared by all the shops with all
their people working there – the production tools as a public space! Would
be interesting to hear great old Marx opinion to that.
impressions from the world 1001 nights … , by anja
our time in Marocco¶
There is thousand stories to tell about Marocco:
We travelled 100 years – and 2 hours ;-) – back in time, crossing the ocean in only 35 minutes by ship. And we arrived in a world that smells different, tastes different and feels different – even the sun is much brighter than in Europe it seems.
We left the ship, we were asked for the first time if we want to buy Haschisch
and exactly in that moment people started to chant prayers down from all the roof… (which they do 5 times a day…)
… I felt Allah kissing my feet…
We had had culture shocks before in this tour… everytime we come to a new project we are shocked by hippiecultures, punkcultures, or whatever kind of strange freaky cultures people have developed… but well, it is quite different to be in a whole country that works in a different way from what you are used to. It is different when a whole city, a whole region, a whole continent is different, than when you are in one house or small village with a culture that is based on a western influenced visionary idea or something…
We spent some hours in Tanger trying to get anything of what was happening around us, but we failed completely. Nothing seemed to make any sense here… We changed some money and got some cheap bread and dates and very spicy olives from a market, and were tricked the first time over the price of the bread. I was quite afraid of everything still, when we were sitting in a cafe at the bus station, waiting for the bus to Chechaouen, where we were supposed to meet Laura and Jaqueline this evening.
I didnt even know if I was supposed to sit here as a woman. Here was mainly men around us, so I could’nt really figure out at first how women behave in public. First I felt quite helpless… but when I saw how tranquilo the atmosphere in the bus station was (like at home in your living room!), how few the people cared about their style and look – and that there was also women (alone!)- sitting there and drinking their coffee I slowly felt better and safer… My first Maroccon toilet was quite a shock though … ;-)
The bus ride to Chechaouen that was supposed to be 2 and a half hours was over 4 hours in the end,
because of people taking lots of food and stuff inside the bus and taking hours to load it… The countryside around looked very green and more like Scotland than the cliche that I have of Marokko: no deserts, no camels, only goats and cows and herders in strange clothes… and female herders with colourful scrafs wrapped around their heads.
These green mountains… VERY GREEN and very beautiful ones.
We wanted to look for the hotel that Laura and Jaqueline stayed in. Some “friendly” people brought us to the hotel to see if they were there. A guy came down the stairs and told us that they are not here and moreover that the hotel was full and we couldnt stay there. We ended up being pulled into the first store of our stay in Chechaouen, coming to buy nothing, and leaving with a carpet. The whole procedure of selling took several hours and included tea, joints and long, long monologues… “I love your smell, natural people!” and “You make me so happy. I just want to make you happy. Are you happy?” will be the sentences we will always remeber about this night and Ibrahim, our first new Marokkan "friend"… :-) We went back to the hotel to see if it was really full (sceptically if the guy who told us it was full before really worked there, or if he was just another friend of this weird mafia clan). He came down the stairs and looked very scared: “Where is your friends?” and then, after having recognized they were not with us any more “come in, come in”
We found Laura and Jaqueline then and brainstormed a lot for the Girasound Festival,.… I told them a lot about fundraising and my experiences with party organisation with partyguerrilla in Munich…
getting caught up in consumerism¶
The most impressive moments for me, was moments that you could never ever buy with money. It was pure enegy. The enrgy of the streetlife, of the colours, of the intense way people look at you. I just love the moments when they pray from the roofs. I love this impressive strong moment, the silence and energy that goes along with everyone being concentrated on the singing, everybody being united in a spiritual moment. All radios turned off… In a bus some young men were having a great jam session with drums and arabic rythms and chants in the bus. The people around enjoyed it, happily. And me, as I regularly had tried to do jam sessions in Munichs trains, and had only seen sad, uncomprehending faces, I probably enjoyed it even much more…This whole thing which inspired me here was not about money – at it was a lot about money… It made me think a lot about money and the way people deal with it at least…
I don’t know how it all happened… We arrived in Marokko having this weird idea in our mind of coming to a very cheap country where we wouldnt need a lot of money… It ended up being the most expensive time in all our tour so far and even though we arrived without backpacks and sleeping bags even we had a lot to carry when we came back. We returned to spain with “cactus”-carpets and a “Kaschmir”-shallabah (traditional herders clothing) for Barry, some strange nuts and a Tajin (kind of pan where in you cook vegetables very slowly and they dont lose so much of their taste), henna, soap, colours and masses of nice strong spices…
The tradesmen are talkative and always find a way to brainwash you, and either you are so annoyed that you buy something to get rid of them, or you are just so fascinated by the way they manage to speak your language in such a tricky and great way, that you do the same. Many people talk Berber as their first language (in the region between Chechaouen and Marakech), Arabic as their second language and French their third. Most of them speak English, Spanish or German as their third language, or even all 3 a bit. I was surprised that these people count as “badly educated”, compared to French or Spanish people who normally don’t speak any other language than French or Spanish (except Catala maybe).
After all this time of recycling and using little money. We just totally got addicted to haggling prices, we got sucked into those little shops in between the blue blue walls with the colourful carpets and clothes, the millions of different smells and the crazy Marokkan salesmen who were just so very amusing and always brought you tea. Oh yeah, and the tea: we just loved to sit in bars and drink a tea, “only 5 Dirham each! (less than 50 cents), why not?” and then change the bar and drink another tea in another bar, comparing quality… We did all the things we’d never ever do in Europe and really felt like the most stupid rich European tourists ever… It didnt matter anyhow, as nobody over there would believe us – well, could imagine even!- that we are eating “trash” in Europe and have “no money”. For Marokko, we were damn rich, and we realised that if we’d be really poor, we just wouldn´t spend the money that we spent… When we tried to talk to Maroccons about dumpster diving, most of the people acted as if they wouldn´t hear what we say – just another stupid tourist pretending to be poor for getting a better price..! How should they be able to imagine…? The bananas you can buy there are more brown than the ones that we get from the trash in Europe – maybe this is why everything is cheaper over there: They just don’t destroy food just to keep the market prices high. They don´t make the people believe that bananas have to be green.
Even though I was really annoyed about those tradesmen: I am really happy now to have made this consumerism experience. I was so annoyed of shops in Europe, that I did not have any shopping trips for a really long time. Of course to have had one again made me think a lot and so I learned a lot about capitalism, consumerism, and how it all works. Why did that happen? Well simply because I like the shops there, I love them. I’d shop a lot more in these kind of shops if we had them in Europe, I am sure. It is much nicer to buy from small shops, to get to know the people a bit, to spend a lot of time in a shop, to take a day time for buying something and discussing about the price again and again. It is nice seeing that they help each other out with selling all the time, like bringing you to their friends shops when they don´t have what you are searching for – or even bringing you stuff from other shops, letting you alone in their place with all their stuff (no worries about stealing, no cameras, nothing!). It is a bit scary though that everybody in all the city knows exactly what you bought and where and when and for which price. ;-) With this system of family-clan economy and smallscale sellers supporting each other it seems that they manage to stay moreless independent of the big companies. I did not see any big companies supermarkets in Marokko, there wasnt even one in all Cheachaouen. In the words of Ibrahim “I am my boss here, it’s much better” and in the words of Ali of our second hotel “I dont want to make big money, I want to have relaxed life”.
Women and family structures in Marocco – and what does this have to do with capitalism?¶
I realised that one reason why women are suppressed, why all this crazy religion thing is so strong here…
is a reason which is not very much discussed in the “West”, not very much understood too, maybe:
It is fear. Fear of what we call cpitalism, or something like that. It is hard to translate the fears of another people…and it is more a feeling I had while being there, than something i could proof by “scientific studies”.
The fear has to do with men wanting to keep their independence, men wanting to stay their own bosses.
We heard that if you want to open a small shop there (even though you’ll probably sell the same stuff as everybody else and in capitalist values would be regarded as competition!) the neighbours and friends help you, give you muebles etc for having a good start. I once talked with the owner of a teashop in Berlin about his close friend who had another teashop in a totally different part of Berlin — and did not want to cooperate with him anyhow… Maroccans instead have small shops and support each other in living their independent lifes rather than fighting each other for jobs… There is exceptions also, for sure, as we saw with this guy in the hotel, and “our friends” that he was so afraid of. Seemed like a longlasting clan fight that these guys had, … but in general it seemed there is a lot more cooperation in between the smallscale business people than in Europe
The carpetproducers in Chechaouen for instance are organised in 4 cooperatives, who buy and give the material to them and help them to sell. Most of the shop owners buy from the cooperatives or from the producers directly, and the cooperatives also have own big shops/exhibitions. Those are a bit bigger than normal shops and the sellers don’t push you so much as in the small shops it seems, but these are (what I saw) the only differences to normal shops. This sounds a bit like as the same system with wholesale as in Europe, but if you enter a wholesale market in Europe, and these “wholesale” shops, you will easily recognize the huge difference!
I think that the fear connected with more rights for women is: if the family structures in Marocco develop into a more free and equal direction, it will maybe be the same development like in Europe and other western societies: Women will have the right to vote and to work hard like men in the same crazy big companies, factories. Children will be sent to kindergardens and old people to seperated homes… And “female" values as caring for each other are being lost in the society … women being made to be “male”, strong and powerful to survive in a capitalist economy. In Europe the fight for womens rights brought us more rights of free choice for women – but it also led to the destruction of traditional old family structures AND (and this is what is hard to understand for Europeans) economy structures.
It was not only the womens right struggle of course, that led to the destructions of small business economy, but it made the family economy structures even more weak than they already were – and that gave more power to big entreprises. Just from what I saw with my eyes, I guess this could be one of the most powerful reasons for the suppression of women in the Islamic countries. The fear of destroying economic structures grown since centuries, which might still be more fair and solidary than capitalism in the end. I just read that Islam law (the Scharia) prohibits the interest system – the basic thing capitalim is build on, that causes so much trouble! The same law , the Scharia, is also one of the most powerful instruments for the suppression of women. Is there maybe a relation in these two points?
One Maroccon man (when we asked him what he thinks about Europe): “Many people here think Europe is like paradise, many people want to go there. Many people are also in fear of it. I have never been there, but I think it is better life here. Here we live in community. In Europe everybody is alone and by himself”. I thought about some pictures from the street life here and smiled and sighed, thinking about Europe: I just love the old people here, they seem to be very happy and not as lonely as I know old people. Old men are walking HOLDING HANDS in the streets, happily smiling… I sweared by Allah that I would never buy any clothes (or any similar luxury stuff that I could recycle also) in European shops again…
By the way, the fashion here is really funny. In Marocco women and men both always keep their arms and legs covered and you see many people in Shallabahs, the traditional herders working clothes, which are very big and long and cover everything that could attract the other sex (except the face). But much more women than I thought go without covering their heads and give more about their look than a good Muslima should… Their style often is a strange mixture in between Traditional, Western and Bollywood. ;-)
I think that the people there cannot and do not want to understand Western women, and I guess they think Western women always want to fuck with everybody.And when i came back to Spain and saw all these “barbies” there – myself not being able to make a big difference in between a normal teenager girl and a hure any more after what I had seen I understood and was even more culture shocked about Europe than in my weird new home, where i just came from…People here in Europe define themselves so much more by their style, that of course for them it means losing a lot of freedom to have to dress in a certain way. But I really wonder what kind of freedom that is…
Marocco or lesson in going with the flow, by Anna
read the first part in the “group dynamics” articles
It feels so different travelling without a bus, but with only the things you need on your back; independent and free from a certain route, just folowing the group spirit. Marocco is a perfect place for this. Behind every corner, there is opportunities, invitations waiting to be chosen. Here someone inviting you to a marrocean mint tea in his carpet shop, there some other person inviting you to visit Marihuana fields on the mountain…
This fairy-tale-like mystical country offers its miracles to be discovered in many ways. The landscape, for example, is amazingly diversified: from coast to mountains, from snow in the mountains to hot and sand in the desert you find everything; but only in beautiful versions; Maroccos lines are soft and gentle, its colours bright and shiny. The life on the streets is, hmm, different. It is loud and happy, poor and miserable, colorful, open, welcoming and hiding, hiding behind the alien sound of the Arabic language and the long wide Kaftans who make old Marocceans look like Wizards…
In the narrow alleys of the old towns, the Medhina, there is paradisiac food everwhere – dates and walnuts, figues and almonds, marrocean patisserie – amazing sweets with nuts and honey, there is spices in every colour and smell, hundreds of different corn and grain – there is a cockaigne next to poor people selling ten pieces of plastic crap to survive, rotten food and more dead than living cats and dogs under the tables of beautiful shoes and scarfs and jewelery. Marocco has many aspects and every aspect has two faces.
You look one time, you see the good, the cockaigne. You look twice, you see that there is something else, something strange, maybe miserable. People here keep saying “In Marocco, there is no problem. No problem, nothing is problem.” How can there be no problem if obviously this question is in peoples minds?
We are invited to a carpet exhibition. The old Berber man assures us “No pushing, just looking, no pushing.” He shows us a lot of different beautiful carpets, has a lot of work with opening and showing them and putting them back afterwards and serves us some mint tea. We feel a little bit uncomfortable, tell him we dont have any money to buy something and offer our help to put back the carpets. He answers “No worry, no pushing” and this time “I only try my luck with you”.
mint tea, more carpets, Arabic lessons, “How much would you pay if you could have it?”…Finally, after three hours, after entering the “exhibition” without any intention to buy anything, we leave the place with one blanket and one west. Talented sellers they are, the Marrocean.
Donkeys. In the countryside; along the road they stand and munsh. On the road they walk and carry things. In the city; they are ridden by Berbers. They stop cars by standing in the middle of a high traffic street. Donkeys, everywhere.
Evening. We walk through the Medhina. A young Marrocean comes : “You feel good? Good! Its good to feel good. Fucking good” and walks away.
On the road somewhere in the Atlas. A small boy comes to me “Madame, Madame, Euro! Dirham!” I give him a sweet and tell him its nicer to get sweets as you can eat them and it might be difficult to eat money. The boy smiles and nods his head as if he understood. Then “Madame, Dirham!”. Again I tell him no. He touches his head: “Ah, le…”, touches his stomach and walks off.
LESSON : GO WITH THE FLOW!
After the first days being quite touristic city days, getting to know Maroccos Street Life, sleeping in hostels and eating in restaurants while not really getting in touch with local people other than those who want us to buy something we decided to go to the countryside, to smaller villages to dive deeper into the country, to meet and have real exchange with its people.
In Fes we slowly started focusing this intention by living with a Couchsurfer, Taha. It was great staying with him, really lovely guy, but still in the city and not really a lot of time to share as he was working most of the day. But finally, the day before we wanted to leave Fes, Jaqueline and Laura met a marocean family in a parc; who invited them to stay in their house with them to have diner together.
The next day the girls and the women and children of the family went to Hammam, the traditional public bath, together. This changed the plans of the rest of the group: Mandus, Henrik and mine. So we changed our plan which was actually to go to some small villages around Beni Mellal and decided to hitch-hike to Azrou, a small town in the middle-Atlas surrounded by monkey-cidre-forests.
Which was a wonderful decision at least for me personally, as here I made the first beautiful experience with not sticking to unflexible plans doggedly but instead see what happens and listen to my intuition. After spending the night in the forest we met some lovely local people who even were signed in couchsurfing and knew people we had met in Fes; after a while they invited us to stay in their house.
Although I had planned to move on fast and meet the girls in Beni Mellal, I had the feeling it could be important to stay and get in exchange with these guys. So finally we ended up in their old traditional house drinking yummi tea, listening to Berber music and having good times teaching one of them some Makrame. And suddenly, after looking at some desert photos, we all three decided spontaneously not to go to Beni Mellal to rejoin the girls again, but to go to the desert.
That is where I am sitting now and sweating, enjoying the heat and the funny paths life goes; after hitch-hiking the whole day yesterday and being invited to sleep in a house which was only for us in this one night – amazingly hospitality experiences.
just got an email from Sam that they arrived in Marocco yesterday – would be fantastic to meet you soon somewhere, guys! Another email from Jaqueline and Laura said that surprisingly they are already on their way back to Europe because in the moment there is no possibility of public transport due to the strike the busses and taxis are in since a week; and they dont want to get stuck in Fes…
Good travels; girls, take care y hasta luego! So, in the end, life happens… Anyway I am happy I got this lesson which let me come here, to the magic Sahara and meet all those beatiful people along the way…