Taza, Morocco (Maroc)

March 19-21, 2000

I headed off to Taza with a cold in full development. There weren´t many seats left in the small compartments so I squished myself and my bags as flat as possible against the wall to allow the others looking for a seat clear passage. ´This is going to be one ride I´ll be glad when it´s over´, I thought.

I knew it wouldn´t be long before I was joined by a curious Moroccan who also had to stand and was looking for some friendly chatter. Sure enough, two younger guys came over and we began to converse as best as possible. Really, I would have just loved to get some rest, or at least sit down, but they were friendly and I´d do my best to sniffle in the other direction.

The ride wasn´t so bad. A small family got off half way through the trip and we took the free seats. I stayed quiet in a corner and listened to the conversation flowing from the girl sitting next to me. She would occasionally lean over to explain to me what she was saying as best as possible.

She was dressed well and was sexy even by Western standards. She had a boyfriend from America once who spoke French and was now engaged to a French guy. I believe the conversation was something about being able to be attractive as a form of expression in fashion. Her last translation to me on the closing of her dialog was, "Maroc Zero."

While gazing out the window, oasis´ passed by in the desert sand. We clack-clacked through drifts of sand that contained pits of blue water and then would go for long streaches with nothing but sand littered with shrubbery. Just when you expected no one had ever walked through an area, a shephard would pop as if on display to the train.

My stop had come and I got off and went to the hotel nearest the train staion that made my guidebook. I checked in and called Sanae to let her know I was in Taza. She walked down the hill and brought me back to her home.

Collections of fine china and Arabic rugs decorated the fairly large and quite classy apartment. I met her brother and tried on his jellaba and they flipped on the satellite dish television, but did not turn on the sound.

This is where it started to get cultural again. Her father and friend came in and some of her friends too. I greeted the ones who stood far with a handshake and the ones who were close with a hug, as they seemed to be doing.

Like a bad dog, I was corrected, that only a handshake is given to the women. And a friendly way to say hello to a guy was to kiss him four times. In fact, you even link arms or hold hands with your guy buddies going down the street. Nothing wrong with that, but just different from where I come from.

When another brother who spoke more English came in (I don´t think this one liked me so much, but the others seemed to), he explained that the father thought that they watch too much television because they should be working or doing something creative. All of the family tended to disagree with the programming, most of which had the liberalness I saw in Spain - more racy than in America.

When a woman came on in a bathing suit on a music video or vacation commercial, they´d all turn their heads and blindly aim and fire the remote control to change the channel.

I found some humor in this, but also some philosophy. Who is to say what is better, there are merits to this repression just as there is sexual expression, but I question how they come to follow these beliefs. Has it been dictated by Islam and the King (believed to be a prophet) blindly followed? What does Christianity, or any other religion or government dictate that we blindly follow the same?

I´m not saying that these people were blind, nor are we, but culture develops from somewhere and I don´t think I can bite into something without questioning it is that I am about to swallow. Thinking like this will no doubt develop an eccentric personality, which I have always sought out in others and am becoming less afraid of having develop in myself. It´s as an expression of individualism.

Keep in mind I am putting all this down after nearly three weeks and have much to say about my other experiences, which is definite changing the station my travel program is broadcasting on. So out of my head and back to Taza.

One of Sanae´s brothers told me to ask a taxi for ¨la coucha¨ for some great sites the next day. Sanae and her brother walked me back to my hotel at night. I shook her hand and kissed him four times and went to get some sleep.

Before going to "la coucha" (which walking through a grave yard up to the top of a hill did provide the best view I could imagine in town), I headed out and explored the old area of town. A loud speaker blasted that sounded like something out of Brave New World in a monotone Big Brother voice. I walked through scrap yards that reminded me of science fiction droid graveyards. Dunes, desert people and old men in jellabas and leather slippers.

My respect for the creativity of Orwell, Lucas and others I thought were so unique dropped. These books and films weren´t created right from their heads... they must have traveled. And traveled this area they had. George Orwell was definitely in Spain (I saw his picture in the bullfight museum) and George Lucas shot most of the Star Wars desert scenes in Tunisia, which is just two doors across in Africa from this place.

Could I be inspired to write something that you´d think was from the future or another planet? Probably not. Besides, rather than write about it, I´d rather live it, which is why I´ll end this e-mail now.

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