Maintaining Traditions/ Embracing Change
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Desert camp site
Camel caravan in the Sahara
Desert camp site
The theme of this trip is “Morocco: Maintaining Traditions/Embracing Change.” For us, Morocco is fascinating because it is trying to balance both. The government supports traditional, labor-intensive craftsmanship by providing funding to cooperatives and training programs. The oldest parts of the cities, the medinas, are being maintained and restored in their ancient configurations. Extended family homes (riads) are not being torn down when dilapidated but instead are being renovated into small hotels, some simple, some elegant, all adorned with hand crafted mosaics and ornamentation. Though one foot is steeped in the past, the other is running full speed ahead into the future. There are significant investments in infrastructure throughout the country – sparkling new neighborhoods, connectivity (including pervasive internet and cell phone access, new and improved highways, and the first high speed train in Africa), and renewable energy investments, with wind farms and the largest solar power plant in the world. Though compliance continues to be a challenge, in July 2016, Morocco became one of the first countries to ban the manufacture, commercialization, use, import and export of single-use plastic bags. A moderate Islamic state, Morocco has the only Jewish Museum in the Arab world, is refurbishing Jewish synagogues and cemeteries, and has developed diplomatic ties with Israel. Women wear anything from no head coverings to burkas. Still, Moroccans, though not foreigners, typically must show their marriage certificate to stay at hotels, and cafés are full of men drinking tea while the women are at home. Thus is the sometimes awkward attempt at “Maintaining Traditions/Embracing Change.”