Morocco is Better than Rococo. . .

Moorish proverb: He who does not travel will not know the value of men

The last time I woke up to a UCLA football score, it was a 59-0 loss to BYU. This time it was a 66-10 killing of Arizona. Go figure. Guess that’s why they play the games. . . but even that doesn’t make up for the volleyball team being swept by those same Wildcats; ugh. A lot more satisfying sleeping through the election coverage. . .

I’ve said this many times, and explained it on my other blog, but it certainly bears repeating: All the photos I take during these trips are the property of the company who pays me to go to such places and take photos, so I’m not allowed to show them. Some photographers scream bloody murder when they hear this, claiming they would never sell out in such a manner. I don’t agree, mostly because I’ve already been to most places, gotten my own shots. I certainly don’t work 24/7, so I get plenty of time to explore on my own, as well as meet up with old friends, or see them compete in the Olympics or World Cups; had I not agreed to such a stipulation at Athens 2004, for example, I would have been sitting on my couch watching one of my favorite people in the world having a gold medal placed around her neck instead of taking a photo from about 20 feet away. Most importantly, I get paid for it! More than I would have made at home for the same amount of time and shooting. And I certainly haven’t paid for a vacation in years. . .

Okaaaay, on to da show!

Like most photographers, and possibly most people, wandering a medina, with a maze of mysterious alleys, is the most fun. Souks can be fun too, if you can take the incessant screaming for your attention and your dollars. . . or Euros. {FYI: medina=old town; souk=marketplace. You’re welcome.} Morocco is probably the most Westernized Arabic/Muslim country, so there’s plenty that looks similar, yet still enough different for fun.

As always, especially in intros, I tend to meander, so here go a few interesting tidbits. Despite my knowledge of classics and archaeology, for example, I hadn’t known the Romans had been here, after the fall of Carthage. Said Roman colony was known as Ifrikiya in medieval times, which is the name “Africa” comes from. Cool, huh? Also, Berbers are named after the word “barbarian,” not the other way around; wonder how they feel about that.

Unfortunately, for a guy who likes walking around, traffic here reminds me of India, which is saying a lot. Even though I know this promise won’t last when I get back home, right now I feel like I’ll never complain about bad El Lay drivers again. I’m glad, at least, that I’m not driving; here’s an example. There aren’t that many roundabouts in the US, because there’d be too many macho accidents, but around the world you basically wait for an opening in the circular traffic before heading in. Not here; priority is given to those entering. Stupid and dangerous, even if you’re trying to cross the street. . . but then, I’m told this is a French invention, which explains a lot.

The social stuff is a lot more. . . intriguing. For instance, the one time I was on the train, I quickly found that no one seems to get the point, or even the idea, of reserved seating. That’s just irritating, not shocking. . . no, shocking is reserved for sitting in an internet café next to some teenager watching hardcore porn. . . and no one around, especially the women, seem surprised. Suddenly the hotel’s wireless fee doesn’t look so bad. . .

Didja know that in Brazil it’s impolite to make the “OK” sign with your hand? Whereas at home I might wave my hand in the air, here the only way to ask someone to come over is by placing the palm down and literally sweeping the hand backward. Takes some getting used to. . .

Once again–I wished I’d told them I’d been to Morocco before–I was told about the Maezt-Dar L’Oudou, which I had them write down, as my French is rusty enough to be nonexistent. Basically translating to “Goat of the Lavatories,” it’s a spirit or poltergeist that inhabits toilets, and it only comes out at night, as you might expect. So there I am being told this in the restaurant as I needed to head to the head, so if you thought I was going to stick around to ask how to ward this bastard off–“Rukhsa, ya Mubariqin,” or  “With your permission, O Blessed Ones”–you’re in for along wait. Besides, I love to live on the edge. . . the edge of what, that’s the mystery.

On a non-completely-unrelated note, orange juice is everywhere, the national drink other than mint tea. I love oranges; I hate mints. I also love the hotel bathrooms. . .

And while we’re on the subject of bodily intake, I was joined in one souk visit by a young lady of indeterminate European origin who was staying across the hall from me at the hotel. Being much more experimental than me–I asked if she meant more than just food, but she only grinned–she was easily persuaded to try a supposed local delicacy: animal penis. She didn’t even ask which animal, dove right in, making for yet more jokes I had to quash before they reached my mouth. . . though I couldn’t hold out when she claimed it was actually pretty good: “Knew it wasn’t your first time.” And then the guys in the stall laugh and tell her it wasn’t, just a trick they play on foreigners, which reminded me of my archaeology professor’s story about eating raw bat in a warrior ceremony on a desolate Pacific island, but we don’t have time for that now.

In fact, the intro has taken over, become its own blog entry, so more tomorrow. . . hopefully.


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