Morocco Still Beckons to Americans
What do bougainvillea and terrorism have in common ? Very little. What does Morocco have to do with Americans ? Well, prior to September 11, Americans visited Morocco as much as Europeans do, but since then the tourism statistics show that we have stopped traveling anywhere, much less Morocco where 45% fewer American tourists travel now than before. It is unfortunate, not only for the friendly and hospitable Moroccans, our nearest Arab allies, but for Americans, as well. A small group of returned Peace Corps volunteers were determined to see for themselves what their hearts already knew, that is, that Morocco still welcomes tourists, and offers a haven of historical sights and relaxation. They left for a one week trip to Morocco on November 3, with the purpose of reporting what they found to other Americans who have postponed indefinitely Morocco vacations long planned for.
Bougainvillea were blooming everywhere. It is the olive harvesting season around Fez, the most imperial of Moroccan cities, and it seems every fruit was in season too. Tangerines so sweet they give you a toothache, curious little kids follow your every move, and sympathy and welcoming smiles came from Moroccan adults when they learned our nationality ; this is what we found.
One Moroccan, Hassan Samrhouni, president of Casablanca Travel and Tours in Arlington, Virginia, took the chance of offering a standard tour of Morocco's grandest cities to returned Peace Corps volunteers, each of who wanted to plan the trip to include a visit to the towns they served in, plus design the trip to cover their favorite historical and relaxation spots. From the Jamaa el Fna in Marrakech, a crossroads for Moroccans and Africans alike, to the northern former Caliphate of Fes, medieval castles, four hundred and more year old market neighborhoods, mosques and museums drew us back, and made us late to yet another planned stop. The mosques' callers to prayer somehow called to us, too, for that needed respite to reflect, recuperate and remind ourselves of the daily meaning of life. Whether we met mountain Berbers, city cab drivers, university professors, or tour guides, they all expressed the hope that Americans heal and that Ossama bin Laden be caught. Wherever we went, the minute Moroccans learned our nationality, their condolences and sympathy were obvious.
Last but not least, the modern side of Morocco is
perhaps most obviously
noted in the presence of cell phones and satellite dishes, found in every town and city we passed through. The new King's programs
to expand social institutions to assist women and
include them, was also impressive. In short, we
all found it hard to leave and all began planning a return trip with more time scheduled to see more sights, and stay
a little longer in each enticing spot.
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