Green Morocco

Wednesday, we had a day trip to Volubilis, the regional Roman capital from about 0 to 200AD. Interesting place, marvelous civil engineering using the gravity of the hillside for water management, beautiful mosaics. The local guide was excellent. Then on to Meknes, a former capital of Morocco. But what I found most interesting is green Morocco.

Agriculture is the main industry in Morocco. The bus drove past vistas of fields to the horizon. Wheat, olives, poppies, peaches, mustard, mostly smallish plots for each crop, easy to rotate. Some of the olive groves have other crops planted between the rows of trees. Some irrigation, some relying only on rainwater. Rains evidently have been good, everything was green.

Morocco has dozens of artificial lakes, mostly for agriculture. The place is mostly very clean. The roads are very good.

Meknes is the most fortified city in Morocco. The megalomaniac sultan in the early 1700s who designated Meknes as his capital displayed 500 severed heads to remind the people of his benevolence. He had this idea to accumulate 25 years worth of grain (which seems pretty impossible) so he built these huge buildings for grain storage. 10 foot thick stone walls and an underground water system made the place very cool and comfortable. Outside, it was sunny and hot, mid 80s, in the granery it felt like low 70s.

Behind the granery were stables for thousands of horses. Supposedly, the grain was for the people and the horses, but I suspect the horses got priority.

Today, Thursday, we spent 11 hours driving through mountainous country to the south of Morocco. The landscape got drier and drier until it looked like Arizona.

Along the way, we stopped by the side of the road to talk to a nomad sheepherder and his family. The guy is 37, his smiling wife is 30 and they have a 5 year old girl. An older son is in boarding school, sharing a room with other kids. They tend 350 sheep for a boss who they like. They live in a little shack, well covered with heavy plastic sheeting. They have a solar panel and satellite dish and a light bulb. Because they are right by the road, they can hitchhike to town for supplies. Periodically, a hired truck comes and they haul some sheep to market. Ramadan is coming. At the end of the month, every family sacrifices a lamb, so the busy season is approaching. This is the great thing about OAT, when a learning opportunity presents itself, they stop on the side of the road and check out someone that anyone else would drive right past.

Tonight, we’re staying in a Casbah. Tomorrow off to camp in the desert.