“Walking is a virtue, tourism is a deadly sin.”― Bruce Chatwin
These are strong words. After all my wanderlust, I think they are justified.
I have tried not to fall in the cliché for the photograpsh of latitude 34. I am not snapping sites and must sees, but rather the story of light and the universality of place, the moment where we go Look! because of its poetry. Yet while I coast through places I cannot be oblivious to the guide books must see, tourist attractions, even if I made a point not to read any guide books before setting of to a place. Gilbert K. Chesterton puts it very well: The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.
Most often than not when I do still go and have a peak, I was utterly disapointed, I have this horrible feeling of being lobotomised and staring bemused , wondering what the hell am I doing herel. The ” you have to go and take a picture of this” adivce is something I found sweet at first but developed a profound irritation towards. I wont be dictated what I have to picture, what /I have to like.
There is also a very strange feeling when going to those ” tourist” spots, as if it was a kind of live museum. Museum is too elegant word, its more like a zoo, a sad theatre, where one has to wander trough stalls of cheap goods at expensive price.It brings to question what is the life that is created, what are these places? Communist China has nailed perfectly the capitalist tricks of tourism, at grand scale, and in fact it is perhpas the sole reason why some monuments are not demolished.
The scenic lookout sign used to be a binocular , now it has been replaced with a camera: Go shoot there! no need to think, no need to even struggle to get to a place, there is a parking lot, and a plaform, and herds of others pointing the camera to “there”. The herd/copy cat effect is something that I experienced on another way. When I stop on the side road because something captured my eye, I often had a few other cars stopping too trying to looo at what I was snapping, and still snapping regardless eveen if my subject matter, or the specal event or light had long vanished.
I escaped in Marrakech for the past 2 days , to replenish after a few hard weeks. Marrakchis ( people from Marrakech)have the nickname of Arnakchi, and in french , arnaque is the act of conning someone. I do hope it is something really isolated with a few crooks around the square, and the taxis ( more on that later). I wanted to go on a mountain bike ride, to be active, but unfortunately it is a minimum of 2 and there was no other group I could join within the 2 days I was here. I wanted to paraglide, but the weather was aginst me and it was cancelled. I then opted for ” tasting ” what it must be like to be a tourist in Morocco and join a tour. I often wonderedc when abroad how does a tourist on his first time in Morocco see, or experinec it. There is so much litterature about Morocco’s bartering and ripping off sport. I was hoping that there was still some down to earth and ” real” experience in it all. It didnt turn out to be agreat experience and had I been a tourist m , I wid have left with a bitter taste of Morocco. Nothing beats the independant off the beaten track,for which you have to have time, as it is only with time that you can build a rapport with the culture and its people. and an adventuruous spirit.
I took a tour to the Ourika Mountain, I thought we would treck to a cascade. I should already have wondered why it took a whole day to do a little trek about 40 km away. I kept quiet about my Moroccan side until late in the trip, where the attitude totally changed. The weather wasn’t nice, very cold and cloudy , but that is a recurrent leitmotiv wherever I go in the past years, I am not too bothered about that aspect. However the many stops” to look and take pictures with the husslers trying to sell their goods, some even got trapped in “taking picture on a camel” only to be taken for a ride, litterally don the raosd and have to pay for it, that bothered me. I mean yes, people are very poor and need to earn money, but this isn’t the way to do good business. This constant poking is very unpleasant, and feeds the idea that everyone wants to con you. It isn’t the case and there are some real honest dudes, but they re drowned by those idiots. The human mind and memory can have a tendency to magnify the empleasant experiences and minimise the good ones. It is the same story with the taxis that dont want to put the meter and spoil it for all those who do.Once I even had a guy take half the price of the meter because I only had that in change and a big note.He said don’t worry I was going that way anyway.
Next the tea at the berber house. Sure it gave an insight of the berber house but I hated the fact that here were hords of other groups coming too into this house at the same time. I was a number in a factory, I didn’t like it.
The hike…wasn’t so much a hike but a walk through one of the villges and we stpped shorter than the end because a few were tired, and so unfit. Well that’s the price to oay to be in a group and not by oneself. Needless to sayI hardly took any pictures…..
The worst was the food bit – we were taken to a restaurant that was sway too expensive for the hirrendous food we were served.Being Morccan I know what it shoudl tatse like and tis was appaling and for triple the price . I was fuming, as a half Moroccan I love my food and feel insulted being served something prepared without care. Compared that to a stop on the motorway, where there was buchers next to the place that cooked the food on charcoal, the freshest, simplest food and a fraction of theprice.
As much as I loved the Ourika Valley, it must look goregous on a sunny day, turning the earth bright red, I hated the experience of being herded around , and being taken for stupid when I asked questions I knew the answers to and was told BS. I much rather struggle with transport, language, weather but experience something than this pseudo experience, this excuse of an experience, a charade. Its a pity because there is onother aspect of Morocco, one of wonderful hospitality,generousity, amazing food and ” souab”, ie manners. Sadly so many in the tourism industry spoil it for the whole country. I havent even tpuhed the topic of a certain male attitude towards single ladies traveling.
It is a schizophrenic country, its either really good or really bad.
Morocco captures many other countries in terms of imagination, inspiration, design culture, cuisine, yet when one comes here as a tourist for the first time an lands in Marrakech, like many do, I feel he or her will most always leave withg a BUT, with a slightly if not very bitter and contredicting taste in the mouth. It may forever deter them from coming to see any other part of Morocco at all. It is probably this dichotomy that drives many Moroccan towards this love hate relationship with their country, live abroad and occasionaly come back with a too romantic vision of this exceptionaly beautiful country, where all the sense are touched: scent, taste, vision through the colours, the landscapes, the design, kraft, and go through the whole raibow of emotion, from joy to extreme iritation over trivial aspect of the every day