My terrific seven-day tour is over, I’m on my own again. We finished up back in Marrakech this morning. I did a terrible job of saying goodbye to my new friends at breakfast but that is the way things are with these experiences. We got quite close over a week of shared meals and joint suffering at the hands of Morocco’s heat, but our friendship is ephemeral. I doubt I’ll ever see any of them again.
I took a morning train to Rabat, the Moroccan capital and now occupy an Airbnb home in the medina. I can’t exactly express my wonderment at where I find myself. I lounged on the terrace of my host’s home, overlooking the narrow boulevards of this ancient place. Since we are less than a mile from the Atlantic it’s cool here. Like just about every other Moroccan city this one is dominated by the walled medina with it’s pulsing masses of folks trying to make their way through endless little shops. Just being here is exciting. I’m scheduled to spend two days here so I should be able to get a feel for the place. Lonely Planet doesn’t particularly like Rabat because so much of the city is beholden to politics. But the little bit I saw this evening seems enticing.
Rabat (like Marrakech) is growing outward. New apartment buildings spring up almost daily. The new neighborhoods look very middle class with supermarkets and shiny automobiles and clean shops that contrast sharply with the chaos of the medina. Our guide explained it concisely. Young moroccans don’t stay in the villages and small cities of the interior. There are no jobs there. Instead they migrate to a handful of conurbations like Casablanca (over 5 million), Marrakech (one million), and Rabat. You could say it’s Apple’s fault. The lure of cellphones and refrigerators and indoor plumbing demands hard cash. You can’t find that kind of moolah in the hinterland, so country kids become big city shopkeepers and bureaucrats.
One question I meant to ask but forgot: the tallest building in all these cities is a mosque. I assume this is tradition or fiat, but the result is the same. Moroccan cities can’t expand upward so they spread laterally gobbling up farmland and the habitat of plants and animals. The skyscraper doesn’t seem to exist in Morocco (though I may have seen some in Casablanca a couple years ago, I’m not sure). Our guide said Morocco has a population of 30 million. By contrast Australia has 21 million. From what I can see on the streets the birthrate is robust. I wonder if there is an environmental price to pay in a country where you can’t build tall buildings.