We've been pretty stuck in the routine of our lives here after all the spontaneity of our original travel, but we knew coming in that this was likely. This trip wasn't really going to be about being tourists in Morocco, it was about Cait being a student and us being a student's family. Still, when Cait heard of a cheap, fairly quick and interesting sounding trip to the mountains, we thought it would be a good idea. Okay, I was a little hesitant just because I'm still not really anxious to do much unnecessary travel, but I knew that if we didn't do anything else while we were here but the daily routine, we'd probably regret it some in the long run, so I agreed to take the chance and although the trip got off to a very rocky start, it ended up being a pretty good time.
The aforementioned rocky start came soon after we boarded the small bus or large van that was going to be taking us up to the mountains. After we had to switch drivers because of a family emergency and winding our way up into the mountains, the kids started feeling sick. We had been warned against sitting in the back of the bus, but because we didn't want to make anyone switch seats as we were the last ones on, or sit by and annoy the driver, although the seats next to him in the front were open, we figured we could make it through a fairly short trip and everything would be okay.
It wasn't. The trip was longer, hotter, windier and more crazily driven than we had thought. And although we did take a break at a fairly stinky but still beautiful lake, the kids threw up, three times, once for Atticus and twice for Tallulah, before they fell asleep for a while until we reached our first major stop, the monkeys of Azrou.
I am fully aware that there are a lot of problematic elements to wild monkeys being regularly fed human food and becoming accustomed to their presence without any sort of organized protection or care for them (at least that I could see) but at this point we were just glad to be doing something that enthralled both of the kids and took our minds off the fact that we were going to have to make the same trip back down the mountain with what were sure to be two grumpy and worn out kids. Reading, and finishing, Poisonwood Bible which so often decries abuses of Americans in Africa, later that night kept me up late feeling even worse about the monkeys and my whole privileged life in general, but at the moment, we were just glad the wafers for the monkeys were cheap. In all honesty, our kids ate almost all the food that we might have given the monkeys, and what the monkeys got they mostly stole from the kids hands, but still, we participated, when it would have been fairly easy to just watch and save a small measure of our morality. Oh well, the moment has passed and it was really enjoyable, as deviations from morality often are.
After that, we loaded up the bus again and headed off to participate in slightly less, but still somewhat, morally-fraught activities, like fueling tourist economies in nearby mountain towns. The actual town of Azrou, where we got coffee, soda and pastries and then Ifrane where we got lunch and explored were both really nice. Azrou was tucked into an idyllic mountain landscape, it was clean, the people were friendly and the prices for food were low.
Ifrane apparently was once a town exclusively for the French colonists and now houses a high-quality university. It is inhabited now mostly by Moroccans associated with the university and is a hot tourist spot for Moroccans perhaps more than foreingers. It did have the feel of a town whose wealth couldn't quite maintain the glory of what it once was, evinced by the number of abandoned villas, the bird-poop filled park that could have been very nice otherwise and the decrepit playground, but it was still a very lovely town that had a nice, relaxed vibe and wasn't nearly as troubling as some tourist towns that have super nice shops for a street or two and then deep slums everywhere else. We had a decent lunch there of pizza and chicken sandwiches.
|This looked like it was planned as a green-space, but now serves as a sandbox, at least for our kids. They ended the day quite filthy.|
|The lion that guards the city from grumpy children.|
If I ever get my mind around the moral dilemmas surrounding participating in a tourist economy then I might write a blogpost on the subject, but right now, I can't really seem to get a grip on it. On the one hand, we're spending money that we would otherwise spend in America, or wherever, on the other hand, we prop up what are fairly volatile and artificial economies, but then again, what economies aren't artificial? And then factor in the environmental cost versus whatever social benefit there is to increasing our understanding of and participation in the broader world, and you've got one heap of a moral dilemma. C'est la vie, I suppose.
Anyway, after lunch and exploration around town, we started up the trip home, anxious about having another miserable trip. But taking the seats in the front to which we'd shifted too late in the first trip, and assuring that our kids were looking toward the road as often as possible, it was an uneventful trip, with Tallulah sleeping for most of it and Atticus shifting between iPhone time and treats and stories. We did leave the bag of all our puke laden kids clothes on the bus, but he swung back by to drop it off and we ended a long day feeling grateful to be back home and satisfied that we'd seen some good sights.