Saturday the 16th
Another city. Another travel day.
By muslim standards, Morocco is progressive in its cultural conventions particularly in regard to marriage. With the officiation of the King Mohammed VI to the throne, a number of legislation were passed to ensure the rights of women in arrangements of marriage. Whilst polygamy is practiced in the islamic religion, recent laws have made this relationship conditional as the approval of the first wife must be attained before multiple wives may be taken. The limit of a maximum of four wives was also introduced to alleviate fiscal pressures on the government: as contraceptives are not available and free education is compulsory for nine years, the birthing of multiple children adds a fiscal burden on the government. Our local guide Hassan explained that he was one of 24 children! But he himself has only one wife and three kids. Marriage, whether arranged or by choice, must obtain the consent of the woman in the early stages of dowry negotiation. This must be witnessed by members of the notary whom also validate the health certificates of both parties. These conditions are in place to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections in a country that does not have contraceptives and to ensure the lawful marriage of consenting of-age individuals. There are many traditions which are ritually practiced throughout the time of engagement, such as the giving of sugar to symbolise a sweet relationship with the family-in-law.
Symbols and tradition are a large part of Moroccan culture. The Hasma or Hand of Fatima is a recurrent symbol that manifests in the residential homes of locals such as on doors or as decorative pendants. It is a protective sign representative of the hand of God thought to bring health and happiness to its bearer. The symmetrical stencil is often paired with the Evil Eye, an image dating back 3000 years to Ancient Greece which repels evil forces and is recognised in every religion.
On the coarse dirt road, traversing though the barren dessert, gave us little opportunity to pull over to a roadside stop with substantial food. Instead we had service stop after service stop where we could go to the toilet and purchase endless cans of Pringles. Hot n Spicy. Sour Cream and Chives. Paprika. Cheese and Onion. BBQ. Natural. Please never show me a can of Pringles. Ever again.
Our lunchtime stop was at a little oasis in the middle of the desert. Despite the water being slightly warm and chlorinated, it was refreshing to escape into the bright blue with my friends. I shared a vegetable and kofta tagine for lunch and basked by the pool in the 44 degree temperature.
The modern quarter in Marrakesh was vastly different to anything we had experienced yet in Africa. We were pointed in the direction of avenue Mohammed V which would be our reference point to the plaza and return route to our hotel, but stayed as group within arms length of our guide nonetheless. The main street could have been supplanted into any world city due to the modern cafes, restaurants, ice-creameries and fast food joints which rose multiple stories aside the road. The locals here were clothed modestly with the occasional colourful headscarf and few traditional dress robes. This section of the city had a comforting exuberance. Designed by the French in the 20th century, we tourists did not feel estranged as we had in the city of Fez which was a weight lifted from our superstitious consciousness. After stopping for sorbet at the parlour recommended by ice-cream connoisseur Mikael, we spent the rest of the evening dancing to live music at the poolside bar inside a nearby five-star resort.