Saturday, April 4, 2009

Marrakech (3 of 7) Arriving

While visiting Crete a dozen years ago, it was explained to me that the reason the upper floors of so many houses remained unfinished (just a forest of reinforcement rods sitcking up out of the de facto roof) was because of taxes: no property tax until the construction was complete. So only the rich completed their houses.
Told to me by a local, so I believed it.
When I visited Algeria I noticed the same phenomenon. Then again to a lesser extent in Morocco. Not knowing the local tax codes, I thought it might be the same reason, but I didn’t go so far as to ask. Then something I just read suggests another explanation: An Algerian character in a memoire cites an old arab proverb -
When the house is finished, death walks in the door.
How’s that for incentive to leave an extra floor open to the heavens?
And there aren’t so many Arabs in Greece; why should there not be multiple origins for the same effect?

Mohammed V airport in Casablanca. Just like small airports all over France. Clean. Non-smoking. Shops all over the place. Spacious. Carts selling pastries and Diet Coke.
All the men, and the great majority of women waiting here in the domestic departures area for planes to Fez, Oujda, Agadir, or Djalkeh are wearing western dress. Maybe a third are Europeans, but it’s hard to tell. The Eagles are playing on the loudspeakers, alternating with panpipes versions of old saws, exactly like the faux-American Indian stand at the weekly market in Aubière.
Ah, globalisation.
The fields around Casablanca are a delicate spring green, here and there an early crop of colza is beginning to come into lemon-yellow blossom. The city blocks, tight-packed with whitewashed houses topped with antennae and satellite dishes, stop short at the edge. City. Country. City. Country. No intermediate zone of houses with yards or piles of junk, or semi-industrial areas, at least on this part of town.
Approaching Marrakech only half an hour late, we discuss our lodgings. Having not heard from our host, YJ’s wife went ahead and reserved them a luxurious riad in the Medina. I have no plans at all, trusting that, like last time, arrangements will have been made. In an email that did get through, Jamal mentioned a reservation. I just don’t know where, though I assume it’s in the same hotel as last time (the owners being good friends of BB’s, after all). If not, it’s not as if the city lacks hotels, it’s mostly a question of finding a nice one without paying a fortune. YJ’s palatial riad is not in my budget, even with the stipend we’ll be given.
Not to worry. At the airport a familiar group of three is waiting. Jamal and two young doctors I met on the last trip are here for us, bearing flowers. This time I myself am prepared with good French chocolates for them.
They have reserved, and are taken aback that YJ is declining that hospitality, but agree that not knowing, it’s understandable. Apparently there is a real problem with BB’s email getting through, and we find out later it’s mostly been identified as spam by our hospital’s filters. Going to have to see about that. Oh, and here’s a copy of the thesis for each of you.

The fabulous new train station, and the freight area next door.

The university campus.

Some pictures from a walk around the Khoutoubia and surrounding parks.

1 comment:

Si's blog said...

Fascinating post. With the story and the pictures, get a real feeling for the place and the event. More!

Made a post today about my wife's - and all of the family's - breast cancer experience. Her family has a history of calcium thingys but not real breast cancer. Her mother smoked constantly and had lung and colon cancers, but no breast cancer.