53 Audrey Avenue, Oyster Bay, NY 11771  •  Phone: 516.922.4700
05/26/2013
One of my  oldest friends and client for years always wanted to go to Morocco  and finally did so in December…he writes passionately about being open to a new culture and how much alike we all are.

Since I have not slept since Monday night, Tuesday being the evening we left for Morocco, this first cerebral note will be short and maybe even less meaningful for both me and the reader.  We arrived this morning and were picked up by friends of a colleague of mine.  They were two gentleman named Moha and Abdul. Now get this - they did US a favor by getting us at the Marrakech Airport.  We offered to take them to lunch as long as they found a local spot where the general population patronize.  And they did - a great place bustling with energy, good food and of course, the local cat who keeps away the local mice.  When we went to pay the bill, we found out it was already taken care of by Moha.  Here was a total stranger to us, only knowing us from a phone call from a friend and the hospitality upon arrival was magnificent.  It was only the beginning of learning more about the people of Marrakech and of the sites, smells and customs of the one million inhabitants of Morocco's second largest city. We then ventured out into the evening.  It's a Wednesday evening but you would think it was Saturday night. 



The people on the street, competing with automobiles and motor bikes, is a sight and experience that even astonishes a native New Yorker trying to cross 5th Avenue and 52nd Street against the light. But it was the sounds and the visuals that struck me the most.  Everyone speaking Arabic, the smell of spices and  great food coming from the street vendors, and the total immersion into a culture that some back at home fear because they simply don't understand. We saw people in the street tonight - children, mothers and grandmothers, shop keepers, beggars, well-to-do and  the poor of Marrakech.  We saw human beings who speak a tongue most of us can't understand, wear head scarves  in piety, and beckon to the call of prayer as the chant reaches out over loudspeakers to the faithful.  We didn't see anything to fear but saw plenty to learn.  Too bad we will only have 3 days to do this.
So we attempted to walk from the main plaza yesterday - to the Musee De Marrakech, a short walk of about 5 minutes and after 40 minutes, were not yet there.You see there are no street grids in this city of Marrakech, and no order or organization for cars, motorbikes, pedestrians or bicycles. Everyone goes everywhere in any direction they want at any one given time and at risk to everyone caught up in the apparent chaos There are no traffic lights at the busiest intersections and round-a-bouts. Cars ignore bicycles, motorbikes  ignore cars and pedestrians ignore everything. So we were lost and of course since real men don't ask directions, we just continued on our journey.  We wound up in neighborhoods all the guide books warn you about (something Karl and I seem to do in many of the cities we visit) and we soak in the local color and experience what those who obey the guide books miss-  the people.

I mean the real people with all of their joys and hardships, their blemishes and scars - with all their simplicity of lifestyle and touch of humanness that is out of reach for those who wouldn't dare venture into the wrong side of town or share a meal with someone with honest dirt on their hands and face. We did eventually ask for those directions and were patiently told to just walk around the corner and there it is. 
Today we took a 4 hour trip over the Atlas Mountains and saw another part of this country and another culture - that of the Berbers who make up a majority of Moroccans. It was  fascinating to visit Kasbahs  and even more so to learn about the Berber culture and traditions from our guide, Hassan. We came away  enriched, a little wiser and more appreciative of another culture. I am truly fortunate to  able to travel and explore.  I realize many do not have those resources.  What is sad is those who do have those resources and refuse to use them to grow out of their box, out of their comfort zone and out of their neighborhoods.  I have been immersed for 3 days in a culture many in my country fear, avoid and even hate.  How shameful of them to look the other way when the opportunity to learn is staring them in the face. One not need travel to a foreign country or even to hop on the Delta Shuttle.  Just take the "A" train and get off at any stop and learn.  The world awaits you right on the streets of your own city. Extremists exist in all cultures, all societies, all religions, and in all neighborhoods. Don't put a brand on just one group and not another simply because you don't understand or were taught to fear.  Isolate the extremist one person at a time and for good reason, not one ethnic or religious group at a time based on ignorance. Time to catch up on some rest and get ready for the walk-a-thon tomorrow. I will sleep well in Marrakech tonight along with my neighbors in this Moroccan neighborhood - you know - those people who speak Arabic, wear head scarves and beckon to a call to prayer.