Just like in America, people are migrating from rural areas to the big urban areas. Mainly this is for work, but in Morocco it is also to have a modern way of life. Running water and electricity are desired. However, we are seeing lots of solar panels and wells in the villages.
Sub-Saharan people come to Marrakesh trying to get enough money to cross into Europe. They are fleeing civil war, poverty, hunger, etc. Many leave from Tangier and try to get to Spain. Some die in the crossing. Refugee populations are growing. It seems like we should just ensure a good quality of life in the homelands of refugees!
We pass through Zagora where there is a large oasis full of date palm trees. There are 40 different varieties of dates Dates are very important to the Moroccan diet. The best and most expensive ones are Majhoul and Fagouss. They are enjoyed here and imported. Often they use dried palm tree leaves to weave into fences.
Zagora is the capital in Draa Valley which has the longest river in Morocco. The river starts in the Atlas Mountains and runs all the way to the ocean. There are many villages along the way approximately every 30 meters.
Zagora is a Berber town and is called the Gateway to the Sahara.
The main income is tourism and movies. Movie studios were started in the 1920’s and were built by the French. Some movies made by CLA or Atlas Studios are Prison Break, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The Game of Throes.
Beyond the Atlas mountains in Zagora, the land is referred to as the Sahara. We have to drive almost two hours to get to the sand dunes.
A man named Thami El Glaoui was known as the Lord of the Atlas. He is despised by the Moroccans as a cheater and was friendly with the French during the occupation. Once Morocco was free in 1956, he escaped to France. We saw one of his buildings in the Atlas Mountains.
Women go to the market. They know the best negotiations and fresh quality. They don’t send the men because they will pick up anything and pay too much. Most often men sell at the markets, and the women work in the gardens.
Many Moroccan people were illiterate and could not read or write. In order to change that, the current king built schools in every village especially in the mountains. The literacy rate is better now at 50%. When you see a Moroccan flag, it is a government facility and most often a school.
Up until three years ago, parents were not required to send their children to school. Now there is a law that all children must be in school until 12. There is some effort to extend that to 16 or maybe even 18.
Women or others who could not go to school or didn’t have the chance for an education or had to delay their education have also been offered classes everywhere by the Minister of Education. Very few people take these classes because they are too busy or the class is too far. It is harder to learn when you are old.
Draawa are people of the Draa Valley and have darker skin. In the 16th century, Sultan Moulay Ismail didn’t trust local people so he brought 16,000 slaves from Niger, Mali, Chad and Ghana. Later, many then settled in the south of Morocco.
We drove about two hours in the Sahara to our desert camp. There isn’t a road, just tire tracks that remain from the people that have gone before you.