Atlas Mountain Murmurings

We’re high in the Atlas Mountains where the days are 28 degrees and the nights a chilly 6. The supply of accommodation is plentiful thanks to the same mania that has swept New Zealand. Online booking has provided a massive economic boost to these remote villages who until now have survived by growing crops for own consumption and maybe a small surplus for cash.  But with Morocco being one of the few peaceful African destinations and of course being the closest to Europe, the internet has changed all this. The place is swarming with tourists who are able to deal directly with homestays online and this has provided a massive boost to rural incomes. The AIrbnb revolution it appears, is universal – we saw the same in Cuba last year, a phenomenal economic boom for modest income households.

Take tonight – we’re in a village called Teleout and have been provided a whole house to ourselves – for NZ$20 per head – with dinner and brekky thrown in. We booked it this afternoon via Booking.com once we knew how far we were likely to get today. It’s just so easy nowadays – we’ve never booked ahead before but Morocco is swarming with tourists so we find it easy to forward book now about 3 hours ahead. Having local sim cards in our phones ($NZ5 for 5 Gb of data) makes it a breeze.

Our $10 accoms in Imlil, livestock kept in the room below.

Morocco is surely on the move – the new highways and town building is at a level I haven’t seen since riding across China in 2005. Just phenomenal – and of course here solar is the new oil. All the houses – from the most modest adobe hutch to the glitzy hotels are running on it. The hot baking sun is being used to drive water pumps for irrigation and save people needing to hook up their homes to the national grid. As we see so often around the developing world, technology is enabling people to advance economically, by leapfrogging the old technologies – copper wires, national grids and all manner of legacy systems that are obsolete nowadays.

Solar is the new oil for sun drenched countries like Morocco

With 34 million people and being in Africa, one might think Morocco is struggling against all odds. But you’d be wrong – tourism is going nuts thanks to the peaceful nature of the place – albeit still very much an autocratic non-liberal Muslim society – and that exposure to Western tourists is I suspect, causing some friction between the conservative theocratic norms and the internet-inspired modernity that clearly has the younger generation in its grip. Despite being 99% Muslim, the country manufactures a range of beers for example – they’re just difficult to find. But that is indicative of a tolerance that evades most Muslim states.

New Zealand’s link with Morocco is strong because it’s produces 75% of the world’s phosphate – the lifeblood of our farming productivity. And it’s not without controversy as some of it hails from the occupied Western Sahara, an occupation New Zealand ostensibly opposes. But hey, when have we ever been more than selective with our morality – if we were, you could kiss goodbye to imports from China or dairy sales to Russia. We could of course do what some nutbar suggested I did with our Moroccan cab driver last week – pay 10 times the going rate just because I can. NZ could pass the surplus payment direct to Polisario, the Sahrawi independence movement. Now that would be more than paying lip service to our principles. Just joking.






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