As our ride around Morocco comes to close it’s interesting to separate my “mind’s eye” preconception of what the country would be like from the impression after a few weeks here. Firstly I though it was all desert and that’s totally wrong. Like NZ the central mountain range makes all the difference. In this case west of the Atlas is green, east is Sahara dry. And in the north it’s just green all together, the Rif mountains are covered with forest and farms.
Next, this is a Muslim country and so of course one psychologically prepares for no beer. Wrong. Casablanca, Flag Special and Stork are all beers made in this 99% Muslim country. Go figure. Well that’s the good news, the bad is that the further you are from cosmopolitan cities the less likely you are to find any of them – so that’s more like a Muslim community!
Thirdly, it’s in Africa so you expect it be stuffed economically. After all that’s our general preconception of authoritarian regimes. Wrong, it really does appear to be going places, GDP growth is consistently strong, and the level of investment in infrastructure and property development is impressive. The reason is that proximity to Europe and a relatively stable “partly free” political situation proves to be very attractive to foreign suitors keen to have strong trade and investment links. Morocco is welcoming of FDI and UAE, France, Spain and China are all investing significantly here.
The people. Well being Muslim you expect it all to be Amani jeans for the young men and hijabs and burqas for the ladies. Wrong – many a young woman is in “westernised” apparel here, and it appears to be a trend spreading from the cities outwards.
Agriculture is 14% of GDP but employs over 50% of the people, so goatherds and shepherds proliferate in the countryside. They are poor. Tourism is on a roll and as mentioned in an earlier blog the internet is enabling people to open their homes via AirB&B-type arrangements. Marijuana, although illicit, is a significant earner. Talk about that more next.