Morocco… what can I say? Culture shock doesn’t even come close.
After a week in Spain we were all looking forward to our stay in Morocco-something a bit different, something to challenge our preconceived notion of the world and open the children’s eyes to a completely new cultural experience.
Reading about other countries in books or seeing them on the telly is all well and good… but there’s nothing quite like visiting somewhere for yourself to highlight that, despite the steadfast march of globalisation, the world isn’t the homogenised melting-pot of western values we all too often assume.
That diversity is a good thing-but when you’re travelling with children (notice we’re “travelling” now… our “holiday” ended when we left Spain) it can be a challenge to say the least.
Our first taste of Morocco wasn’t a pleasant one. After taking a taxi from the Spanish port of Ceuta to the Moroccan border we crossed on foot. Walking through a long, desolate no-man’s-land of concrete and razor wire I started to wonder what on earth we were doing.
There were no signs to point us in the right direction, no indication of where we should go or what we should do. We were simply carried along: human flotsam on a purposeful tide of bodies.
The Moroccan side of the border was a maelstrom of people, vehicles and uniformed officials. Horns blared, voices were raised, and amidst the confusion a huddle of people gathered, waving their passports above their heads in the general direction of one of the vehicle check-points. This, it transpired, was the queue for pedestrians crossing the European-African frontier.
When I say “queue”, what I really mean is a chaotic, milling mass. There was nothing organised enough to be called “passport control”, just an unwieldy melee of pushing, shoving, elbowing and jostling for position. People were joining the scrum from all angles, striving to get their passports stamped as quickly as possible. The result was predictable.
Tempers frayed, and with startling swiftness the crowd became a seething mob. I ushered the children to the periphery, while my wife held her ground at the centre of the fray. Suddenly the notion of “experiencing other cultures” first hand was feeling a little bit too real. Standing there in the heat and dust, trying to keep the children out of harms way while my wife battled amidst the ebb-and-flow of bodies, I couldn’t help but think we’d have been better off watching a good travel documentary.
Crossing the border took more than two hours. Welcome to Morocco!
The girls, amazingly, took all of this trauma in their stride. It seems that as long as they’re with us they feel safe and secure wherever they are. Children are much more resilient and adaptable than most adults give them credit for. They’re more open to change than grown-ups-less set in their ways-which is why, exposing them to new things while they’re young is so important. That was something I’d be reminding myself of constantly over the coming week.
When we finally cleared the border we arrived at what looked like a Mercedes graveyard. Closer inspection revealed it to be a taxi rank. As we climbed into the nearest cab a quick glance at the clock told me it was pushing an incredible half-a-million miles. The term “still going strong” would be something of an overstatement, but as the driver gunned the car onto the highway it was patently still going.
Our Moroccan adventure was just beginning… looking out of the taxi’s grubby window I realised that, while the children were soaking up the experience, I was already having second thoughts and struggling to keep an open mind. I wondered what the week ahead would bring….