Magical Morocco – a Bicycle Affair

Fatima, her older sister and mother share a laugh huddled around Nic in their Berber style kitchen. It is cool and fresh inside, a contrast to the arid +38c outside. Nic is showing them the videos of Brazil and Senegal from our expedition to explain our educational interests. Fatima, is intrigued and wants to share the videos and program with her school. She is 16 and studies, among other classes, english and IT. Her older sister shares she no longer studies as is now married.

We met these three beautiful women, who invited us (strangers) into their home for tea and tajine (cooked veggies and meat with spices), by the river while they were washing their clothes. Nic and I stopped at a river crossing to take in the bustling activity and wealth. We got to chatting with the local women (some english, some french, and gestures) and ended up making more lifelong friends.

Every day has been magical and I have to wonder if our Moots have something to do with it. Bicycles are a symbol of equality and adventure. Immediately any differences in our background, race or gender are swiped aside by our common love for adventure and the bicycle.

As children spot us from a distance, in the fields and plains and mountains, they come running to the roadside to cheer and watch and extend an arm of support. Goat herders wave, construction workers holler, arms extend from cars, busses, carts, and trucks to cheer our travel. Fists raised in strength, thumbs lifted to the sky, grins are wide and people: male and female, young and old, seem to delight in our passage and hope somehow to be a part of it.

This connection to a people and a place is not possible by any other means than a bicycle.

But first, how did we end up on the riverside, near Tinghir, in eastern Morocco, over the Atlas Mountains? Well, we rode of course, but it certainly is a different route than originally planned. We are headed to Erfoud, a remote community on the edge of the Sahara and will be connecting with a group of youth there and with youth around the world in the Ride To Learn’s online classroom. If you would like to register, the chat is Tuesday, 12:30 pm EST. Contact Christina or register here.

follow this link to a quick 1min snippet from our exchange with Lumiar School that speaks to the program thanks to Jacqui and LateNite!

After our Mauritania leg was cut short, see other blog post, we spent a day in Casablanca and then started the next day, cycling from the coastal city of El Jadida inland.

Casablanca was an incredible experience. As soon as we arrived, unshowered and on our bicycles, we spent 10 some hours riding around the city. What a welcoming and warm hearted people. We played with boys on the ocean front, chatted with guards at the grand mosque, were delighted by coffee with, and a performance by, local musicians, toured the markets and medina stopping to chat and sample teas, fresh juices, olives, and breads. It was incredible and people would stop us and ask: ‘first time to Moroc?’ Oui, we would respond. And an arm would extend for a warm handshake and beaming smile with a ‘Welcome! Welcome to Morocco!’ This gesture was again and again sincere. It was not followed with an attempt to sell or any other motive, we were genuinely and proudly being welcomed.

We left El Jadida in a headwind and not getting as far as we hoped with night on us and no where to hide our tent, we boldly popped it up on the side of the highway and woke at sunrise to continue. Halfway into the next day we met two young Moroccan road racers. They picked up our pace and I was certainly encouraged by Salah who would sing my name ‘Kristina, Kristina,’ when Id power up hills or take the wind. Salah spoke french as well as classical arabic and so we were able to communicate a little. He too, loves to ride and because of this connection invited us to his home for dinner and a rest. however, Nic was getting a little jealous of all the attention I was receiving so upon arriving to Marrakech we headed to the medina to connect with Abdellatif a connection from Christina and Akiko in Canada.

Abdellatif was going to show us some traditional shoe making, and was very disappointed we were not staying in his city longer than a day. He brought another friend along, Hamid, who spoke some english and the two of them took us around the medina and shared some history of the Berber people, housing and lifestyle. Halfway into the tour a man on motorbike pulled us aside and after speaking to our friends a while informed us he was the ‘tourist police.’ He demanded to know what country we came from. We thought he was joking so began joking back, asking him to guess. No laughing matter, he was the police and we got pulled into headquarters. First offence, our friends were not registered tour guides, second offence and the most serious was that Nic’s camera looked professional. We explained out intentions and wrote out our parents names and occupations on a piece of paper and were finally free to go. Phew. Filming was cut short, but we still enjoyed the company of Abdellatif and Hamid and the bustling nature of Marrakech.

Straight out of the city we began climbing into the high Atlas Mountains, Nic was at peace, being the mountain goat that he is. Nic loves the mountains, and these were no exception. Again, the landscape was stunning and the people warm and inviting. I have to wonder that the intention we put out is picked up somehow, as we are explorers seeking to tell the stories of where things come from, people seem intent to share their stories with us. We are invited into bakeries and tea houses and the men enthusiastically and passionately explain to us how their items are made, from the ground to the table. It is very encouraging.

On our second day in the mountains Nic began riding slower (unlike him) and taking longer pauses. He really did not want to leave them. Come on, I said not patiently let’s keep cycling. ‘But, he responded, we are only up here as long as before we go down …. ‘ Ah, yeah!

Finally we descended and the next few nights found great camps – hidden off side roads and so peaceful, with only the sounds of the mosque (5 times a day) echoing it’s call to prayer across the country. I love camping in the wild with a starry sky, mosquito free, temperature just right for a jumper. Nothing more perfect.

I am finding the Berber homes and communities we cycle through fascinating. As in Senegal and Mauritania, what I see is that homes are made out of what ever the land has/is nearby. Where there is grass, this is what houses and fences are made of, where there is earth to mould – it is fashioned into bricks, dried and used in housing. The homes here are made from the earth- that is clay-like with stones with some hay mixed in. But they look like they are moulded from the ground. And they have castle features and lots of windows, low doors and open airways. They are a gorgeous sight, tidily blending in with the surroundings. And so ‘eco friendly,’ they degrade back into the land of which they came, require no heating/cooling system as this is accomplished with all above mentioned features! Something to learn from.

Thanks for joining us so far, and if you would like to support the expedition, education program, or upcoming doco series, please check out our Mobilize page. Lots of cool ways to contribute and every contribution gets you a World By Cycle screensaver and chance to win one of our reusable barista standard KeepCups among other prizes! Every bit, even a coffee to fuel our journey helps heaps!! Or contact steve@ismotion.info for further exciting opportunities for investment or media.

Cheers, xK