Monday, 18 May 2009

Back to Morocco

Spending a week in Morocco once again confirms why I love the place for its quirkiness – but also why it can drive people absolutely crazy.

We came for a host of reasons, which involved driving practically the length and breadth of the country – visiting SPANA’s most northerly, and southerly clinics.

Now, anyone who has had any doings with Morocco’s roads, and the unusual style and driving skills of its drivers, will confirm that it is an interesting experience.
I mean, call me old fashioned if you will, but would you expect vehicles, including mule and donkey drawn carts to regularly approach you coming the wrong way down the motorway, passing our astonished stares with nothing more than a cheery waive?

Or to see sheep and cows grazing on the central reservation – after all you wouldn’t want to waste all that lovely grass.

And if you happen to live on the other side of the main (very busy) Casablanca/Rabat motorway , what could possibly be more normal than a mother dispatching her children to run across, dodging the juggernauts, to get to the school on the other side?
But then, you drive down the Casablanca Avenue in Marrakech – it’s mid May – and the Jacarandas lining each side of the street are in their full glory. They create a thick haze of cobalt blue stretching into the far distance.

As we pass a bloke is painting the walls of a house and spills half the paint across the pavement. He doesn’t even notice.

Going up into the mountains the Tamarisk trees are also in full flower, and just for once, after exceptional rains this year, cattle and sheep are lying contentedly it their dappled shade, chewing the cud.

Even the poor old broken-down horses, mules and donkeys waiting stoically in our hospital in Marrakech look a little bit better than normal. Their owners ask pathetically for our help, but sadly there is no miracle injection we can give to make these animals young again.

But we do what we can – especially to try and ease the pain of old wounds and injuries. In that respect, I feel a certain kinship with them. I know old wounds and injuries I thought long since healed, come back to haunt us as we age. At least I feel I can look the trudging, loaded donkeys in the eye now, after trudging myself round the Marathon. And I only had to do it once – and then had to spend a week nursing the blisters.

Still, it did make an impression on the people. They now know that the English are completely mad – shaking their heads in disbelief at the photos of the three of us in our donkey outfits.

But we raised over two thousand pounds at a fundraiser in Tangier, and at the AGM in Rabat last night, people stood to applaud the donors of SPANA in Britain for their generosity.

So, who cares about their unusual driving habits?

Jeremy Hulme

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