Different Culture in Morocco

Being in Morocco was fascinating. Of the places we’ve been in our lives, it’s definitely the furthest departure from what we think of as normal. We stayed in the medina of Fés which is the walled old town and one of the biggest, oldest active areas like it. There are over 1 million people living in the medina. It’s not just a tourist attraction, it’s a buzzing old city that we got to peek into for a few days.

There are hundreds of little “neighborhoods” in the medina each with a fountain for water, hammam (bath house), mosque, and community bakery. It is also home to the oldest university in the world which has now been converted to only teach the islamic faith.

Morocco is the first area we’ve ever been that isn’t historically predominantly Christian. The native Berbers were peacefully converted to Islam when the Arabs arrived I think around 800AD. To the visitor, some of the differences of being in an Islamic country are:

  • Five times a day, at synchronized times based on the sun, every mosque has a man sing through a loud speaker notifying everyone it is time to pray
  • The people are incredibly friendly, welcoming, and hospitable – every single person we met
  • The definite majority of women wear lots of clothes, most of them covering everything but their face and some covering everything but their eyes
  • Zero alcohol

There are lots of other differences, but those four seem to be most directly impacted by religion.

Based on conversations we had with locals some more interesting things:

  • Unemployment is about 35% (wow!). There are lots of people wandering around aimlessly
  • Main industries are tourism, fishing, architecture, mining phosphate, and exporting crafts
  • Everyone speaks Arabic, most people speak French and lots of people speak Spanish and English too. It’s amazing how multi-lingual the country is
  • The immigrants into the country are “African” as they call them meaning from further south and are dark skinned
  • Moroccans look very middle eastern and so do the native Berbers, many of whom still live in the desert, hills, etc in tribes

I couldn’t help but think that it’s probably very similar conditions we’re fighting in in the Middle East: Arabic, mosques everywhere, densely packed houses in mazes of alleyways, multi-layered square houses with open courtyards, no windows, and used flat roofs. With the density and confusion in a medina like that it would be incredibly hard to find who you’re fighting and handle them. It is crazy to think about.

Oh, and the Moroccan food is unbelievable. Some of the best food we’ve had!

Visitting Morocco was an unbelievable experience. It was eye opening learning abut Islamic and eastern traditions, seeing a very poor economy up close, and experiencing over-the-top hospitality from every Moroccan we encountered.

The most important phrase to know as a white person in Morocco? “La shukraan” in Arabic or “No thank you” in English :)

Our Life in Nerja – What are we doing each day?

Amanda and I have been living in Nerja, Spain for two and a half weeks now. It’s been amazing. It was the slow down we needed after about a month and a half of pretty fast paced travel. This experience of “living” in another country is also what we both have looked forward to the most on our trip.

Since we’ve settled down in our apartment for the month of November it’s been a lot of laying on the beach, swimming, yoga, tapas, cooking dinners in, reading, working and learning in our quiet apartment, and workouts on our roofdeck or at the beach. I’m sure this doesn’t sound bad to anyone but it’s our ideal way to spend time :) A balanced life between physical health, learning, fun together, and experiencing a unique culture.

Being way more productive than the Spanish

Amanda is keeping in touch with her clients and is even keeping some of them on track from afar by sending them fitness plans. She is also working on a new fitness certification, doing an online course to become and EXOS Performance Specialist. She’s learning a lot of fitness knowledge she can apply with her clients. I’m often her test subject for odd movements and tests! She works on it about an hour a day watching videos, taking notes and moving into pretty hilarious poses with her headphones in (she’s even doing one right now while I write this on the tablet!)

If that isn’t enough Amanda is also taking a 2 hour Spanish course five days per week. She’s making a ton of improvement and is getting around Nerja with her Spanish just fine!

I’m keeping busy working 10 to 15 hours a week contracting with Aquila. It’s interesting work with a familiar team so I’m happy doing it. It’s also a nice way to fund our travels. I’m still pushing some on Spectafy and I’m actually going to a conference in Barcelona Wednesday about Smart Cities to meet with some interesting people.

For fun I’m also researching more and more about self driving cars (I think that’s going to happen sooner rather than later and will be a primary method of transportation for a few decades). I got a couple little microprocessors and I’m getting them talking to each other and reading sensors for a fun project I’m tinkering on.

Besides that Amanda and I both made challenges for the month that we’re doing a darn good job sticking with. She is doing an hour of yoga every day and I’m swimming in the ocean every day. I can’t swim very well so I think Amanda comes to the beach with me for amusement and to make sure I don’t drown (the warm sun probably doesn’t hurt).

Getting familiar with the community

We really like a lot of the Spanish culture. It’s a fantastic place to vacation or live for a while.

Amanda has her favorite fruteria (super fresh fruit and veggies here, TONS of agriculture), panaderia (bakery), supermercado, tienda de zumo (juice/smoothie shop), and much more! I have my favorite cafe for WiFi, green tea, and sometimes toast with tomato and olive oil (local staple) or bacon sandwiches (yum!).

We have our favorite tapas spots (Redondo, La Puntilla, El Pulguilla, El Chispa, La Marina – roughly in that order). We’ve become regulars at some of them! You just can’t beat mingling with super friendly locals over 1.40€ drinks that each come with free snacks about half the size of a typical American appetizer. Our favorite tapas are paella, chorizo, pil pil, carne con tomate, grilled squid (Amanda likes this, I’m not that into that one), and prawns grilled with the shell on (my go to when Amanda gets gnarly squid).

The Spanish schedule has taken some getting used to, but we’re doing it! Wake up around 8, don’t go to bed before 11:30, have two small breakfasts, a big lunch around 2, tapas around 7 and dinner about 9pm.

We’re having an unbelievable time here, really enjoying our time together and our time to better ourselves all while soaking in a new culture. The best part… we still have 2 weeks here and then… well, who knows! :)

Our favorite of the 6 beaches in Nerja – Playa Carabeillo
Eric about to go on his daily swim
Enjoying some delicious wine and tapas
Reading on the beach and watching the sunset
Tapas on fire!