One World, or DisneyWorld?

Berbers await the king

Today was a “repositioning” day (Fez to Marrakesh, 8 hour bus ride), and yesterday’s pictures haven’t been reviewed yet, so this will be a “ruminating” post.

In the “one world” category, one of the things that we understand is happening in Fez is a sort of “gentrification” (although they don’t call it that).  Many of the “riads” (houses in the medina with large internal courtyards) are being gobbled up by Europeans, either as vacation houses or as “guest houses” for rent to vacationers. As a result, real estate prices are climbing rapidly, and less weathy Fazzis are “cashing out” by selling their properties. This could lead to a two class system in the medina – the very wealthy (Europeans and Moroccans) and the poor, both artisans and laborers, who have been there for centuries. Not all that different than what has happened in Philadelphia in Queen Village, and now in Northern Liberties. Except that the houses in Philly that are being rehabbed are perhaps 100 years old, while those in Morocco are over 400 years old. The process is the same, however, and leads to the same result. Those in the lower economic strata are pushed out to the fringes, as the higher classes reclaim the “core” cities. Maybe we are one world, after all.

The second observation is that, as interesting as it is to see this history alive in front of us, we have to constantly remember that this is not Williamsburg, and the people who we observe preparing cheese, making bread, tanning leather, etc., as they did 400 years ago do not go home to their microwave ovens and high-def TV’s at the end of the day. They ARE home; they live there, and we are not watching a re-enactment of medieval life, we are observing real lives as they are lived today. As these kinds of areas become more and more dependent on tourism, the temptation is strong to make all of these people into Disney dwarves, to make the tourists happy. As wealthy (comparatively) travelers, we need to help make sure that this doesn’t happen,  by trying to understand the lives of these people and their struggles, their joys, their aspirations. I don’t quite know how we do this, but I think it is something travelers need to be intentional about.

OK, enough pontificating for today. We are in Marrakesh now, and it looks to be a fantastic city. Tomorrow we visit the medina here, and I will post more pictures in my next post. In the meantime I will do my best tomorrow to engage the setting as real and not as a Disney ride.