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About the region

Environment of Errachidia

Errachidia is situated in the ZIZ valley, in between the mountains of High Atlas and the dessert sand hills. The landscape is dominated by red colored mountains, rocks and fields of stones. In the middle of this dry environment you can find many oasis of palmtrees which produce delicious dates.

On a 18 kilometer distance of Errachidia there is the Blue Source Meski located. Blue Source Meski is a natural stream which cold water comes directly from the mountains. In summer Blue Source Meski is an ideal place for a swim or refreshment. Because of the drought it is difficult to make a living out of agriculture. Nevertheless agriculture brings the main source of income for most people.

Weather

Errachidia has a desert climate, The winters are cold, temperatures fall to 12 degrees under zero with huge differences between night and day. The best temperatures are those in spring and autumn with an average of 25 degrees. The summers are hot. July and August are the hottest months with a temperature of around 40 degrees in daytime. The evenings and nights in summer are very pleasant. The weather can change in a very short period. In two weeks time the weather can change from around zero degrees and snow to 25 degrees and sunny.

The city Errachidia and surrounding cities

Errachidia is the major city of the province Errachidia. However the biggest city of the region, with 250.000 citizens, Errachidia is quite small compared to cities like Casablanca, Rabat, Fes and Meknes. Errachidia is a simple city, with many café s, mosques, some hotels and restaurants, internet café s, shops and a few swimmingpools. People move around the city by bicycle, motorcycle or ‘petit taxi’s’. In summer in daytime the streets are quiet and everybody stays in the houses. The quiet of the day is a contrast to the lively of the evenings.

In the evenings everybody, man, women, youth and children go outside. Many of them stay at the ‘rond point’, a field of grass in the middle of a roundabout. The palmtrees around the roundabout make the place a little bit cooler than the rest of the city.
About 60 kilometers north of Errachidia you can find the small city Rich. When you travel about 70 kilometers from Errachidia to the south you will end up in Erfoud and 20 kilometers further in Rissani. Cities like Erfoud and Rissani differ considerably from Errachidia.

The living conditions are poorer and life is more traditional. In the streets you see many donkeys, mules and horses, as major means of transportation. In all cities the suq is the place to buy everything you need: fruit, meat, clothes, electronics, souvernirs, etc.
A suq is a big market where people sell their things and meet each other. In most cities a remarkable gate forms the entrance of the city. Strikingly eye-catching is the gate of Rissani.

Surrounding Villages

In the region of Errachidia are, beside small cities, many villages situated. Most of them are shaped in a so called ‘ksar’. A ksar is a fortified village. The houses are small, flat, square, have one floor and mostly only one or two rooms and are made of clay. When you enter to a ksar it looks like a covered corridor made of clay. On both sides of the corridor you find the houses which are all connected to each other.
The ksours (over 400 ksars and kasbahs) in Errachidia form an impressive chain made of ochre coloured clay and surrounded by lush palm grooves. Ksours are characterised by their adaptation to climatic conditions, their fusion and integration with the surrounding countryside.

The people and culture

The region of Errachidia is a cultural and linguistic mosaic. Every tribe, every valley, every village has its own unique characteristics, identifiable by its music, architectural features and its customs. Ethnic diversity is considerable with many races and colours in evidence: the Chorfas Alaouites, natives of the Arabic peninsula mixed with the Berber tribe of Ait Morghad (from the region of Goulmima), the Ait Izdeg (the area around Rich) and the Ait Atta (around Aoufous).
Even if men dress in more or less the same way with regional nuances undetectable to the unaccustomed eye, the costumes and hairstyles of the women and equally their living conditions differ from one spot to another within the province and from one tribe to another.
There is a world of difference between the black ‘Haiks’ worn by the women of Rissani and the costumes of the Ait Morghad and the Ait Izdeg. Every region and every tribe has its own dialect. Tribal members are recognisable by their language and accent and every tribe posseses a rich and varied oral and poetic tradition.

Attire

In Errachidia people dress in varied ways. For married women wearing the veil is most common. For unmarried women and girls this is different, quit a lot of them don’t wear veils. Girls and young women wear jeans and trousers while older women mostly wear skirts, dresses and jellaba’s.
Everybody dresses in a decent way, without showing too much of his or her body.

Men and women

The life of men and women is different. Men spend a lot of their time in café s with their friends, smoking sigarettes, playing cards or just talking. Women, on the contrary, spend most of their time inside the houses. Women manage the household and prepare the meals. You can hardly find any women in café s. Some women work outside, teaching for example is a quit common job for women.
A normal friendship between a man and a woman is exceptional. The different roles of men and women inside society is not a sign of female oppression by men or of male superiority over women. Both women and men are respected in the Moroccan culture.

Islam

Islam dominates the Moroccan way of life. Five times a day you can hear the call from the mosques when it is prayer time. People pray in Mosques, but it is also common to pray on any other place as long as there is a clean subsoil. When there is no clean subsoil people use small carpets to do their prayer. You can find people praying in the suq, in the busstation or just on the street. Friday afternoons are reserved to spend the day in the mosques, or to dedicate the time to the God in another place.
For Moroccan people it is forbidden to drink alcohol, eat pork or have sexual relationships outside marriage. For tourists all this kind of behaviour is tolerated. You will never see people showing their love in public places, for example kissing or hugging in the street is not done.
It is even undesirable for a man and a woman to hold hands in public, whether they are married or not.

Moroccan hospitality

Moroccan people are exceptional hospitable. When you enter to someones house you will be served tea and delicacies immediately. People always prepare a lot of food for in case somebody drops in unexpectedly around dinner time. They will encourage you to eat more and more by saying ‘kul, kul’ (‘eat’ , ‘eat’).
As a guest they will not let you help cleaning the dishes or the house. Don’t feel compelled to eat all the food that’s on the plate. Just eat a little bit of everything, after the first plate they will probably serve another one, and another one….

Moroccan kitchen

The Moroccan kitchen is one of the best worldwide. The most common dish is Tagine, potatoes, meat and vegetables are served in a big pot made of pottery which serves both as pan and plate. Equal important to the taste is the decoration of the food.
All people eat from one plate, instead of using cutlery, using bread and their hands. Together with the Tagine small dishes with different salads are served. When you doubt from which dish you are supposed to eat, always take the one closest to you.
It is very impolite to eat the food on someone else’s side of the plate. Moroccan people eat four times a day. Breakfast is a simple meal of bread. In the afternoon, around 1 pm lunch is served. Lunch is an extensive hot meal: tagine or couscous. At 6 pm. tea is served with a snack like for example a pancake. Dinnertime is late at night, between 10 and 11pm which is another hot meal which can be everything, tagine, soup, rice, pasta.
Moroccan people drink tea very often. Tea is made of mint and a lot of sugar.

Greetings

People usually greet each other by shaking hands. Good friends kiss each other on the cheek when they haven’t seen each other for a long time. Kissing is only common between people from the same gender, except between close family members: brothers and sister kissing each other is very normal. The greetings are followed by many questions about the wellbeing of the other person and his or her family.
In Moroccan Arabic there are about five ways to ask how somebody is doing and all these expressions are used when people meet each other ‘labas, bgar, kdir, gbark, mezyan?’ It is very normal for two people of the same gender to hold hands.

Living conditions

The living conditions vary from city to city and between cities and villages. In Morocco nobody dies of hunger.
In Errachidia the living conditions are quit okay, however there are some poor neighbourhoods. Hot showers are a luxery as well as beautiful clothes. The entrance of the suq is the place for beggers to ask for money. Shocking is the situation of handicapped people. Handicapped people have very little facilities and some of them even have nothing.
You can see adult people scrawling around on the street on their hands and feet because they have no wheelchair. The villages around Errachidia are different.
A lot of them have no electricity or have electricity only a few hours a day. Some have no streaming water and take water from a waterput.
In the worst cases there is not even a waterput and people have to walk many kilometers to get water.
Most villages are isolated from shops, doctors and hospitals.

Foreign travellers, Transportation

Travelling in Morocco is safe. You can reach almost all cities by bus. CTM is the safest and most comfortable buscompany. Beside CTM there are many other buscompanies. Busses of most of these companies have no air conditioning and have no strict time schedule. They depart when the bus is full.
It is possible that they stop for a long time on the way to take a break or fill the bus with new travellers. For shorter distances from city to city you can also take a grand taxi. A grand taxi is a big taxi in which a maximum of 6 people (excluding the driver) are transported.

Prices are fixed per taxi and according to the distance. Grand taxi s are faster than busses and leave on and on when there are enough travellers. Big cities in the north of Morocco are connected by railway. Royal Air Maroc has an extensive internal network from Casablanca to many other cities.
There is also an air service to Errachidia. Inside cities the main method of transportation is the use of petit taxi’s. Petit taxi’s are small blue colored cars in which there is place for 4 travellers. Prices are fixed per person and you pay according to the distance. Like in any other country, be aware of pick pockers, especially in big cities or crowded places.

Most annoying are the ‘guides’ who want to show you around hoping to earn some money. It is very difficult to deal with those guides. The best way is to say politely that you already have a guide or that you have lived or worked in the city and know the place very well. Never show that you are lost. When you don’t know the way don’t hesitate and keep on walking until you meet a reliable person, for example another tourist or a woman.

In Errachidia you will not be disturbed by guides as much as in the bigger cities. Women travelling without a man will be approached by Moroccan men. Most of these men are unmarried and hope to find a foreign bride.
Most of them will not admit that they are looking for a relationship with a foreign women. Instead they will say that they just want to have a friendship, that they want to improve their English or that they just want to show you around the city.

The best way to deal with this is to say that you appreciate their kindness, but that your don’ t want to accept their offer out of respect of your husband. You will be most convincing if you wear a ring or have a picture in your pocket of a man. When you are lost, don’t approach a man to ask the way.
It is better to ask another woman. When you travel through Morocco make sure that you wear decent clothes. Women should not wear skirts or short trousers which are shorter than the knees. Also, women shouldn’t wear t-shirts without sleeves or which show the belly.

For men the rule not to show too much of their body applies too which in practice means that they shouldn’t walk around without t-shirt.
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