I recently spent some time traveling around the straits of Gibraltar, taking in Gibraltar itself, Spain and most interestingly Morocco, I spent a few days in the Islamic Kingdom and an interesting few days it was as well! I actually enjoyed myself, some people seemed quite nice, the food was great, the markets or Bazaars were very cool and the coffee was excellent (unfortunately no beer!)
(Above, a public square, note, the white arch is the way into the Bazaar)
The most striking thing about the two sides of the straits it how very different they are culturally, on the European side there is a culture of honesty and decency (not implying that every European is honest or decent, I am talking about a trend!) and the Moroccan side where there is a culture of dishonesty and deceit (again I'm not saying every Moor is dishonest or dishonourable, I am talking about the general culture)
I was very probably ripped off in every financial transaction I was involved in, however due to the tiny amounts involved (from my perspective) it matters little to me. However one can't walk five feet without someone else wanting some of your money, they accost you trying to get you to stay in another hotel, you say no, they don't stop, you walk away and they follow you! Then after a few minutes of saying NO, they give up and go off to find some other dim westerner to con, then another guy comes up to you wanting to sell you some substandard tourist tat, and it takes you another five minutes to get rid of him, then someone else tries to sell you hash, and another tries to get you to come into his restaurant, then another begs, and another asks if you want a taxi, etc, etc...
(The local Mosque, the one where that creepy 'call to prayer' eminated from)
There is also a noticeable absence of women in the streets, a few old ones shopping, but no young ones that I can recall, having said that there were also no burqas to see, some hijabs and veils, but no Afghan style burqas, some women even had their hair on show!! (most of them were however Spanish tourists!)
The call to prayer in the morning scarred the shit out of me, it sounded more like an air raid siren then a call to prayer, it was a menacing sound, I decided to remain in bed till the whole call was well and truly over!!
Interestingly, later on the next day, I was in a internet cafe (I thought it wise not to post in Morocco, I didn't even look at any blogs, just in case) when another call to prayer rang out, I wondered whether the cafe would be closed, but no, everyone continued to look at their porn (Everyone except me was pawing through internet porn!)
So, obviously not everyone in Morocco was into the whole prayer thing, they preferred to watch porn!!!
Also, something that stunned me was the way that Moroccan men would come up to me and ask to have sex with me! I have lived in London for years and have regularly passed through Soho or gone to socialise there, and no one, ever has propositioned me, but in Morocco, an Islamic Kingdom, where Al Qaida is organising, I am approached in the street and asked to have sex by complete strangers! How weird is that!!
On the day I left Morocco, I reaad that 11 'suspected Moroccan terrorists' including 1 former Guantanamo Bay detainee were arrested in Ceuta (not 20 miles from where I was) a Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast after crossing the border!
(Above: Gibraltar; very cool place)
In some ways I think Morocco is about as religious as western Europe, in some ways not, it is a culture with a split personality, and one I intend to investigate further!