Landing at the resort, Golf de La Palmeraie

While Marrakech has been a great place for alcohol-cleansing, it’s not been so great for sugar-cleansing. I guess that’s to be expected, given that sugar is one of Morocco’s primary cash crops and exports. Sugar and honey are in or on EVERYTHING! I guess that’s why the bees are always buzzing around. I don’t mind it, though.
I just topped off two or three little pastries in typical Marrakech fashion. The walking has offset the intake, though, I’m sure … thus, I am not too worried.

Being in a Muslim country has been interesting. And though I understand Marrakech (and Morocco, generally) is really only a gateway to Africa and Islam, with a lot of European influence, seeing the city and country as a Westerner, especially an American, has been eye-opening.

For one, English is not spoken here — even in the hotels and resorts. French is the norm. So, it’s behooved me to try speaking a blend of French and Arabic. My attempts at both are admittedly pitiful, but people seem to appreciate the effort I’ve put into Arabic. I know a total of four sayings, but it’s enough to get me around.
Today the work begins. My friend, Dana, whom I met in the medina of Marrakech on Friday morning, flew out today for Paris. I miss here already, but I will be busy doing conference work from this point on.

I toured the resort grounds a bit today, and cannot describe how beautiful this place is. The company I am here to cover is always hospitable, and the resort definitely reflects the hospitality.

Many locals work here, and I am sure having a job at the Golf de La Palmeraie (literally the Golf Palace in the Palmeraie, an upscale end of Marrakech) is a privilege, and a place many jobseekers, esp. women, want to find.
At the riad, where I stayed during the first leg of my trip, the owner commented about how hard-working Dana and I seemed to be. I, of course, had to spend a couple of mornings on the computer — checking email and filing a handful of news bits. Americans often are accused of working long hours — which we often do — but I took the comment as a compliment, and feel privileged to have the ability to work in a field that allows me to travel the world, write, and be independent.

Morocco is a developing country, one where female authors are scarce, but that will likely soon change. The country is working vigorously to improve education, but it will be a couple of generations before the efforts are evident. Most of the younger generation, however, does speak English, French and Arabic – as well as a little Berber, the original language.

Tracy and Sebastian in Essouria, MoroccoThe country is dominated by young people, and the current King/”president” is working hard to modernize the nation. The World Bank also is closely watching Morocco — in hopes that it will open its economy and initiate free trade with Europe by 2010.

The banking system here is developing, although it has a long way to go. Western Union and Money Gram maintain strong presences here, as many Moroccans now living outside the country continue to send money home. This conference will be an interesting one for me to follow, as the future of banking and the ability to reach Moroccan consumers via the ATM and mobile channel are expected highlights!

Stay tuned. More later!

To the right: The camel is Sebastian.

Quote of the day: Truman Capote said, after visiting Marrakech …

‘Before you go to Marrakech, make sure you say goodbye to all your friends and draw your savings from the bank.’

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