In their halcyon days, camel caravans consisted of thousands of camels travelling from North Africa, across the desert to the savannah region in the south.
My Moroccan Camel Caravan is by luxury vehicle with my trusted driver, Mustapha. I may transport as many bags as these desert caravans, and the purpose is similar.
Camel caravans were used for travel, trade, and information exchange. They were crucial in helping establish the Silk Road, an extensive trade network linking China to Europe and northern Africa via the Middle East.
My upcoming Camel Caravan will also be used for travel and information exchange in the form of visiting new city hotels and Sahara camps, exploring riads in the Marrakech medina, staying at a new property in the Atlas Mountains. Supporting the trade industry in search of handmade baskets, woven textiles, and brass lamps.
Crisscrossing the Country from the Atlantic near Casablanca, across the Sahara in search of the ultimate luxury desert camp, to the oldest Moroccan Imperial city of Fez, days in Marrakech, the Sous Valley in southwestern Morocco, and trailing the Atlantic Coast in Southern Morocco.
The aftermath of the September 8 earthquake in Morocco has flooded me with memories and contemplation of what this endearing country has meant to me over the last few years. My days since include connecting to my beloved hoteliers and our teams. Many colleagues were in Marrakech for an annual travel conference, they shared photos, locations for donating blood, providing updates on our favorite hotels in the Atlas Mountains, which seem to be the worst hit region at the epicenter. From Kasbah Tamadot, our clients love to hike through the Atlas Mountains with the locals and stop in villages for a meal. Spending a few hours in the surroundings of the High Atlas Mountains in a uniquely traditional way with one of the properties resident mules. Passing the eucalyptus and olive groves, the path takes a a gentle ascent into a nearby village with its traditional Berber homes. A great way to experience the local culture, the hotel staff come from these villages, the hardest hit area of the earthquake.
It has been a time of responding to the many clients who have reached out asking if Mustapha, our favorite VIP Client liaison is ok, is his family ok? I’ve always known Mustapha was a gem, who finds champagne in the Sahara, is my usual anecdote of his many talents. When your clients reach out long after their Journeys, it’s a testament to the nature of our dear clients, and the caring people who manage our clients in foreign countries.
The outpouring of love and support has been heartwarming.
Many have asked how can we help?Mustapha’s home survived, his parents whose farm is in a small village in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, lost two rooms. I was welcomed into his parents’ humble home for tea, which translated to an impromptu feast of home-grown dates, walnuts, and mint tea. Mustapha thought it unusual that I was so excited to be included – Mustapha, no one invites me in for tea in Spain, France, etc.
Many of Morocco’s buildings and mosques date from the 12th Century, most of the small countryside villages we pass through don’t look as if they could withstand a drenching rain storm, let alone an earthquake of this magnitude. The ancient culture is what I find most compelling, age old tanneries in Fez still function as a part of their every day life. One of my favorite photos was taken near the Draa Valley, famous as the date basket of Morocco, two women hauling hay with their mules, their brick home looked precarious on the steep hillside. These are typical homes all over Morocco.
Moroccan people are warm, welcoming, and extremely generous, even more so in modest communities. Never say No to Tea and be prepared to be embraced and well fed! One of the wait staff at Dar Ahlam walked me through his tiny village and took me to his home for tea. His wife and child spoke no English, and I no Arabic- but like the love fest with Mustapha’s mum and Auntie, we communicated.
Another chance encounter where I was warmly welcomed was a lunch visit at the glorious riad Jnane Tamsna owned and run by Merryanne Loum-Martin and her American husband Gary Martin. Within minutes of sharing our mutual friends, we were embraced as instant friends and lingered at their beautiful property for lunch, and I’ve subsequently spent impromptu days in Paris with Merryanne when the Moroccan borders were shut down during the pandemic and stayed at Jname Tamsna, their stunning oasis hotel property on the fringes of Marrakech.
How to help on a direct level? Gary Martin, a cultural anthropologist, and ethnobotanist is founder of the Global Diversity Foundation. He was a lecturer in the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent from 1998 to 2011 and a Fellow of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society from 2010 to 2012. Twice a Fulbright scholar, Gary has a PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree in botany. His applied research and teaching on conservation and ethnobotany has taken him to more than 50 countries over the last 30 years.
Their hotel property Jnane Tamsna is 70 km from the epicenter, he mentions that the length and intensity felt worse than an 8.0 earthquake he lived through in Mexico in 1985. There is immense loss of life and livelihoods in the High Atlas villages where they work, especially in the Ouirgane Valley, from where they are receiving reports of many fatalities and homes destroyed.
Global Diversity Foundation has established a Morocco High Atlas Earthquake Relief Fund. Global Diversity Foundation, which has been working in the High Atlas for more than a decade, is directly assisting High Atlas communities. Given our deep ties with the region, we are working on the ground with our Moroccan partners to address the most urgent needs including emergency medical services, food, water, shelter, and transport. We are committed to continue our support to assist communities with their long-term recovery.
Over 2,000 lives have been lost and countless homes, shops and other buildings have been destroyed. Displaced people in High Atlas communities need urgent assistance including clothing, food, shelter, and water. Over the long term, these communities will need to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. The emergency needs will go on way after Marrakech does not make the headlines anymore. These emergency needs will then morph into rebuilding needs while being very active on conservation and green and sustainable means.
Global Diversity Foundation has supported resilience of traditional livelihoods in the High Atlas for over a decade. Once the urgent aid work is over, we will use funds to help families rebuild their homes, incorporating earthquake-resistant construction techniques, and re-establish their traditional ways of living and working. Our approach is community-led and prioritises their pressing needs over the coming months to ensure that people’s lives and livelihoods are rehabilitated as soon as possible.