0644. City Dump Town (Morocco 214--new)

Mediouna Travel Blog

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I don't usually stop at a cybercafe in the middle of daytrip--I don't want to squander a single minute that I could spend exploring.  But today is a special day.  It's my first day in almost  a year back outside the confines of Casablanca to explore a new Moroccan town.  So while strolling through a shantytown, I come across this hole in the wall cybercafe, and can't resist the urge to stop in and immortalize this moment with a few written words.

When I returned from a two week trip to Europe last April, back to another 10 weeks of being tied down to one place due to work, I felt this sudden disturbing feeling that I'm waiting way too much of my life slip away without creating any lasting memories, discovering new places, or living out my dreams.

  But duty was also calling.  I had commitments in Casablanca that I had to return to.  And these commitments would keep me busy 6 out of 7 days a week. 

So I can up with an compromise:  I'd spend 3 mornings every week exploring Casablanca neighborhood by neighborhood... thus maintaining a lifestyle of adventure and discovery while at the same time fulfilling my other responsibilities.  

That kept me busy a full seven weeks.  Over that time I explored dozens of neighborhoods, discovered 170 interesting spots in the city, and played music in scores of squares and neighborhood plazas.   It was great experience--and gave me a great feeling of satisfaction knowing that I had truly explored the city that has become my adoptive home--in a way that it has probably never been explored before.

 

But eventually I ran out of city to explore, but not out of the desire to keep exploring.   I wanted to continue on with that same lifestyle rather than sinking back into a lifestyle of puttering around in random, forgettable activities. 

So today, just 4 days after finishing my Casablanca project, I'm back on the road again, looking for anything, anything worth exploring around Casablanca.  I'll admit that after 2 years in Casablanca, I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of towns worth exploring... but I don't care... I just want to maintain that lifestyle...

Heading to Mediouna

So this morning I grabbed bus 56 to "Garage Allal" to catch a collective taxi to Mediouna, a suburb to the south that has eluded me for the last 2 years.  Several times I've tried waiting for the city bus that heads out that way, but gotten impatient and decided to go somewhere else.  Today I'm determined to get there, even if it takes me all day.

Mediouna is synonymous with "city dump" in people minds--as the city landfill is out this direction.  So I've got images in my head of trash strewn everywhere, people scavenging through mountains of waste, and overpowering stench.  My last city dump adventure, the apocalyptic style dump right in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Serakunda, Gambia, is engraved in my memory forever.

The taxi heads down Mohamed VI Boulevard, past dozens of memorable little spots that I've discovered over the last 7 weeks, giving me a mixed feeling of satisfaction and nostalgia, knowing my Great Casablanca Supertour is something of the past...  We head under the second autoroute, past the "high water mark" of my tour, and on through a stretch of farmland and random warehouses and industrial buildings along the highway.  Eventually we reached the landfill, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised--not a bad city dump as city dumps go... surrounded by high piles of dirt, no real stench that I could pick up, and not much trash blown into the surrounding fields.

... And Mediouna is still a considerable ways off, showing it doesn't real merit it's "City Dump Town" status.

Since my expectations for Mediouna are really, really low, I actually find the town kind of attractive.  It's not really compact--the center town is mix of empty lots and little open air markets... but neither does it have the soulless sprawl feel of Bouskoura.  The buildings are close enough together to block the sun, allowing for a pleasant stroll up and down it's streets. 

There are a mix of classes here... No sprawling shantytowns, but the shanties here are real shanties, not the cinderblock shanties you see in Casablanca.  These are made of scraps of corrugated metal, which don't look like fun places to be in on a hot summer day.  Then there are some middle upper class homes that might belong to Moroccan expatriates... and then a lot in the middle.

Overall, people seem to take more pride in their homes and shops than in other places I've explored recently.  A lot of homes are recently painted in earthy pink and beige colors--no real color code here.  I hike up to the eastern edge... back again... out again to a typical forest of streetlights in a "preplanned" neighborhood.  No houses being built here yet, but there is a huge mosque being built in the center.  I guess the assumption is, "if you build a mosque... they will come".

There doesn't seem to be a big construction boom here in Mediouna.  Maybe the "city dump" reputation has something to do with that... Really, it doesn't seem to be an unpleasant place to live... the streets are quiet and almost all paved, unlike nearby Berrechid... And I don't get a lot of awkward stares from people here. 

No old medina, just handful of lively little alleys with a layers and layers of clothes being hung out to dry.

I loop back around to the "town center" where there is one little square--so I figure I'd better take in and pull out my guitar. 

As I strum I get a good feeling about this place.  Mediouna is what the Parkbench Concert Project is all about... going to places that no one else sees any beauty in, looking for something unique and interesting about the place, and playing some music...

It's not long before I get company... and the crowd gets larger and larger... a mix of younger and older boys, some of them listening attentively and other horsing around--  but not being too disruptive.  I finally decide it's worth the risk of pulling out my camera and having someone take a clip of me with my new club.

An old guy comes over swearing up a storm.  At first I think he's trying to drive the kids away from disturbing the foreigner and I insist that it's OK... but it turns out some of the kids had insulted him and he was just returning the favor...

I finally figure it's time to head on my way, bid the fellows farewell and head on to the market.  I come across the "Mediouna Castle" which is being restored and is presently used as a military post.  The gate is kind of cool, but I doubt it'll be put on the tourist circuit any time soon...

And with that, I realize I've seen all there is to see in Mediouna and I continue on my way.

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Mediouna
photo by: nathanphil