Roland Dürre
Sunday May 22nd, 2011

Maghreb Episodes

You no longer hear much about the „revolution in the Arabian countries“. The same is true for the radio-active catastrophe in Japan. But neither of the two are over. On the contrary: we are going to suffer from the consequences.

I have no idea how matters are supposed to continue in the Arabien countries. We rode both through Tunesia and Morocco. Twice, we were a group of four and five, and once there were just the two of us. It was just a few years ago.

During those trips, I saw a lot of things that really made a huge impression on me. I would like to relate some of them. Unfortunately, I did not yet write a travel journal when I went on those trips, so I will now only tell you two small episodes from memory.

At the time, we experienced a culture that is very different from ours. Much of it surprised us. We also discovered many beautiful things. But we were also confronted with total poverty and unimaginable economic ruin.

As I saw it, these countries have no chance of ever rising economically by their own strength. What is worse: even if there were massive and even reasonable help from outside, I am afraid not much could be achieved.

The infra structure and economy are just too damaged. A mixture of destructive cultural and religious dominance reigns over all human behaviour and life in a far too massive way.

While seeing Western window-shopping capitalism, many people hardly manage to feed themselves. There are light-years between wishful thinking and reality.

When riding through Tunesia on our bikes, we saw (former) industrial cities where nothing functioned any more. Such a thing as jobs simply did not exist. Only a few lucky people had a (poorly paid) job in a tourist’s hotel.

However, they either had to drive hundreds of kilometres to get to work, or else had to live there like in barracks.

The only local hotel was a ruin. In our room, it smelled of the defunct drainage system. We spent the cold night on our isolation mats using our own sleeping bags with open windows.

Whenever we needed daily sustainance, we went to buy things in the small shops on the way. There was a very limited choice of victuals.

We still remember one place of true poverty. All they had left to sell were figs. The locals stood in the queue in order to buy them. So did we, because we were also hungry. When we stopped next in order to eat, we decided we were not hungry, after all. The figs were full of maggots.

During this bike tour, we passed many villages. Spending the night „in the country“ was often not very comfortable, either. Barbara, who went with me, would use more drastic vocabulary to describe it.

But it happened quite frequently that we came across a sort of local restaurant. It was a stand with simple food and tables and chairs under the sky. The choice was never much, but once in a while, it was not too bad. More often than not, a group of people stood near these restaurants.

Initially, I believed these people were waiting for a bus. Then I learned that they were queuing for food.

Because whenever a group of (obviously prosperous) people – they were mostly men – had finished their meal, some of the people waiting nearby were allowed to take their seats and eat the remains of what was left in their pots. It is an Islamic rule that the rich have to provide for the poor…

If you go places by bike, you will always find it easy to start a conversation with people along the way. And since many people in the Maghreb speak a little French, it was sometimes quite possible to communicate with them.

I never heard a strong wish for democracy. Instead, you get to know and share totally different problems and misery. Most of the people living there simply strive to make ends meet. More often than not, they manage rather poorly.  It was often  shattering to witness.

In writing this report about something I experienced myself, I wish to contribute towards opening your eyes about what the real problems in the Maghreb are. It is a little early to rejoice about democracy coming to the area. The people in the Maghreb have totally different problems. Regardless of all justified joy about the downfall of cruel dictatorships and tyrrany, we should not forget this.

(Translated by EG)

1 Kommentar zu “Maghreb Episodes”

  1. Chris Wood (Sunday May 22nd, 2011)

    I suspected things were like that. Now I know. In England, the papers say more about such things than here. This connects with the fact that Britain (not Germany) is trying to bomb Gadaffi away, (which is generally known, even if the politicians avoid saying it).
    The developed world has the choice of letting billions die in desperation, or making a huge effort to save them. Despite efforts to stop them, the necessary GM crops will somehow come. But mass migration is probably needed too, and I cannot see much of that coming.
    I have just read “CIA, the whole history” (in German). It makes clear to what extent USA, in almost panic reaction to communism, supported nasty dictatorships all round the world for 50 years. This certainly held back prosperity, and thus contributed to population increase. Now food prices have increased rapidly in various poor countries, leading to enormous discontent.
    It is mostly the better educated that are revolting in the Maghreb. They are also not the poorest, who are just too busy staying alive.

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