Rockin’ The Casbah With Richard Bangs
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
“In desert we have time but no watch. In America you have watch but no time.” The enlightened words of my Berber guide reverberated in the silence of the Sahara. Just a speck on one of the many majestic dunes, I sat there — phone in one pocket, iPod in the other — gazing up at the star-studded sky, contrasting my own fast-paced, self-isolating culture with that of his people’s; one strongly tied to tradition, community and an appreciation for the present moment in time.
The Berber’s words came back to me as I listened to Richard Bangs explain his own exploration of those very same differences while traveling throughout Morocco. Speaking from The Explorer’s Club in New York, Bangs was in town promoting his upcoming PBS documentary, “Morocco: Quest for the Kasbah,” his fourth in a series of eco-friendly jaunts around the world.
Instead of the desert, Bangs’ focus is on the Kasbah — a fortressed community that has remained the epicenter of Moroccan life and culture since before Islam violently swept across Africa. As a safe haven, it has been a place for people to exchange goods as well as ideas, providing the breeding grounds for multiculturalism and tolerance.
Like my own unforgettable excursion in Morocco, the first half of Bangs’ quest begins in Marrakech where he explores the massive square, Djemaa el Fna, and the city’s eclectic souks. From here he moves west to the coastal city of Essaouira, then crosses the snow-capped High Atlas (or Grand Atlas) mountains to the Sahara where he spends a night beneath the stars in a nomad tent. The second half of his exploration takes him north to the cities of Fès, Tangier, Rabat, and finally to infamous Casablanca where his epic journey comes to an end.
“Morocco has a world view developed through centuries of nomadic movement,” Bangs says wistfully. “It is a berth for people of all backgrounds and faiths to gather and share, a country that celebrates and respects the interconnectedness of the family man. Morocco today, and always, is a Kasbah with an open door.”