When one mentions Morocco, many remember the Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s historic visit to Rwanda that was significant in many ways. Not only did he become the first monarch of Morocco to visit Rwanda, but his visit saw the signing of a ‘whopping’ 23 bilateral agreements between the two countries covering a wide-range of critical areas.
Others, especially football lovers will tell you about the national team nicknamed the Lions of the Atlas. It’s named after a Mountain Atlas, a snowcapped mountain range in the Maghreb that overlooks a beautiful city of Marrakech. The mountain stretches around 2,500 km (1,600 mi) through Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
I had an opportunity to visit this beautiful country. Aboard Royal Air Maroc to cover the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22), my trip to Morocco began with an 8 hour journey from Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi to Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport. It is the busiest airport in Morocco with approximately 8 million passengers passing through it each year. It was named after the late Sultan Mohammed V of Morocco.
Casablanca Airport has a network of approximately 100 destinations served by more than 30 airlines, Africa being the continent with more connections. Royal Air Maroc, is the national carrier, as well as the country’s largest airline.
With COP22 stickers pasted on the Royal Air Maroc plane in Nairobi, the mood for attending the international climate change summit had been set for all the Marrakech bound passengers. For the first two days before the conference, the city was the destination for high level delegations from all over the world.
After the air travel, we finally arrive at their airport. Our hosts knew very well the class of people they had invited and what they love doing. Capturing moments and writing about them on their return home.
As many other delegates boarded planes to connect to Marrakech, a huge number of journalists were led into comfortable state of the art buses, and with a police escort, drove to Marrakech on a journey of three hours - the same as Kigali – Kagitumba. The roads are well lit and smooth with no major traffic.
With a population of over 33.8 million people and an area of 446,550 km2, Morocco’s capital is Rabat, and the largest city is Casablanca. Other than Marrakesh, other cities include Tangier, Tetouan, Salé, Fes, Agadir, Meknes, Oujda, Kenitra, and Nador.
Far from the football rhetoric, Morocco is a beautiful country with a hospitable people. The country is characterized by a rugged mountainous interior and large portions of desert with Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines.
“We are happy when we receive visitors. You are our African brothers and we love you so much,” said Abdulla Mohammed, a taxi driver in Marrakech.
In Marrakech, just like other parts of Morocco, French and the Arabic languages are mostly spoken. Also used, are the berber language or Amazigh languages which are a family of similar and closely related languages and dialects indigenous to North Africa in Algeria, and Libya.
At Bab Ighil, the place hosting COP22, huge tents had for weeks been erected to accommodate hundreds of thousands of delegates from all over the world. Perfectly built temporary structures with marching designer colours played host to the climate change conference.
The host country put in place all facilities that truly told of a country that is committed to the fight against climate change. From transport to a clean and green environment, Marrakech showed it had prepared well for the conference. There was no better proof to this than the use of electric cars and buses with zero emissions.
And everybody in Marrakech knew about COP22. Used by environment protection associations, two double-decker buses painted with COP22 colours could be seen touring Marrakech to raise awareness about climate change. The buses featured audio-visual equipment and photos on climate change issues.
On board, locals and visitors of the city could also attend briefings on environmental themes presented by volunteers.
The double-deckers are also meant to highlight the efforts undertaken by Morocco to protect the environment and curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Jemma el Fna square
An evening walk to Jemma el Fna square, creates a totally different atmosphere from the one at Bab Ighil. It’s a ground characterized by people of all sorts. Stalls of lots of fruits could be seen on display while many people, mostly the youth, walk through crowds pulling small monkeys.
As part of celebrating COP22, folk groups performed at the square to let visitors discover Moroccan musical traditions. Excited visitors dance to the beat of tambourines, and to the sound of traditional, ancient rhythms, standing out in their brightly coloured outfits, at the same time making echoing sounds with their metal bells.