Reports of my early retirement are premature. I made the editorial decision that blogging at The Week about the political affairs of Morocco on vacation might not meet readers' expectations. But perhaps I should have at least sent a postcard!
Nonetheless, it's good to be missed. Here’s a quick report of what I learned on my summer vacation.
Several years ago, friends canceled their Moroccan trip due to the Arab Spring uprisings sweeping across much of North Africa. Massive protests had forced rulers from power in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. And it looked like they might do the same in Morocco, with angry crowds growing in Casablanca and the capital city of Rabat.
But the protests failed to gain steam and King Mohammed VI remained safely in power and in possession of his 52 palaces.
As we traveled the country last month, we found out why. A major reason was a reformed constitution. But the king did something probably just as important: He made sure the mosques were closed at all times except during the five daily calls to prayer. That prevented people from organizing against him.
It also probably helped that, as we experienced while driving through the Sahara, there were frequent road checkpoints and military barracks outside many towns. A strong security presence across the country probably helped keep people in line.
In fact, not once did we feel unsafe as Americans. The Moroccans we met were always welcoming and friendly. And they wondered why so many Americans stopped coming to visit their country.
We told them that some Americans felt it might not be safe, a concept that amazed them. Many Moroccans viewed the United States as one of the most dangerous places in the world.
"Everyone has guns," one man told us. "You’re always shooting each other."