Morocco:  impressions from Fez and Rabat; accumulators vs. refrigerators; dogs’ memory

November 23, 2022

I came to Morocco to work on a project that is trying to find ways to support local industries so that they are able expand their production and create more and higher paying jobs, in a country where over 1/3 of young people are unemployed or employed in subsistence/informal activities. After a few days in Rabat, I drove to Fez in the northeast, the cultural capital of the country.   I met with entrepreneurs working in the leather industry, from the production of leather to the manufacturing of leather products. The industry is one of the oldest in Fez and there are still many traditional, informal, entrepreneurs working in the old medina without access to modern technologies/machinery and basic health and safety standards.  The production of leather from skins is intensive in the use of nasty chemicals.  Workers at the medina are directly exposed to these chemicals which are contained in large round stone vessels (see pic).  The stench emanating from the chemical reactions is nauseating.  There is also a more modern industry but even there work conditions are dreadful. Every day, they receive cow skins preserved in salt which they buy by the pound.  The skins go into large spinning barrels each costing more than BEHEMOTH where they are mixed with chemicals that will remove the residues of fat and hair. From the barrels the skins go through machines that drain the polluted water and smooth the leather to the right thickness (as per the client order), and then back to other spinning barrels to give color to the leather.  Because the industry does not meet environmental standards export opportunities are limited and prices are low. At the same time, those manufacturing leather products need to import leather if they want to sell abroad.  Because designers are lacking and Moroccan brands aren’t well known, these entrepreneurs produce for large European or American brands.  They sell them products for one tenth of the price at which the brands will be sell them in foreign markets.   So many missing opportunities for no good reason other than bad, or the lack of off, public policies. 

Rabat seems to be the capital of another country. The city is immaculate, composed of residential neighborhoods with large white villas surrounding an unassuming financial district.  Green and public spaces are plenty, the streets are clean with broad side walks planted with trees, and there is little traffic.  A new theater/opera, an opulent manifestation of modernist architecture, has been almost completed.  The city is home to the king and his family, a posh French-educated bureaucracy, and an elite of professionals working on high-end services such as finance, insurance, or ICT.  The average income in Rabat is 10 times the average of the country. I become an accomplice when working here and I am happy I will be flying back to Bangkok in two more days, the last leg of my around the world trip.  In the mean time I have enjoyed the food, the local wines, and conversation with old acquaintances.   

Vincent, the ex-owner of now BEHEMOTH, has been sending me from Cartagena photos (some of the interior posted) and hand-over videos.  The videos show how different systems work.  One that was a surprise is about the fridge and freezer.  As Vincent explains, “they are not a normal fridge and freezer, they are ice accumulators.”  I didn’t even know these accumulator existed but through google I learned that, indeed, when deciding how to keep beer or wine cold and freeze meat, cruisers have two options:  the regular fridge/freezer that is always ON even if not always running, and the accumulator which you run for only a couple of hours in a 24 hour period.  I wouldn’t mind having to turn-on the accumulator for a couple of hours each day if it run from the batteries.  But in BEHEMOTH the accumulators run either from the diesel generator, an alternator connected to the engine, or shore power.  I asked how noisy the generator was and I got the answer “it is a high-impact, 8 Kilowatts generator, so yeah, it’s noisy.”  Not sure how things are going to work out. I guess that if cruising with the family, the generator will have to run 2 hours a day.  Alone, I might simply forgo refrigeration.  

I have been thinking about how Woland will react when we meet again; it being more than a month since I left Bangkok.   I asked Google, and here are some contradictory answers:

“The truth is that your dog will almost always remember you, however long you’ve been apart. Dogs don’t forget their beloved owners, even after months or even years apart.”

“…dogs can start missing their Owners from the moment they part ways. After that, keep missing them more and more for up to two hours. Beyond the two hour mark, they begin a plateau of melancholy until they see their Owner again.”

“Dogs forget an event within two minutes,” reported National Geographic, citing a 2014 study performed on various animals from rats to bees. Other animals have long-term memories, such as dolphins, but dogs don’t seem to have a long-term memory that lasts much beyond those two minutes”

“Dogs will remember you by relying on both their associative memory and sense of smell, to recollect past interactions, people, and events. And while they do have both short and long-term memory, their short term memory isn’t their strong suit. They are more likely to remember the feelings associated with a person as opposed to the actual time spent with them.”

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