Home - MBA Student Jacob Baker ventures to Morocco!
Despite the wars and uprisings in the middle east, one of our intrepid MBA students, Jacob Baker (last on right with MBS t-shirt) traveled to Morocco recently and provides his views on the experience:
“Morocco was an absolutely amazing experience from both a cultural and a business point of view. My family went over there to visit my sister who is in the Peace Corps there. What made this trip different from other vacations is that because my sister lives and works there we were able to see the two different Moroccos – the very modern, cosmopolitan side as well as the very traditional, rural side.
Going over I didn’t know what to expect, especially considering the unrest in the Middle East and Northern Africa at the time. Any preconceived notions I had though were dispelled on this trip. Casablanca is just like any modern city, more importantly, from a business perspective Casablanca is the financial center of Morocco. Riding the train I started talking to this girl who worked for HP, one of many American companies who base their Mid-East or Northern African operations out of Morocco. Other cities, while they have a modern side to them are much more traditional than Casablanca.
Every city we went to had a “medina” or old city that was surrounded by a wall. A major part of these medinas were the market. Every town we went to in Morocco had a market or “souk.” The larger cities had markets every day whereas the smaller villages had them only once a week. This is a place where you could get everything from meats and vegetables to pottery. Everything was done by bargaining, and Moroccans are very persistent bargainers. Most of these markets, and from what I could tell the majority of the Moroccan economy were based on cash or the “dirham.”
Although Morocco seemed to be very traditional and what we would call “old” Western capitalism was very evident in the larger cities. Everywhere there were Coca-Cola signs. Even in the smallest villages there would be a café with a Coke awning. Not surprising McDonalds was everywhere in the larger cities as well. Through seeing these and other western products I got to experience first-hand the value of good marketing. Although everything was in Arabic and I couldn’t even understand the letters I knew I was eating a Dannon yogurt or drinking Lipton tea because of the trademark colors and designs.
Even in the midst of all this growth and prosperity Morocco is a very poor country. According to the travel book the average wage in Morocco is around $1,200/year. Once you got out of the cities this became evident. We were able to spend two days with my sister in her village. Molly lives in a town of about 1,200, quiet a large town for the mountains. The majority of the economy is based on agriculture and while some products are grown for sale a lot of what is grown is eaten by the households. The agriculture is very small and primitive by our standards in these mountain villages. Most of the work is still done by hand in very small fields. Crops are planted, maintained and harvested manually. However, everybody we talked to was happy – most talked about how even though they didn’t have a lot, they had all they needed.
Finally, I have to say something about religion as this is a topic that is constantly dominating our news. However, in doing so realize that I only spent 10 days there, my sister could give you a much more in depth perspective than I can give here. Morocco is a Muslim country; it is ruled by Islamic law. Mosques dominated the skyline of towns, much like church steeples do here. However, it is nothing like you see on the nightly news. Everybody we met loved America and talked at length about how much our country has done for Morocco. In the villages, which were more conservative the women typically wore a head covering but not the full body covering you see in other countries. Women and men, while they had clearly distinct societal roles worked together on daily tasks. Finally, while there are 5 daily “call to prayers” that are broadcast across the city not everybody goes. In fact, from my perspective very few went. In my opinion it is much like Christianity is here – yes the majority of people call themselves Christian but very few actually practice.
There is no way I can possibly boil this trip down to a page like I just did but I think that gives a great “10,000” foot view of my trip and the country.”