We stayed at the Kasbah Tamadot in the Atlas Mountains. It is a luxury resort owned by Richard Branson. It employs 100 people from the area, which has made a big difference to the standard of living of some of the surrounding villages. Not only through employment but through the generosity of some of the guests who have wanted to help the locals.
We went for a mule trek for a couple of hours. Our guide was Mohamed. He has met a lot of people, including Jimmy Carter. He showed us photos of himself with various guests of the Kasbah. He has five daughters and in this culture that is not a good thing as they will leave to live with their husbands' families when they get married. His 17 year old daughter married recently and was given various household goods by one of his clients. Another daughter is having financial help for her schooling.
We caught a taxi back to the station and our driver told us the story of his life. He is an ambitious man, putting off marriage until he can buy his own cab. At the age of 7 he convinced his father to let him go to school, which was a 2 km walk from home. At the age of 10 he learnt that the then owner of the Kasbah might help him if he asked. He asked for a bicycle to get to school. He was told to turn up for a gardening job in the school holidays. He was given a wage but also a bike that was the envy of his peers. His father was making a living illegally, cutting down trees for charcoal which he would take to Marrakesh at night to sell. His working life before that was farming, which he started at the age of 10. Now 57 he is cared for by our driver who pays also for his mother, his divorced sister and her daughter and for his 2 younger brothers, of whom the older one will soon be able to help financially. Our driver filled us in also on the climate of optimism in Morocco. Mohamed 6 has brought in many reforms. Modern trains and new roads. Tourism is being encouraged. The very wealthy here have always owned everything and been exempt from taxes. Now they are being made to pay, and retrospectively as well. They are being threatened with gaol if they refuse.
We saw in India how the old rajahs have had to turn their palaces and havelis into hotels. In Britain the peerage long ago turned their mansions into B&Bs. To get ahead the wealth must be shared.
Of course our driver did not neglect to tell us that in his line of work now he was prepared to be paid less than when he worked as a waiter because the opportunities were there to make more by learning English and providing good service. He did the latter by speeding through the crazy traffic to get us to the train station on time and rushing our bags to the platform for us, as well as by being such an informative fellow. We gave him a good tip.