Morocco is literally a melting pot of Arabic, Jewish, Berber, and European cultures, located at the horn of the African continent, a straight away from Europe, and just right next door to the Middle East. The country is rich in culture and history, with a land that seems to have been tailor-made for every travelers’ kink; rugged coastlines, forested hills, lusty green oases, and the mighty desert with it dunes up to the peaks of the High Atlas mountains. Morocco literally offers many layers to explore, and through our 20 days of travel in this carnavalesque country, I have so many memorable moments to share in the following posts, but first let's talk about the MONKEYS.
Uh uh, you heard me right; monkeys!
You see, when people talk about Morocco or the Sahara, the first things that come to my mind are the desert, Lawrence of the Arabia, and camels. Monkeys are for sure, not on my list of what I thought I would see in Morocco. Yet apparently we can see monkeys in Morocco (macaques nonetheless)… This fact somehow was a shock for me. I mean, I didn’t expect to see macaques roaming around freely in the wild, gliding from trees to trees, social grooming, and casually scratching their balls in front of me while I was passing a thin forest in Morocco. In my little brain somehow I understood that macaques only lived in Asia.. not somewhere near a desert. I was wrong, and in that instance I had another episode where I questioned the validity of all my knowledge…
We were driving out from Rabat, through Ifrane, crossing the Azrou cedar forest on the Middle Atlas mountain range when we found those macaques casually taking a nap by the road. These macaques are known as Barbary macaque, which actually is a monkey. These no-tail macaques are known to inhabit this area and become an attraction of itself for the passer by.
simple minded nature loving as he is, was giddy and delighted to see those damn things. Yet for me, seeing wild monkeys in close proximity where it can easily yank my hair, rip my face off, and infect me with rabies, was quite unsettling. They can throw such an adorable sullen look that makes you just want to hold them in your arms, protect them, and support them with endless supply of bananas, yet at the same time they can maul you to an ugly death with their sharp teeth and profoundly strong jaws.
To be honest, these monkeys looked very relaxed and peaceful. They don’t seem to have the annoying curiosity of a macaque that will raid your bag or steal your glasses, like macaques in Bali and Java I have encountered. Most of them will casually be doing their monkey business while you snap some pics, while some others will let you take their photos, and even give you their best poses for the right amount of peanuts (you know, everyone has their price and theirs happen to be a handful of peanuts, please don’t judge).
I have nothing against macaque or any wildlife, especially these fluffy barbary macaques. They are effortlessly cute and I do suggest you to pass by this cedar forest just for the sake seeing them. However, I strongly suggest you not to feed them as we are not supposed to feed any wild animal. You know, basic courtesy and common sense towards the nature and its natural way of life. I saw cars passing by throwing cookies, bread, and whatnot towards these monkeys. Yes, their intention is noble; they want to feed the monkeys, yet it's not the right thing to do. First of all, monkeys do not eat chocolate bread (on the other side, I do, you should just throw it right at me instead), human food is not always aligned with their natural alimentary diet and can cause them health problems.
Second of all, the food provided by the random passerby slowly makes them dependent on humans and compromises their survival instincts. This dependency forces them to live right next to busy roads which can be dangerous, both for the monkeys and the passersby.
Third, believe it or not, although giving them food might make them happy and (seemingly) friendly, it can lead to aggressive behavior, especially when they thought you have something for them but infact you don’t. Nobody likes disappointment, y’all.
Fourth, I can go on and on and on about why we shouldn’t feed wild animals but I will not, this is not the blog for it, so all I am saying is; keep your snack to yourself when you are passing by the Azrou cedar forest. Don’t fall for those innocent looking macaques, you know better. It’s for their own good.