Morocco’s Favorite Pastime: Shooffing



There is one word our SmarTours’ group learned from our Moroccan guide, Khalid, that could possibly become as popular as hashtag. It’s called shooffing. Don’t confuse it with the Yiddish word for sleep, schluffing.

Shooffing is very popular among the men of Morocco. When men shooff, they are usually sitting in a sidewalk café, drinking coffee or tea for hours, staring at everyone and everything that passes by. It’s a type of gawking.

The streets of Morocco are lined with men shooffing. You wonder if these guys ever work. We were told that they shooff more hours than they do actually earn money.

Women rarely shooff. They are busy working and taking care of the household. When they do meet up with other women, it usually takes place in the privacy of someone’s home or at a special event. Men like to gather in public places and shooff together. They almost put themselves in a hypnotic state during their shooffing periods. Most of the time, the men are not even talking to each other. They would rather use the time to be in their own worlds.

Shooffing is such a great word. I want to copyright it and turn it into the next hashtag in terms of popularity. It should be pretty easy to do through social media.

I would appreciate any helpful hints how to do that. I need to get a viral spin going and then somehow commercialize the name. Sounds easy but it really needs some magic potion to get people to spread the word. That’s where Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter come in. We just need to work the system.

Seniors Become More Addicted To Electronic Devices

Our group visiting Volubilis, a partially excavated Roman city in Morocco. This is no ordinary bunch of seniors. We have an urologist, an out-of-print book dealer, a criminal lawyer, a fashion consultant, a school teacher, a professor of organic chemistry, a pharmacy owner, a real estate agent, a dentist, and a one guy who might be in the CIA.

I remember when many of my friends complained that their children and grandchildren spent too much time fixated on computers and electronic games. That was then. I am now convinced that seniors are rapidly becoming totally dependent on electronic devices as well.

I just have spent 12 days with the same 35 seniors who love their digital cameras, iPads, smartphones, and Kindles/Nooks just as much as the under 50-crowd. The minute we all get on the bus to travel from city to city, out come the gadgets. Everyone is either reading, listening to music or playing electronic games.

What surprised me the most is how many of my travel mates play games on a consistent basis. Many of them have ongoing Sudoku, Candy Crush, Words With Friends, and Solitaire games in-play at all times.

Very few sit idle. They have to exercise their minds as much as possible.

The photo above is Volubilis, a partly excavated Roman city in Morocco situated between Fes and Rabat. Built in a fertile agricultural area, it was developed during the 3rd century BC

Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed for being a well preserved example of a large Roman colonial town on the fringes of the Empire.






Getting In The Swing Of Things

The SmarTour group we are traveling with wanted to know what it was like to be a Moroccan. The men wore Tuaregs and the women, head scarfs. They all looked pretty authentic.
Our fabulous SmarTour leader (left) .






Then we visited a Nomad family in the Sahara Desert and took part in a traditional Mint Tea ceremony.










If My Parents Could See Me Now

I have been playing the senior citizen card for so long now that I am almost enjoying being 66 (not really). I use my age to get in front of a long line at the Apple store and now I discovered it really works when you are traveling around the world. Most younger people really want to be helpful. If they don’t, I tell them I am a senior (not that they can’t see that for themselves) and usually get my way.

Such is the case when we went on a camel ride 500-feet up the sand dunes in the Sahara Desert to see the sunset. The camel guides were so caring and attentive, that it made it easy for us to accomplish this challenge. Getting on and off a camel is cumbersome but they told us how to do it and what to expect. Most of the folks on our tour (the majority over 60) really enjoyed this once-in-a lifetime opportunity.

Eliot and Lois on board

At this point, I’m still in disbelief that I’m in the Sahara Desert on a camel

I didn’t take my hands off the reins. The guide must have taken this picture

We made it 500-feet up. All we needed was wine and cheese.

We got what we came for.

Chasing The Internet

We are about to enter the Sahara Desert. The nicer the hotel in Morocco, the worse the Internet. Yesterday’s hotel looked like a hostel, but the Internet was great. Tonight we are at a spectacular hotel and the Internet sucks. I’d better write fast before the Internet blows again.

It’s amazing how everyone is so addicted to the Internet. While you see Moroccans traveling on a donkey or a camel, still they are talking on their cell. You wonder how this all happened. Our tour leader gets calls non-stop from his wife or business associates. It’s going to be very interesting tomorrow to see if folks are on their cells while we ride on camels 600 feet up the sand dunes. I hope I can make it. It may be too steep for me. I am going to try.

Today, I truly felt that I was seeing something out of a movie set. We visited the lush Todra Palmeraie Gorge with its dramatic 985-foot high walls. I have never experienced anything like it. One good shake and everything could come tumbling down.

It’s pretty dusty out here already, but tomorrow we will truly be in the thick of the desert. I yearn for something green. _DSC6258 (2) _DSC6321_DSC6426_DSC6107

Vision Without Execution Is Just A Hallucination

Today’s headline, “Vision Without Execution Is Just A Hallucination,” is a great quote from author Walter Isaacson. The reason I immediately wrote that quote down was because I wanted to remember it. I know too many people with great ideas who have no clue how to execute them.

In his new book, “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” Isaacson points out that it takes a team effort to achieve great innovation. “One man (woman) does not do it alone.”

Isaacson’s book is a revealing guide to how innovation really happens. The press release for the book said, “Isaacson explores the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities.”

Isaacson has written biographies of Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Henry Kissinger.

He recently sat down with Kara Swisher, founding partner of Re/Code, to discuss the need for creative collaboration.

Click here to watch the interview.

Off The Internet With Yves Saint-Laurent

It’s always interesting to see where busy people go to recharge their batteries. In this case, I’m not talking about the kind of batteries that power your smartphone. I am referring to a quiet place where you can put everything into proper perspective.

Yves Saint-Laurent found tranquility in a 12-acre botanical garden in Marrakech, called the Majorelle Garden. It was created in the 1920s by French artist Jacques Majorelle. Majorelle opened it to the public in 1947, the year I was born. After he died. the garden fell into disrepair.

Coincidentally, Yves Saint-Laurent spent a lot of time in Marrakech and fell in love with the gardens. In 1980, he and his partner, Pierre Bergé bought and restored it. After Saint Laurent died in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the Majorelle and a memorial structure was created in his honor.

How lucky for me that Eliot and I, along with our travel companions, got to visit Majorelle today. It was a picture perfect place for a group of active people to spend some quiet time taking digital pictures, getting some exercise, and reflecting on the past and the present.

Photos by Eliot Hess



Women With A Big Lens

A few years ago, I noticed that many of my travel companions on Smartours were starting to use sophisticated digital cameras on our trips. This time, on our SmarTours Moroccan journey, another big revelation took place. Several of the women showed up with professional cameras. They have taken their love of photography to a whole new level.

It is so much fun to watch these women discover the many options they now have to capture a photo just the way they want it. I guess for me these DigiDame-type women represent a very exciting future that is still available if you want it. Instead of winding down, they are winding up. Good for them, lucky for us. Inspiration always makes my heart jump for joy.



Meanwhile, today we visited the Marjana Cooperative where we watched Moroccan women work at extracting Argan Oil. The demand for Argan Oil has significantly increased because of its use in body cosmetics and good food.

Here are interesting photos from that visit. Notice, no technology.