I just woke up in the same hotel room where I have been staying while in Morocco for over 10 years now. The noise outside of the bus station is still exactly the same as it has always been. Hustlers trying to get people in to their taxis and buses, screaming the names of the destination cities with the most annoying voices. Believe me, I have had many visions of ways to make them stop when I was trying to get work done. After such a long time, nothing much has changed. And that somehow characterizes Morocco. Despite the rapid development and changes implemented by the King, time in Morocco somehow always seems to stand still and the basic things on the streets that make Morocco so typical, never seem to change.
What has changed since I started my work with MPC is my hotel room. Back in 2005 until 2 years ago, I was staying in what I always referred to as Cockroach Inn rooms. Tiny rooms, no window, no heater to warm me up when I came back from a 10 km transect in the field up to my knees in snow and no hot shower. I would be sitting with a woollen blanket covering my head to keep me warm, while my blue freezing fingers tried to add data in the laptop. Today I stay in a room with private bathroom, for 10 Euro a night – something that was too expensive for me when I started with MPC.
What also has changed is the fact that back in 2005, the only person I knew in Azrou was my field assistant. My life in Morocco could be very lonely at the time. The days in the forest with the monkeys were incredible, but the evenings could be very challenging. If I look at my life here now, I am proud to say that I have made some great friends and that MPC has grown to be an organisation with 9 local staff, who are working in the forest to protect the macaques as I speak.
I am so proud of what MPC has achieved since I started this work. I think that I am living proof of how far passion can take you. When I sum up the projects that we have implemented and what we have achieved, it almost seems surreal to me. The day that I left my life behind in Holland to fight for the Barbary macaques in Morocco is still so clear in my memory.
The macaques are still up there in that incredible forest of Ifrane NP, only 4 km away from me. The fast decline in numbers of the past decades has come to a standstill. I like to believe that I have contributed to this. Change is inevitable in life, and sometimes change is good. But the disappearance of the Barbary macaques in Morocco is definitely not a change that we should accept….