lunes, 12 de octubre de 2009

What to pack for a 1-week desert adventure

Have you tried spending one week walking in the desert? It is an awesome experience, as it lets you erase your stress and reset your mind. On top of that, if you happen to do it in an exotic place, add the thrill of cultural discovery. Many travel agencies offer packaged treks, that are convenient and safe. The rhythm of life, the sights, the sounds, the swarms of stars at night... When returning home, you won't believe it was only one week!

But what to pack? After 3 stays in the desert and repeating each time the same mistake (forgetting to write down what I needed when returning home), I have decided to make this list. I hope it can help others too.
To wear on you
- comfortable walking shoes. Sneakers are OK
- cotton socks
- cotton pants, preferably grey
- cotton T-shirt
- cotton long-sleeved shirt
- windstopper jacket
- good sunglasses
- sun-protective hat. Traditional "shesh" (a 2-meter+ strip of cotton you wrap around your head) is best.

In a small bag with you
- 1-liter+ drinking bottle (a re-used PET bottle is OK)
- strong sunscreen
- toilet paper + lighter (to burn the used paper!)
- passport
For fun, during the (long) stops
- postcards from your place, 1 book
- drawing pad + pencils
- star map

In a bigger bag (hopefully an animal or vehicle carries it for you during the day)
- 1 warm sleeping bag + lining sheet
- 1 polar fleece
- 1 cotton long-sleeved shirt
- 2 cotton T-shirts
- 2 underwear
- small washing basin + detergent in a small bag
- small towel
- piece of soap in a box
- headlamp with battery
- toiletries + medicine (at least: anti-diarrhea, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, disinfectant, band-aids)
What not to pack
- new shoes. You don't want to take that chance.
- more stuff. You really don't need much. In the desert, there is no one to impress with fancy clothes or stuff, and hygiene is limited to basics. On top of that, traveling light also helps free your mind. Even try to forget your camera (oblige yourself to look).
However, you need to ensure:
+ you are warm at night (it may freeze),
+ you are protected from the sun during the day,
+ you have some basic medicine ready just in case.

Marrakech = Pompei

That's the thought I had this year, visiting Marrakech again. On your way from the airport to the city center, you just can't but notice the new developments sprawling along the avenues. They basically come in 2 styles. The first style consists of "luxury residences", 5 to 6-storied Marrakech-pink concrete blocks, complete with shops and swimming pools.


The second flavor is deliberately more exclusive. It consists of "luxury villas" swarming inside walled compounds. The difference, apart from the price, is that you get your own precious private swimming pool, and sometimes a patch of precious private green lawn, all fed with the scarce water of that Sahara city. The lush palm groves, by the way, that used to spring from that water bounty, are steadily drying up, from lack of water and care, yielding more precious private space for more extravaganza developments.

I personally feel no appeal at all towards this urban style (is it really one?) The location has no charm whatsoever, either along lifeless modern boulevards, or along equally lifeless roads outside the city. The quality of construction looks average. Or rather, it looks like it is going to decay from the construction phase directly into ruins without enjoying the "new" (let alone the "charmingly old") state.

This is too much. Too much concentration, too much speculation, too much wasted resources.

And also too late.

The (mostly French) tourists that fell in love with Marrakech 30 years ago, refurbishing old houses in the historic city center and rejuvenating some dilapidated areas, sure did have a wonderful idea and had an awesome time. Marrakech is a world wonder, showcasing a civilization of its own. European eyes marvel at the sight of craftsmen MAKING things, from furniture to clothes to ironwork and much more. European minds wonder at the feeling you get from the strength of the tight-knit communities (despite the apparent absolute disorganization of everything.)

But now is too late. The lode is empty. Developers still want to ride the wave one more year, wringing more dollars or euros from enthralled tourists, seducing them into buying their share of the dream, in the form of a "luxury" home they will never inhabit. (Sometimes using the most loathsome manipulation techniques to close their deals, which is no indication of a good product or a healthy business.)

Visiting Marrakech again this year, I predict that we are seeing the end of this Pompei of modern times. Pompei was also a luxury resort down South for foreign gringos, who came there once in a while to unwind. Pompei's end was tragic, Marrakech's decline is gradual, but no less certain. The wave is now going down.

I also predict that in Pompei, archaelogists will one day discover complete housing developments in second-rate areas, off the prestigious neighborhoods that we admire. Those developments will be strangely bare, as though they had never been inhabited. And they never have: they were the latest fantasies from hungry developpers, the ancestors of those that we see at work again today.

Personal interests

In this blog, I develop (among others) the subject of team leadership in business. My thoughts revolve around one central question: is there room for a specific European leadership model?

Related issues are the rewards and difficulties of multi-cultural work, the practice of leadership in a team and Learning organizations.

Another current interest of mine is learning Chinese.