Tangier, Morocco is known for many things - commanding view of Gibraltar from the African side, birthplace of Tangerine traveler Ibn Battutah, as an "International Zone" from 1912 until Moroccan independence in 1956. However, despite a very impressive wind power farm in the distant hills, it may not come to mind as a poster child for environmental awareness or alternative energy. Until this:
My closeup taken on our host's rooftop does not do the scene justice. Peer above the drying dishcloths and you'll see a sea of - antennas and satellite dishes, yes - laundry, flapping in the brisk breeze. Tangier's outskirts might be sinking under the weight of all the concrete as it awakens from its decades-long torpor, but at least the inhabitants of the ancient medina are saving on clothes dryer electricity bills.
Stop for a moment. Did you ever smell laundry dried outside by your mother or grandma? Think back and sniff the freshness. Tangier's laundry has it, because there they have the Right to Dry.
I was so busy thanking my lucky stars about being able to fly back to Europe through the volcano cloud that I let Earth Day pass without comment. Before we left Morocco, local newspapers were already gearing up, with schoolchildren and civic groups preparing to plant trees. Essential work there, where ancient trees are not safe from property developers. Even business groups have sounded the alarm over the seemingly unending urban sprawl.
But back in the medina, the flapping of the sheets, the gurgling of the fountain in the courtyard, the distant throb of car ferry engines, the coast of Spain a reminder of Al-Andalus... for a while, you are taken back in time. Some human activities don't require high fossil fuel consumption. Just a little mint tea, as the sun sets over the Strait.
Earth Day is important, but it's what we do the Day(s) After Earth Day that is vital.
It's still not too late to plant that tree...