Despite its cosmopolitan reputation, Morocco is in many ways a poor country, and much of its population-nearly all of Berber ancestry, speaking dozens of local dialects-ekes out its living in traditional fields, as farmers, herdsmen, fishermen, and craftsmen in textiles, metals, and woodworking. Driving through Mogador's inland valleys, we saw farmers tilling their fields as they have for millennia, with camels or oxen yoked to wooden ploughs.
On the other hand, the sight of a Berber shepherd in peasant garb, riding his burro with reins in one hand and a cellphone in the other, reminded us that the gap between the past and the future may not be as vast as you might imagine-we saw numerous cell towers dotting the mountains in the region (an IMF project, we were told), and our own phones worked almost everywhere we went. And in the middle of Essaouira's centuries-old medina, we had no trouble finding a working ATM machine that dispensed crisp new dirham notes.
If we hadn't seen it ourselves, we'd have never believed it, but in Morocco, it's not an unusual sight. The Mogador's inland valleys are awash with sandy, rocky soils; arable land is minimal, rainfall unpredictable, and grazing lands in short supply. When the grass runs out, the goats take to the branches of the argan tree-a relative of the olive tree, and unique to southern Morocco-to browse on its succulent berries. This led Senior Editor Brubaker to give thanks from his home in rural Illinois: "Good thing the cows around here haven't learned this trick."
Try as we might, our gracious hosts wouldn't let us leave Morocco without driving the local ORV of choice, so we hopped aboard and took a spin around the beach. We appreciated the nice high (7-foot) ride height and excellent sightlines our tester offered, though a leather package would've been a welcome upgrade, and this model's chassis tuning was a bit stiff for our backsides. Acceleration can be sluggish and road feel prone to wander, and while traction is sure-footed; the vehicle seems to have a mind of its own. On the other hand, mileage per gallon (of water) is outstanding, though emissions, sadly, are far in excess of EPA regs.
Make/model: 1990 Dromedary DesertShip XLT
Engine: Ruminantia two-cylinder with sequential digestion
Transmission: Four-hoof automatic with HD cooling pkg.
Suspension: Four-link, leading and trailing legs
Height (in.): 84 (at hump)
Max stable weight (lb): 1,500
Max payload (lb): 990
Max water capacity (gal): 30
Max cruising range between fuel-ups (days): 15
Top speed (est.): 40 mph