Morocco '99: a roadtrip and a half

"DIG FOR DINOSAURS IN THE SAHARA DESERT!" beamed the poster in the department coffee room. Suitably enticed, half-a-dozen of us signed up for a Moroccan adventure, and headed to Birmingham to board an antique minibus bound for North Africa. After a circuitous and eventful southbound journey, we did make it to the desert, but the poster lied: we excavated nothing reptilian.

On a Moroccan roll: a Saharan dust plume (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Fifteen years on, I find myself returning to Morocco next week in rather more privileged circumstances, as an invited participant in a British Council workshop*. I don't know if dinosaurs will turn up this time, but the meeting is entitled "Jurassic Palaeoenvironments and Life", so it can't be beyond the realms of possibility.

Once I get to Marrakech, I will provide regular updates on all the palaeontological highlights I encounter. Conveniently, though, I kept a diary in 1999, so I will start the ball rolling with the very first entry in that august journal. This is what it says:

27th March

It's nearly a fieldtrip, so this is nearly a field notebook. Confused as to what I might need for a three-week minibus tour of Morocco, I have a diverse and eclectic mix of supplies:

  * multi-coloured pens
   (to stop the local children vandalising the buses)
  * action pants
   (for action)
  * Bob Dylan tapes
   (for reaction)
  * suncream Factor 200
   (to preserve my Northern European complexion)
  * cricket hat
   (to remind me to teach the sport of kings to the local Berber tribes)
  * Buxton mineral water
  (if Cleopatra could bathe in asses' milk, the very least I can do is use Buxton mineral water for shaving with)

What else could a seasoned traveller like me possibly need?

I will probably take a similar selection of items this time, though I have to say I've no recollection why I thought multi-coloured pens would stop local children vandalizing buses. Surely it would have given them greater ammunition to do so? Ah, the vagaries of time and memory.

Spinosaurus aegypticus, from the Cenomanian of Morocco (via Wikimedia Commons)

*The British Council produces this guide, which I hope will feature strongly in the workshop.
I wonder whether Stephen Jay Gould had a hand in its creation.