“Don’t be afraid”, said the snake charmer who stood in the middle of the Jemaa el-Fnaa square as he put a black cobra around my neck. He was a dark, frenzied man with long disheveled hair falling over his shoulders.
I said - “no, I like it. I like it, it’s good”.
He said - “you like it now, but you’ll learn to love it later”.
It was a hot evening - Moroccan spices were in the air and music was coming from more than one direction in an intoxicating experience.
I could get used to the life in the dessert, if that is what he meant. I had just spent a good part of my day in a rustic tent, with the view of the Atlas Mountains, which are covered with snow in the winter. I drank the sweet Moroccan tee and rode a camel through the hills.
The wind was blowing from the Sahara, which the locals call Ghibli, it’s hot and dry, brings the dust up. It can last for days.
A big yellow dog in the rocky desert looked tired as there was hardly any shadow to hide from the sun. He lay down under an olive tree and his face was that of an old guy. And then he started crying like a broken-hearted man at the howling wind.
It’s different in Africa.
They say that geography is the backdrop to human history, it is the most fundamental factor in the foreign policy of states because it is the most permanent.
In this context the natural world has given Africa much to labor against in its path to modernity.
Though it is the second largest continent, with an area five times that of Europe, its coastline south of the Sahara is little more than a quarter as long and lacks good natural harbors, the East African ports being the exception. Few of Africa’s rivers are navigable from the sea, dropping from interior tableland to coastal plains by a series of falls and rapids, so that inland Africa is particularly isolated from the coast. Moreover, the Sahara Desert hindered human contact from the north and for this reason Africa was little exposed to the great Mediterranean civilizations. Then there are the great, thick forests on either side of the equator, under the influence of heavy rains and intense heat. These forests are no friends to civilization, nor are they conducive to natural borders, and so the borders erected by European colonialists were artificial ones.
Note how temperate zone, east–west oriented Eurasia is better off than north–south oriented sub-Saharan Africa because technological diffusion works much better across a common latitude, where climatic conditions are similar, thus allowing for innovations in the tending of plants and the domestication of animals to spread rapidly.
In a stark contrast, geography has helped the Unites States maintain its prosperity and power. It’s like the three rules of real estate – location, location, location.
The USA is protected by two oceans, a vast frozen swath of land to the north and the Amazonian forest in the south.
Issues here are of different nature, and I am referring to this week’s ridiculous tweet by Elon Musk about taking Tesla private by rising 81 billion dollars.
The company bonds barely moved in response to the news – they still trade below face value, even though they’re protected by puts. It seems that the markets are rather pricing in a bankruptcy filing at some point.
Perhaps it is true that they ring the bell at the top. TSLA, the overpriced, mismanaged, cash burning company may be the ultimate destroyer of capital that will puncture the bubble of current business cycle.
Hopefully I am wrong.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler