Saturday, May 8, 2010

On Time

Time is relative Einstein tells us. Morocco is no exception to this fact. Stores open when the proprietor feels like they should open and close under the same conditions. Setting a time to meet someone is more of a general guideline rather then a specific time. And of course, said meeting will only happen, ‘inshallha’ (if god wills it.) This is changing, slowly. With more clocks, cell phones and watches around, the relativity of time is beginning to diminish. But still it remains a fact that just because the store was open every day this week until 7pm does not mean it will be open until 7pm today.

And then this week happened...

To fully explain, here is a bit of backstory. In the 1970s the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco made the decision to stop using daylight savings time as it had been doing and instead chose to keep their clocks unchanged as the summer approached. They chose to stay on what is called Universal Coordinated Time or GMT Zulu.

For those that do not know, many governments choose to organize themselves and their citizenry to set their clocks an hour forward in the spring time so as to consolidate daylight during work and active hours and thereby save electricity, or so the theory goes.

Morocco, along with many other parts of the world decided not to take part in this ritual for almost forty years, there being, after all, a ridiculous megalomania in thinking one can control time. Changing the time by governmental decree is disruptive, confusing and ineffective in the many places where people don’t have clocks. Moreover, the Islamic world observes the movements of the moon above those of the sun.

For the last two years however, Morocco has begun re-observing daylight savings time in an effort to be more environmentally friendly and to remain in the same time zone as its European trading partners. What this means for a person in a berber village in the atlas mountains is a choice, the choice to observe Old Time (aka Greenwich Mean Time Zulu) or New Time (aka Western Europe Savings Time). That choice happened this week. 

On May 1st the clock of Morocco 'spring forward'... Sort of. Now have of Morocco is on New Time and half is on Old Time. This complicates things. Meeting someone at a particular time must be specified whether Old or New time. Buses and transportation must be clarified. The whole thing is rather confusing and not necessarily effective. After all, shops still open when the owner arrives, things get done when it is light but not too hot out, and you go home when the sun goes down. Whether that is 7pm or 6pm is relative. Despite improvements, it seems Einstein's theory of relativity still applies. 

Still, where else can you get away with showing up to a date an hour late and saying, “Oh, I thought you meant the other 6pm.”

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