RABAT, MOROCCO -- It's my second day in Morocco's capital, Rabat, covering the King Hassan II Trophy. You've probably never heard of the event if you're in North America, but this is the 36th staging, named after Morocco's King from 1961-1999, and each year they're usually able to attract a few big names. It's a small, relatively relaxed tournament (at least compared to my last event, the Ryder Cup Matches) of both men and women professionals and this year Ernie Els is the headliner. Other competitors include Mark O'Meara, Paul McGinley and Laura Davies.
Being one of what appears to be only two American media members here this week, it's impossible to have a conversation amongst anyone I've met that doesn't quickly turn to our election. In fact, I was on the plane when the results were announced, and the cabin erupted into celebration. The crew passed around some bottles of whiskey and most of the passengers were laughing it up with their neighbors.
And then I realized something this morning: this is my first time abroad when George W. Bush has not been my leader. Any American who has traveled in the last few years knows that no matter where you are, from a pub in Ireland to a beach in South Africa, it never takes long before the question, "What is wrong with Bush?" is tossed, often bluntly, in your direction.
Now that question has been replaced with, "So you elected Obama, yes?" Whether you support the President-elect or not, it's a far less confrontational conversation, and the inquisitor doesn't give you the same look of pity and shame. Suddenly, it's a little friendlier traveling abroad for Americans, and that's not even bringing up the great strength of the U.S. dollar of the last few months.
As for Morocco, what I can gather in my first 48 hours is that it's a very dynamic place that feels Arab throughout the city with Arabic road signs & architecture, not to mention armed guards on every street corner. But inside hotels, restaurants and especially at the Dar es Salam Golf Club, it feels like France, as a result of once being a French protectorate and the fact many Parisians still spend their holidays here. French is a more common language than Arabic, at least in middle and upper class environments like golf resorts (it's funny, street signs are in Arabic but advertisements are more often than not in French).
For many of the players here, it's their first time to Rabat, so I'll be asking for their thoughts on the event and Morocco as a golf destination, stay tuned to WorldGolf.com for plenty more on golf in Rabat and the King Hassan II Trophy from Dar es Salam Golf Club.