I have been to Morocco three times. My obsession with the country began after I cracked open “The Sheltering Sky,” a book by Paul Bowles. Bowles was an American writer of the beat generation, a contemporary of Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. The book was a revelation. I subsequently devoured everything Bowles and his wife Jane published, including their memoirs of being expats in Tangier. I decided to go to this exotic place to soak up its magic.

My first visit to Morocco was a tour of its major cities. I went alone — my boyfriend, befuddled by my obsession, stayed behind — but I wasn’t alone for long. I joined a group of American tourists of the white tennis shoe set who were suspicious of our tour guide and wouldn’t dream of tasting the harissa. Needless to say I was the only blonde in the hammam.

On my second trip I decided to go native. I found a guide and trekked through the High Atlas with the Bedouins. Having done my research, I stocked up on lipstick (the Bedouin women love it) and granola bars. On the morning of my last day, a Bedouin woman with bright-pink lips offered me a henna tattoo. On my face.

“What would you like your henna to say?” she asked in heavily-accented French.

“Say?” I said. “Is there a message?”

“Beh oui,” she said.

“Write something very Moroccan.”

That afternoon I was wandering through the medina in Marrakesh and noticed that the men were paying particular attention to me. Many were smiling and pointing. This wasn’t uncommon in Morocco, but now they were all shouting:


Huh? Why were they calling me Fatima? My small, tentative waves of acknowledgement seemed to satisfy them, but I eventually retreated to my hotel, where the doormen smiled and politely averted their eyes until one of them bravely spoke up.

“It’s your henna,” he said hesitantly. “It says, ‘My name is Fatima, and I have three camels as a dowry.’”


There are obviously several lessons to learn from this experience. The first is: Never be cavalier about your henna. The second is: Know what you’re bringing with you. And what I mean by that is: What do people think you have to offer?

Despite our hyper-awareness that organizational silos beget data silos, there are new silos popping up all the time. Trust me, your company currently has at least half a dozen projects going on that will result in new data silos. The question is: what are these projects bringing with them? What — besides narrow functionality and duplicated, re-interpreted data — do they have to offer? Since we’re not tying these projects into a set of centralized, business-sanctioned data standards, the answer is: probably nothing. They come with no dowry. So congratulations: you’ll soon have a handful of new legacy systems that are becoming obsolete as soon as they’re configured.

My third trip to Morocco was a business trip. In an interesting “full circle” twist of fate, ONPT — Morocco’s national telecommunications provider — retained my firm to develop a roadmap for enterprise business intelligence, which included integrating data from several different legacy systems into a cohesive solution. I used the “dowry” metaphor liberally while I was there. But I didn’t tell anyone about my camels.

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