After clearing security we went to our gate and found a huge line of people waiting to get on the flight. We flew with RyanAir, a low budget but huge company that is able to offer low prices by advertising and selling things on the flight tax free. We sat down on the floor in the line and a few minutes later a group of 4 people our age sat behind us. I thought I recognized one of the girls. It turned out to be Anastasia, a girl from DC who is an auxiliary in Avila. I had read that she was going to Morocco and she had read that I was going both on the same day; I guess the odds were pretty high but to get to the flight at almost exactly the same time … inline we were approached by a random passenger from our flight who kindly let us know that our gate had been changed.
On Ryan Air flights you don’t reserve a specific seat, its first come first serve. Ola and I found a row of three seats and took the inside and middle and left the aisle for someone else; really I wanted the aisle seat if no one else sat there. a minute later a very soft spoken, curly haired girl our age asked in English with a slight accent, “is this seat taken.” As we were taxiing out to the runway she pulled out a book with a very obscure author; Rudolph Steiner. We started talk and found out that Joanna is an artist in Transylvania, Romania; where Count Dracula is from. She has a bronze sculpture that is going to be in an exhibition in a city near Marrakech.
We said good bye and entered the airy, white airport to fill out our entry papers. We found out that the bus 119 would take us into the city so we went outside to look for it. When we walked out of the airport and were hit by a wave of 25C air. It was refreshing after being in about 0C for the past few weeks in Segovia. I was wearing long johns because of the cold in Spain but was dying in them once we got to Morocco, so on the bus I “dropped trou” and ditched the long johns and my long sleeve shirt.
On the bus ride I saw some camels kneeling in the sand and donkeys pulling carts down the middle of the “highway”, a strip of asphalt wide enough for 3 lans of cars, without painted lines, which was accommodating the afore mentioned donkey cart, a bus, all shapes and sizes of cars and wedged between every nook and cranny men and veiled women on tiny motorized bikes/mopeds. On one of these mopeds was a women in a shiny green outfit presumably taking her her two sons home from school.
I havnt mentioned the language barriers yet but it had already become apparent from the time we hit the airport. Here they have two official languages, Arabic and French. Although I have been trying to learn Arabic I I’m nowhere near able to use what I know effectively and now I’m wishing I had paid more attention to Dr. Ducher’s French examples in my classes at USF. Luckily Ola has lived in Tunisia and Egypt so she has a small base to work from and she also knows some very basic French. Otherwise we just gesture try cognates and I try to speak Spanish with a French accent which I probably makes it worse.
We were finally told that the “gar”was at the next bus stop so we got off to catch a train to Rabat. Inside we found out that we still had 45 minutes before our train left; We got really lucky that a train was leaving when it was because we hadn’t planned this far into our trip. We hung out outside of the station shooting pictures teaching Ola how the DSLR works. On the rustic, non-air-conditioned train there were groups of 4 seats two facing the other two; across from us was an Arabic couple who shortly fell asleep. The lady and the lighting was so beautiful I had to take a picture of her; I think she was peeking through her eyelids and new that I took a picture. Supposedly our trip would take 3 hrs but we were on the train for about 5 hrs, stopping in every dusty town.
Somewhere around hour two a little girl about 4 years old came shyly over to us, peeking around the corner. I went to a different car to try and find someone who spoke English to ask where we get off of the train. When I came back the little girl was sitting with Ola. So I started taking pictures. When I showed the little girl my favorite shot she busted out laughing. From then on she was our new little best friend, After I took a picture the little girl would say “shoe-f”, (show me). She loved Pringles and even had her mom buy her some after we let her try ours. This little girl was our bridge to the Arabic couple in front of us. There was also a Spanish mother daughter combo going to visit the girls dad in Fez but not much to tell about them since we didn’t talk a whole lot.
At one point I needed to take a pee so I went in search of the “toilets” more like a rolling port-o-potty that smelled like you could imagine. When I opened the lid I almost threw; up it was full to the brim and sloshing back and forth with every bump and curve in the tracks.
We finally got to our station. Just before we got off of the train a suggested we take a small taxi because it was dark and you never know, however we were close enough that we could have walked. Outside the traffic was whizzing, buzzing and beeping by. We heard on the train that we shouldn’t pay more than 20 Dirham about 2 Euro for a cab ride so Ola point blank said no and walked away from one guy without even negotiating when he tried charging us 50 Dirham. There was this three- wheeled-motorcycle-open cart-type-thing that I really wanted to take but some guys hopped in and it left behind a cloud of black smoke.
After consultation with some of his friends, one taxi driver agreed to take us for 10 Dirham so we hopped in his Geo Metro-sized car and beeped our way into, then through the mess of traffic. We passed loads of nothing, mounds of trash three times the size of the car, an old city wall and finally came to a stop where the road got too narrow for us to proceed. The taxi driver got out and led us through way past rusty framed motor scooters and rickety wooden doors framed in colorful, patterned tile, set against vibrant walls. The whole time was a back and forth from the putrid smell of sewage to fragrant, home cooked, Arabic food; taking these in was a conscious effort since my primary concern was that this guy was leading us down into some unknown and seemingly dangerous neighborhood to his friends who were going to do who-knows-what. But a few minutes in he pointed to a sign; that of the Riad (hotel).
When we got there I gave him 20 Dirhams (two Euro) for his extra guide service and figured he would go but he stayed and when the hotel people answered the door he began asking for more money (from what I understood). The receptionist gave him an additional 3 Dirhams and told him to beat it.
The receptionists told us to come in and put our things down so we could check-in. when I hit the bottom of the staircase I was stunned at how extreme the difference was outside from inside; it was gorgeous. The only languages they spoke were French and Arabic so this proved especially difficult to do; even more so since we had to resolve the issue of our reservation never having been processed by them, luckily they had a room available. While we waited for the room to be readied we were served some mint tea and hung out on some beautiful hand-carved, wood benches with red velvet cushions in a dimly lit reception area, looking out to the tiled patio. After about 15 minutes we were anxious so we went to ask about the room and came to find out that it had been ready for about the past ten minutes.
Our room, on the first floor opening up to the patio was the one online that I said was the ugliest but when we went in it was actually very nice. Typical Arabic lanterns floor to ceiling, maroon curtains colorful stained glass windows and fancy wooden wardrobe.
We hadn’t eaten anything substantial since about 7 am so we set out for food, deciding not to take my new camera until we get a feel for how safe it was. Ola thought she saw the ocean from the taxi so we tried to find it. Along the way we stopped to ask some guys about it but the languages clashed finally one guy guessed the correct answer, “marina” then offered to take us in his taxi; we walked.
Along the marina there are fancy newly constructed restaurants; not as cheap but open at this hour so we popped into one and ordered after passing by several others. I was fatigued in the literal sense of the word, trembling and dizzy, not sure if I could make it 20 more steps. When we ate some fancy, but not typical Moroccan food but the feeling persisted.