If only I had known what I was getting myself into. I never thought it was possible to get myself into more trouble in a foreign country than the high speed taxi chase in Mexico City, but I managed to do it in Morocco. The moral of the story is that I discovered that my sense of adventure is much much greater than my tolerance for discomfort. The other thing I learned is that although I am a great devisor of grand plans and schemes, my friend Brian is equally as good at making them actually happen.
I suppose I knew that seeing Charlotte ride a camel through the desert in
Morocco would be a memorable experience; I never actually believed it would happen. After all she had chosen Sweden to do her Fulbright in; a country where about the hazardous thing that can happen is be caught with badly designed furniture. When she first said she wanted to come to Morocco i planned a trip to take in the beach, Rabat and Casablanca and Marrakesh, an adventure to be sure, enough to see a little bit of Morocco, but nothing too extreme. When she arrived and pointed to a spot on the map that was far south and said she wanted to go there to see the "real" Morococo, i said "OK, sure" Little did i know what was in store for us.
I think you actually had a very good idea what was in store for us. You had a glimmer in your eye when you said, "OK, sure." It was all part of a grand conspiracy with the nomads. You knew we were going to be spending the night in the Sahara, captured in our "tent" due to the rabid wild dogs guarding us and keeping us away from the "WC," i.e. a hole dug in the side of a sand dune. I only breath a sigh of relief to think that the other option for this "adventure" to the desert would have been a stick shift rickety old car where I would have been the sole chaffeur over the Atlas mountains since Brian never learned how to drive in an orange Volkswagen Superbeatle. (And I must add, based on his visit to Amsterdam, NOR has he ever properly learned how to ride a bike!) I must also say that I resent the implication that Sweden is a "safe" choice for a Fulbright destination. Just this weekend I got lost in the world's largest IKEA because there was a shortage of screws. Secondly, there is NO badly designed furniture in Sweden.
If anyone is planning on loosing 10 pounds in 5 days, I highly recommend a "vacation" to Morocco. Feel free to partake in the local culinary delights (Personally, I developed a special affinity for the melons there). The pounds will literally just squirt right out of you.
Ah yes, shall we say that the santitation standards are just a tad different between Morocco and Sweden? I'm partial to the liver sandwiches. More on that later...
So where were we. I believe Charlotte had just "agreed" to go to the desert. She had arrived a couple of days earlier, after missing a connecting flight I recall, leaving us to run to catch the last train from the Mohammad V airport in Casablanca (yes they have trains in Morocco; nice, modern Belgian built trains...). Arriving at the main train station we would have had to wait an hour for the next and last train, another hour ride, of the evening to Rabat where I was living. As she was tired, we instead took a grand taxi to Rabat at the "standard" fare of 400 dhs. Driving in Morocco at night, now there's an adventure. I don't recall what Charlotte thought of this... The next morning Charlotte was really in Morocco.
Well, if I remember correctly, me missing the plane was not entirely my fault, as I was still sick with a bout of bronchitis acquired while doing interviews in Lithuania. I don't really remember much about the taxi ride, although it was probably good that it was at night because then I couldn't see all of the on-coming traffic we just
missed, nor the pot holes that we swerved to avoid. I do remember thinking that the taxi was fairly cheap, especially considering the distance, when compared to what I paid for similar transportation in Sweden even to take a taxi from home to the train station. (Never mind that most of the taxis driven in Sweden are fairly new BMWs which are actually equipped with seatbelts, of all things.) I guess, though, that was nothing particularly memorable about this particular taxi ride. The kidnapping was not to occur until several days later.
I do remember my first day in Rabat, which probably gave me a false sense of complacency
. I had braced myself for the worst, and was pleasantly surprised with how easy and unfettered we could move around the city. The highlight of this was of course the medina, where we were able to purchase Moroccan handicrafts galore
. I certainly bought my fill of Morrocan leather lampshades, for about the equivalent of 5 USD each. (I compared prices when I got back to Sweden, and the same type of "imported" good would cost around 600 SEK). Of course, then Brian had to help me haul them home (and then mail them to me in Sweden when they were too bulky to take on the plane.)
Yes, well, the shopping was fun. I was kind of like a kid in a candy store. And we did drink mint tea. Lots and lots of mint tea. And then there was a mad dash back to your apartment because there were no western toilets readily available in the medina...
Casablanca was AMAZING. What struck me was that when walking through the older parts of the city, and around the train station, you still get the sense (and smell!) that you are in a developing country. At the same time, you can go down boulevards that are as posh as any western capital city. Complete with MANGO stores and all. I guess the idea is contrast: poverty and opulance, old fashioned and modern. I guess Brian probably has more to say about this than I do, with your expertise on the history of urban architecture in Morroco and all. And the Hassan II Mosque was definitely one of the highlights of the trip (and thankfully an entirely seperate memory than the desert aventure
). I remember being very impressed that they had a heated floor (which is also quite common in Swedish bathrooms).