It was a long and often arduous trip. We were given a guide who we thought was from the Moroccan government tourism office but it turns out had been subcontracted to a car rental place.
So here we had this idiot, Simo, who told us things like, “This says Coca-Cola in Arabic,” when it was written on the distinctly shaped bottle that Coke had spent billions on so that it would be instantly recognizable in any fucking language. Or, “That is a jet ski. That is a train.”
Simo had no real information. He was late most days and hung over–and all this in a Muslim country where at least you think you might we’d get a sober, if stupid, guide. He was nefarious and asked for gas money and took us, of course, to stores where we paid too much and he was paid a lot.
We also had an adorable driver named Omar who spoke maybe 20 words of French and then Arabic. Simo tried to keep him in line by buying him a prostitute the first night they went to a disco. But in the end, it was Omar who rose up against Simo and called the car rental boss, who we, in the dark, still thought was the Moroccan tourist bureau that had supposedly sponsored us. Omar told on Simo and we got a brilliant guide named Abbes who tried to fill us in on the history of Morocco in the week that was left.
In a moment of boredom and frustration, we taught Omar to say ASSHOLE when Simo got into the car.
We saw Morocco from shining sea to orange desert. We slept under the stars and rode camels; we hiked into gorges, saw Kasbahs made of sand, and the world’s largest mosque standing on the cliff side in Casablanca reflecting the words in the Koran, “And He shall build his castle by the sea,” or at least our wise guide, Abbes, told us this. Simo would have said that is where they built it, and that is all. Similar to his response when we asked about the significance of the Moroccan flag and Simo’s said, “Flags have no meaning.” Ahhhh, the future of tourism.
I hope not.
We went to the hammam, a traditional Moroccan bath. We wandered around Fez and Marrakech in 127 degree heat, finding the shade in every soak (market place). We came home laden with rugs, baskets, skewers for shi-ka-bab and wild bright shoes. We had amazing meals like a couscous of fruit in a Riad (small hotel) where we ate in front of a pool surrounded by palm trees. Or fish caught and cooked in the plaza off the sea in Essaouira. We ate at roadside stands, lamb beef, pumpkin and watermelon. I ate as much local yogurt as I could thinking that it would give me lots of local flora and fauna, in a good way and it seems to have inoculated me. We knew many folks who complained of stomach stuff, but luckily not us.
We climbed the steep stairs in every palace, museum and Medersa (an Islamic college). We were made nearly drunk with the beauty and complicated patterns that adorn everything from gates (Babs) to walls, gardens and schools. As Islam does not allow the depiction of human or animal forms the decoration is pattern, tiles, scroll like writings, carved wood ceilings and all combined in dizzying profusion covering the world’s largest mosque, the Hassan II in Casablanca to ancient 11th century walls in Fez.
More to come…