After a great introduction to Africa in the lovely Port of Tanger at Morocco’s Northern tip, I had hopped on a bus to continue my adventures in Northern Morocco.
Adventures in Northern Morocco – Casablanca
I was super hungry once I reached Casablanca, so I tried to find a cafe where I could sit down for a meal. In Tanger, cafes always sold food, but it turns out that cafes in Casablanca only sold coffee, not food. Not even snacks. They also seemed to be full of men just hanging out watching a world cup match. Ahh, the perils of travelling in Africa during the FIFA World Cup!
It was time to give up on the idea of getting some food and hope that tea and Wifi could take its place. Once online, I’d received a message from my pre-arranged host saying that he could no longer host me. Uh oh! Panic mode engaged! I madly searched for another host. Luckily a couple of Khalids that I had been conversing with in the weeks prior to my trip came to the rescue. Khalid is a common name in Morocco!
Meeting the Locals
The first Khalid, let’s call him Khalid number 1, tried to organise a car to drive the 70 kilometres from the town he was in, to pick me up. He would then drive me the 70 kilometres back to his town and host me there. The Second Khalid, let’s call him Khalid no 2, also offered to help me out by picking me up and hosting me at his place in Casablanca. Aren’t Morrocans awesome?
Obviously, it was much easier to stay in Casablanca to save Khalid number 1 a 3 hour round trip. So I went to Khalid number 2’s house and met his housemates. One of the housemates was hilarious. He was walking around dancing whilst on a video call to his girlfriend. No talking, just dancing. Then he just handed the phone to me, so I could talk to his girlfriend while he continued dancing. I guess if you gotta dance, you gotta dance!
Exploring the City
After chatting with Khalid number 2, his housemates and the girlfriend for a bit, Khalid drove me and one of his housemates around for food. Then a tour of the city which included a drive-by of the biggest mosque in Africa, Hassan II Mosque. We ended up eating near the beach which is apparently where everyone, from partygoers to families, to rose and toy sellers, came out to play at night. The beachside promenade was lined with restaurants and clubs. The clubs seem to serve a slightly different purpose to what they do in other places. There was no pounding music and drunken dancing, just people sitting around and chatting while smoking and eating.
The next morning, Khalid number 1 didn’t want to get up, so his friend drove me to the train station. There I boarded a train for a short ride to a little town, 70 kilometres away, called Settat, where I would meet Khalid number 2. Once I’d bought my ticket, I went to a small snack shop at the station to get some food. They had tacos! But they were a little bit different to your average taco. They were just meat and vegetables wrapped in tortillas. I guess you don’t go to Morrocco for Mexican food!
The train was not airconditioned, but I didn’t become aware of that until more than halfway through the journey. At that point, I was sitting right in the direct path of the sun. Let’s just say that last part of the ride was uncomfortable enough that I was really glad to exit the train once we arrived!
Adventures in Northern Morocco – Settat
I caught up on some writing in a cafe near the station whilst waiting for Khalid number 2 to come and get me. As I was leaving the cafe, the staff called out to Khalid to say that I had to pay, even though I’d only had some hot water. Apparently, they charge 11 dirhams (€1) for using their WiFi. But only if you’re a tourist. Of course they don’t tell you that before you sit down. It’s not normal practice in Morocco but as Khalid later told me, this cafe is infamous for ripping people off. Even locals. They get away with it because they have the best coffee in town. The things people do for coffee!
Khalid and I hopped in a taxi to get to his district. After the taxi had driven off, I realised that my sports water bottle must’ve fallen out onto the seat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the taxi number, so we decided to check at the taxi changeover depot later in the day.
Upon arriving at the home of Khalid’s family in Settat, I was greeted with hugs and kisses! These kind people welcomed me like a member of the family. How sweet! After a small rest, Khalid took me to the local butcher so I could buy my dinner. But his family wouldn’t let me cook it. Or even help them to cook it They insisted that because I was their guest, they had to take care of it for me. This Moroccan hospitality is really something!
They insisted that I drink some tea and talk while I waited for them to prepare my dinner. Moroccan tea is pretty awesome, so I didn’t argue. It has fresh mint added to it before it is boiled. That means that it’s fairly strong, but oh so delicious!
After dinner, Khalid and I went for a walk up a hill to see the sunset. On the way up a couple of boys walking a dog called out to me. After they’d asked all the standard questions aimed at foreigners, one of them told me I had “beautiful hairs”.
On the way back down, Khalid flagged down a taxi to see if we could find my water bottle. The driver told us to get in, despite the fact that he already had a passenger onboard. Apparently, taxis in Settat will take as many passengers as they can carry, then the driver will just decide what each person pays when they want to get out.
Upon finding the depot closed, we walked to the main square to check out a local craft maker fair that was happening. While we were there, we searched some local shops for a small Moroccan flag to add to my collection. Khalid offered to get it for me, because he believed that he would be able to get a cheaper price due to the fact that he was Moroccan. After walking around the town for a bit, we went back to the family home for more food and tea.
Schedule? What Schedule?
The next morning, Khalid’s family had kindly prepared for me a delicious breakfast. After I’d finished eating, Khalid took me to the train station. The taxi depot was just down the road from the train station, so we made a quick stop there. Unfortunately, my bottle wasn’t there, but there was a heap of other things there. Like keys, handbags and other miscellaneous things that had been left in taxis.
Adventures in Northern Morocco – Getting to Marrakech
Once at the station, we had to wait in line for a while, so by the time we got to the ticket window, it was 3 minutes after the scheduled departure time for the train that was yet to arrive. We waited on the platform for a further 6 minutes before it arrived. The delays didn’t end there either. About 20 minutes into the trip, the train just stopped in the middle of nowhere for 30 minutes. Almost as suddenly as it had stopped, it started moving again, albeit it very slowly, only to stop again just 10 minutes later. For an hour! A few more random stops along the way turned a 3 hour train trip into a 5 hour train trip. I guess the arrival and departure times indicated on the timetable are only suggestions.
At the end of the train line in Marrakech, I had to transfer to a bus at the bus station behind the train station. The driver ushered me on to the bus and I took my seat thinking that it would be leaving soon, but of course, I wasn’t to be that lucky! I guess the bus driver was waiting for the bus to fill up, so I was sat there for nearly an hour before we moved. It seemed my half day trip had now turned into an almost full day trip. That’s just how things work in Africa!
More Moroccan knowledge
– Moroccans will go out of their way to help someone in need
– Locals can’t comprehend having a meal without bread
– schedules really, really don’t mean a thing
– Moroccan families just can’t do enough for their guests
The adventure continues into Southern Morocco and Western Sahara.