Morocco brief

I got assistance onto the ferry at Terifa, to take me across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangeer, Morocco. A kind, friendly Moroccan exchanged my British pounds for Moroccan (D), which was approximately 15 D to £1. The journey across the Strait of Gibraltar took about forty-five minutes with an hour reversal in the process.

I had been warned that Tangeer was rough at night and dangerous and had nothing attractive for the tourist, except pick-pockets and beggers. I met a young backpacker from Finland and we decided to go together to find a taxi to take us to the train station – we were both heading to Marrakesh.

My passport was stamped on the boat and I crossed into Moroccan territory without incident. The port was almost deserted, it being around 8.00 PM. One Moroccan man approached and claimed he new where the taxis were and said a price for the journey to the train station. He asked for some money for showing us to the taxi rank. We just kept saying thank you and yes and no simultaneously. He was friendly enough. We were deposited at the train station ten minutes later after a quiet ride. The station was a modern looking building with white marble everywhere. We both perchased a ticket for the sleeper to marrakesh, a journey of some eleven hours then ventured outside to sample the air and wait for the departure. We had at least two hours to wait. It was a cool evening with a chill in the air. Tangeer held nothing of note and was so quiet it felt still. Once on the train, we bedded down to sleep and I was only disturbed once when the guard checked our tickets. I enjoyed the journey and slept soundly, waking an hour before the trained pulled into marrakesh. At the taxi rank my friend and I parted company, he going to his hotel and I going to my hostel near the main square. I payed 50 D for the taxi because I had no change. The hostel was comprised of two buildings separated by the centrol square named Djemaa el-Fna. I was met by an old man who spoke little English and some French. This building housed the dorms, but I needed to check in at the main house. This building held the reception. It was a lovely house (Medima) with comfortable couches and rugs scattered about the marble floor. It was where the included breakfast was taken every morning between 8.00 AM and noon. I checked in, payed for two nights and was walked back through the square to the dorms. I was given a bed in a ground floor room which contained four beds, but no bunks. There was one bathroom for the entire building. It was durty and the shower had no hot water.

I slept for several hours and on awaking, asked the old man to take me to get some food. I also got him to wash my clothes. He took me to a durty kind of café, a five minute walk from the hostel. I had a bottle of sprite and a kind of spicy casserole. It contained meat and some vegetables plus a round peace of bread. I soon discovered bread is served with every meal and in large quantities in Morocco. The meal cost me 50 D, though I learnt later I could barter for everything. In the afternoon, I went for a Moroccan massage. I had heard that the hostel could arrange massages so I asked for one. I was taken to a small house around the corner and went up some steep stairs into a narrow room. I removed my clothes and lay on a bed. A large man then rubbed oil into my back and legs and gave me a heavy Moroccan massage. He moved my heavy muscles and pounded my body. It lasted an hour and was impressive. It cost me 140 D. On my first or second evening I met an English backpacker and we explored the square together. I heard the commotion, the drums, the singing, different performers, all trying to make money. The centrol square was jammed packed every evening and it was just as caotic by day. Mopeds road in and out of the croud – not caring who or what they hit. Men everywhere shouted at us, asking if we liked Morocco or did we want to buy something. It was interesting and very different from Western society. My companion and I wandered around sampling different refreshments and enjoying the wild ambiance. We tasted orange juce at one stall and had a kabab at another. There were outside restoraunts with tressle tables. Paper place mats were layed and food put upon them. Once you were seated, a large round peace of bread would land, you gave your order and nothing happened for ages. Eventually, the food arrived, greecy and hot. I liked the small sausages and I also tried a kabab on a skewer.

I considered visiting some other cities, Casa blanca or Rabat, the capital, but once I had been tricked into spending 600 D on a magnificent belt and discovering my funds were lower than I had figured, I stayed put and waited for my time to pass.

I wandered the streets and square by day after taking the usual hostel breakfast. This consisted of bread, jam, a tiny glass of orange juce and tea/coffee. Their tea was interesting, peppermint flavoured in a small tea pot. It was poored into a glass resembling a shot glass. It was very hot and had to be sipped. However, it was refreshing.

I wandered round the market streets absorbing the mixture of sounds and smells. I got lost on many occasions and had to ask people to show me the way back. This cost me 10 or 15 D. one Arab gave me a ride through the market on his moped, which was a frilling sensation. It cost me 20 D, but it was an experience. The machine wobbled through the narrow streets passing different marketeers yelling out various prices and trying to get the foreigner to come and buy their goods.

It was on one of my many wanders that I got my cane broken! I was standing in the shade in a narrow street, about the wipth of two cars when this young man ran through the narrow space and stood right on my cane. It snapped in two. I swore and bent to inspect the damage. It was broken and almost useless. A man in a stall saw what had occurred and offered to mend it. He said it would cost 100 D! I laughed and said “To much!” he laughed as well and asked me to sit on a small wooden stool. We chatted as his friend put some wood around the break and tied it with strong tape. I thanked them and continued my explorations. The cane was not perfect but at least usable. Oh the joys of traveling blind!

I met the few people who became my friends on my third or fourth day. The first guy I met was an Italian named Nicola. I later met a Swiss Guy named Andreas. They were both in my room. I got chatting with the Italian first, he was in Morocco to explore the desert for a week or so. The Swiss was doing likewise. I told them about my travels and they were impressed. Nicola thought I was a bit strange, not being able to see yet using language of the sighted etc. Plus, the fact I liked to sing when I walked, which sounded strange to him. The three of us spent an afternoon walking the streets, eating in a few cafes and talking about travel. We met the girls in an alley when looking for the way to a kind of museum-palis. There were four of them, they were from England. They were studying in Spain and had come to Morocco on a ten day sight-seeing trip before returning to Spain to re-commence studies. Their nanes were Claire, Nisha, Hayley and Franchesca. We aall just fell into conversation and decided to team up and explore together. The palis we found was largely just ruins with a large square with trees in one corner and some old crumbling steps which led to a covered room in another corner. The weather was hot and it was quiet in the ruins – away from the traffic. It was outside the city walls which made a change from narrow alleys and the centrol plasa. In the evening, we went for a meal in an expensive restoraunt. The food was delicious, I had a lamb dish with rice and it was fantastic. There was a real table-cloth and cutlery. Nicola had met a local guy in his mid fifties, he took us to the restoraunt and afterwards suggested a night club. WE took two taxis and ended up in an upstairs place that contained old couples dancing to some strange loud music. I drank water as I new we would be charged an extortionate price for any drinks. I chatted to the English girls who were interesting and very pleasant. I especially liked Hayley who was studying English literature. We eventually left the club after an argument over the drink prices. Our Arab friend was drunk and got a little agressive, he was funny and acted strangely. I suggested walking back to the centre, the night was young, it was warm and it would cost less – I was down to my last 100 D by then! We arrived back at the hostel around 1.00 AM and I joined Nicola and one of the girls on the ruth patio for some air while they shared a joint. It was relaxing being with like-minded young people.

Marrakesh was interesting for two or three days, but on ones own, it quickly became borring. However, sharing its delights with other people made it more entertaining. The girls marveled how I managed to get about blind and seemingly unaided. I just smiled and said I trusted my ability.

When the group left me to go on their various tours for a couple of days, I mostly rested in my dorm, only going on one main excursion. It was Nicola who returned first and he met up with some more of his friends who he introduced to me. They were reg and antoinette from Belgium. We met them around 8.00 Pm in the square and went for food, I had sausages as usual. After, we went to a bar for some drinks. They were interesting though a little quiet. Regie had large hands and Antoinette was gentle. On my penultimate evening, the English Girls along with Andreas returned from the coast and we all went for dinner and Drinks in the Djemaa el-Fna. I got to sit next to Clair this time and everyone gave me their sausages, which delighted me immensely!

We all caught up on each others events and laughed about different happenings. Andreas got teased about having been alone with four attractive girls!

Once the evening was over, I got kissed by all four girls and the following morning, Nicola gave me some money so I could get to the airport. We said farewell and I went to catch my flight back to England to wash my clothes and prepare for another adventure.

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