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Touted!

My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - Journey in an Unknown Culture

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [1303] | Comments [1] | Scholarship Entry

We were tricked off the train some 300 kilometres short of our destination. Of course, no one is tricked willingly and it was only later that we realised, in one of those forehead slapping moments in which everything makes sense except how gullible you are.

We are on the train from Tangiers to Fez, gliding through an arid, rocky expanse of low scrub-land baking in the North African sun. A man enters our carriage and introduces himself as Foyed from Tangiers. His eyes are close together but he has a smile that takes up quite a lot of his face, I suspect this had served him well in the past.
We tell him we're going to Fez, he lets out a low whistle and winces.
“Fez is the most dangerous place in all of Morocco,” He declares, adding that we might be alright even if Moroccan people are scared to go there.
I look to my friend with the dreadlocks, he looks to my friend with the red hair who then looks at me. That's how we end up in Foyed's cousin's shop in the sea-side town of Larache, waiting while Foyed makes some kind of arrangements. Soon he returns on a donkey and cart driven by a skinny youth with a droopy, downy moustache.
Our destination is a tiny village glowing white on the crest of a hill, I can see the minaret of the single mosque poking hopefully into the air. The road snakes gently upwards between big shaggy gum trees and fields of plump watermelons. We exchange small, puzzled looks between each other, looks that say: “We were on a train to Fez not long ago...” But the trees shade the road quite pleasantly and Foyed has bought some cold beers in a black garbage bag, so the looks don't last.
We make our way through the narrow streets and arrive at a gate open to a small, brightly painted compound. Foyed encourages us to apologise to the donkey who is now sweating with a glint of quiet resentment in its eyes. We are ushered in to meet the diminutive Mohammed, who greets us warmly with a cheery salaam and quotes an absurdly cheap price for a room and three meals a day.
We stay for a week and a half, eating fresh eggs every morning, exploring the cool shade of Larache's Medina and swimming in the dark blue sea. At night time we try our seemingly hilarious Arabic out on Mohamed's family and eat chicken, cous-cous and watermelon. Too soon we have to leave, to return to Spain for a prior engagement. Saying our goodbyes, we wind our way back down between the gumtrees to the train station, this time bouncing along in an ancient Mercedes taxi.
Back in Tangiers we meet someone with a guide book, it says that Fez is the most beautiful city in Morocco and not especially dangerous. Foyed touted us and I wish I'd thanked more profusely for it.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011

Comments

1

Ha! Great story about how sometimes it can be best to keep your guidebook closed... even though you got tricked out Fez.

  aro-tron Mar 28, 2011 9:17 PM

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