Existing Member?

O Fim duma Viagem

To Rabat

MOROCCO | Tuesday, 10 June 2014 | Views [518] | Comments [1]

I'd never flown to Paris before, so I had no idea what the Charles deGaulle airport was like. This might have been good if I'd been in a “I wonder what's at the end of this hallway” sort of mood. Since I was instead in a “Please let this hallway lead to L23” kind of mood, Charles de Gaule was a near-constant disappointment.

I got off the plane pretty quickly, and then walked down a long hallway. Turn the corner and follow the sign for connecting flights. Double-check the time of boarding and current time (adjusting manually, because I haven't connected my phone to a network yet.) Run/walk down another long hallway. And another one.

And another one. (There was glass, and I could look through that to the concourse below. I didn't see my gate down there either.) And anohter hallway. And then I reached a board where all the gates were listed and an airport official checked my boarding passs and said “you'll be in the next building. Take the shuttle and get out at the first stop.”

I felt like Q-bert after he's fallen off a ledge, but I just thanked the security officer, walked where he'd told me, ran down the flight of stairs, and arrived at the same time the shuttle was. I got in, held a pole, confirmed that the shuttle was heading to terminal L, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

There were people coming, but I hoped the shuttle would pull away before they arrived. Thehn I realized that was mean, and there was a decent chance they were also hurrying to make a connecting flight. So I hoped that the shuttle would leave immediately after they got on, which it did.

I got off and ran down yet another hallway. And I noticed a sign for L23 (technically, L21-L53, but it was close enough) so I started heading towards then. Then I realized I first needed to go through security, and I'd missed the entrance for that. So I went back, confirmed that I was going to the right line, and wove my way through the section dividing things. Fortunately, there was little to no line, but still. I really needed to go through security again?

I threw out the bottle of water I'd grabbed last minute from the plane, took everything out of my pockets (again), tore off my shoes, and placed laptops in their own bins. Then I threw everything (except the water) back into my bag and resumed my race against time.

I lost the race against time (ended up at the gate at 10:56) but still won at not missing my flight, which was far more important. When I arrived they'd moved the moved the boarding time to start at 10:00, but I didn't end up boarding until about 10:15, which made me regret not drinking my water before I went through security.

I'd previously e-mailed everyone else in the program (there were only 5 of them) and heard back from a couple of people. The one guy on the trip had mentioned being on the swim team. So when I saw someone with a Kansas City Swimming Shirt I asked if his name was Nathan. Then I introduced myself, and we started talking.

A bit later, another girl asked if we were on the IES program, and then introduced herself as Megan. We talked a bit more before boarding the plane.


The Rabat airport also had a lot of long hallways, but I was less irritated by them. In large part, I was trying to walk as slowly as I could without being too suspicious so that I could give Megan and Nathan time to catch up with me. Megan did as I was trying to figure out which line to stand in (not the one that said “diplomates,” but apart from that I had no ideas) and Nathan found us a little bit later. We had to hand in the white information sheets we'd received on the plane and show our passports. Proving I'd learned something from Japan, I'd written down the address of my host family so that I could enter that instead of “somewhere in Morocco” for where I was staying, and the process was pretty fast and painless.


 While we were standing waiting for luggage, another girl came over to introduce herself as Erika. When we all had our bags, we went out and met up with the other two students, Cynthia and Natasha, and two program guides, Nisrine and another who's name I can't find right now.


 I'd been told by a seemingly reliable source (my father) that I should always get cash at the ATM at the airport because they would usually work better than other ATMs. So after meeting up with the other people, I went straight to the ATM.. I chose the machine that had lines in French that I could read it and followed the instructions to insert my card. And I did, and entered my PIN, and said I wanted to withdraw money. Whereupon I realized I didn't know what the exchange rate was so I had to ask the other students what a good amount to withdraw was. (Approximately 8:1) It asked if I wanted a receipt, and I said yes.. Then, and only then, did it tell me that the request could not be processed.


 Another person from the program on the other machine got the same response, so we switched. This machine didn't lead me on as much (it told me after I tried requesting an amount that it couldn't process the request instead of giving me the false hope of a receipt.)

So I wnet to the currency excahgne, changed $40 into Moroccan dirhams because I wanted some form of working currency. (People did not like it when I tried to pay for something using 20 euros instead of 20 dirhams. Which was good, since they would have made out like bandits if they had.) And then we left the airport.

We rejoined as a group to pile into the van that would take us to the hotel. In filling out the form we discovered that Megan and I did not have numbers written underneath the Moroccan stamps in our passports. I had a memory of him writing the number on a blue sheet of paper and me handing the paper to another woman to get through to baggage claim, so I think that's what happened. We entered our passport numbers, and I hope there's never a day where that proves a problem. Worrying that the US won't let me back in the country because of Cuba is enough of a concern. I really don't need to be concerned that Morocco won't let me out either. Though if Morocco doesn't let me leave, the fact that the US doesn't want me either isn''t really a problem, now is it?)

The room was big (two beds and one cot for three people) and light with windows that could, with enough force, open to create a wonderful breeze. Better yet, the force required to make the windows open didn't stop them from closing ever again,

The only bad part was the TV. It blocked the wireless code (which was a sheet of paper under glass) and took two of the three outlets in the room. I unplugged it and got the wireless code from someone else's room, so it wasn't much of a problem.

We had four hours before we needed to meet up for dinner. I went around, surveyed the other rooms, and determined that everyone wanted to head out at some point in the future. After about an hour of fighting with the Internet (a slow connection is a pain when you're trying to use it to upload pictures from your phone and download them to your computer) I declared it was time to go out. The room with three girls (no one got a cot. Instead they got two connected rooms with two beds in each a bathroom) had gone out some time prior (in part to find an ATM) given up, and come back. Fortunately Nathan and my roommate (Erika) were happy to go out and explore. So after a struggle with the door (I'd realized quickly that something needed to be done with the handle, but it took me longer to realize that “something” was “pull on the handle.”) we were off.

Our fast task was to find a working ATM, and we succeeded magnificently at that. We didn't use the nearest ATM, but that wasn't part of oru criteria. The second thing we wanted we realized within sight of a kiosk that we wanted water, so we bought some. In dirhams! Eventually...

After that, we just wandered around aimlessly for some time. It went about the way aimless group wandering in a large group of people without goals or maps usually goes. We kept making circles and revisiting the few monuments we found particularly memorable before giving up and returning to our hotel.

 I sat down in the room for a bit, then went down a floor where there was a really nice area with a lot of chairs and sofas. I read there for a bit, trying not to fall asleep. Then I went up several flights of stairs in as lightly harder attempt, returned to my room for a bit, went back down, then went up to my room again. Finally, at 6:15 I suggested to Erika that we head down, so we did.

 Everyone was tired and not really talking. My few attempts at conversation fell flat with everyone being silent or saying “I don't know.” So I gave up and read until we were ready to go.

 We walked to the restaurant, which was a decent distance away, but the weather was nice. Once we were there we were introduced to two other people responsible for the program. They gave quick introductions, and then it was time for dancing.

 One of these days I'll go to a foreign country where I won't be expected to join in when other people are dancing. Unless Japan has changed a lot from how I remember it.

 The dancing was kind of fun, and certainly a good way to shake away sleepiness. There was a band that came in and sang and played instruments and danced and helped us do the latter . It would probably have been better if I'd understood Arabic. Certainly the Arabic-speaking people seemed to be amused at the lyrics. Apparently there was a lot of nonsensical lines.

We returned from the dancing to find plates of food. There were rolls that were essentially spring rolls with chicken or sea food and a sweet, cinnamon/almond chicken bun. There was also a plate with a carrot salad thing and a lot of other hot, somewhat spicy meat dishes I couldn't tell apart.

 There were also bread rolls, and I learned the proper way to eat in Morocco. Tear off a piece, use it to grab the food, and then put it all in your mouth. A lot like Ethiopian food, only injera is thin. Moroccan bread rolls are typical bread, with a hard and crunchy outside.

 They also brought out tea. Moroccan tea is incredibly sweet. At first taste, that's all I noticed. It took me a few more glasses (that day and the next) to notice how strong their tea is. Imagine you have a friend who likes their tea perfectly steeped and slightly sweet, and they always measure enough for one cup. Now imagine you take away half their water and they don't notice. The resulting tea is about how Moroccan tea tastes.

 After that there was more dancing. The first time, several other groups had danced, but always just with each other. This time, there were times that two people from different groups (mainly us and a group of Moroccans about our age) would dance together. At one point we ended up making a cogo line (I'm sure it made with the lyrics) and I ended up between two people I didn't know. Which was a nice, gentle way to jump into making friends with Moroccans.

 After that we returned to our tables to find dinner. I thought we'd just eaten dinner. Turned out, we'd just eaten appetizers. There were three dishes, chicken, beef, and chicken liver. I wasn't hungry enough to try the chicken liver, but I did sample the chicken and beef. The beef dish had artichoke hearts in it, so I gave the people at my table fair warning that I would eat all of the artichokes they left and took one of the halves. Nathan also took one. After enough pause that Nistrine could have taken some if she'd so wished, I ate the other two. After a bit more of a pause, I noticed that the table next to us still had an artichoke, asked if they'd mind, then helped myself to it.

 Mmm. Artichokes.

 The dancing began again. By this point the food combined with the “I've been awake for like 30 hours” and I really din't want to dance anymore. But I did, because everyone else was. Peer pressure is a terrible, terrible thing.

 We came back from that to find dessert. What more dessert do you need than artichokes> for Moroccans apparently something much sweeter. They had rice paper with almond milk and almonds on top, (which were pretty sweet) and orange slices with cinnamon (which were not.)

 Then we could leave the restaurant, but not until we'd made friends with the Moroccans we'd been dancing with earlier. (That was our first assignment.) Nathan an di went over and introduced ourselves, then passed around a sheet of paper for contact information while we chatted with whoever wasn't writing.

 Some people at the table spoke English, others didn't. Some of the former trried to reassure us that English was fine (they were as bad as the French) but, in part because my soon-to-be Arabic instructor was there, I plunged along in French. (“I don't need to practice my English. I need to practice my French,” a response that got a few smiles.)

 With that out of the way we could go back to the hotel and sleep. They'd said that we were having an early dinner for that express purpose, but we didn't finish until a bit after 9:00. If that's early, do I really want to know what normal is?


Tags: airports, food, program



"Charles de Gaule was a near-constant disappointment."
You're not the first person to say that. Booyah! (de Gaulle, during the student protests of 1968 called the students "bed-shitters" and sent in police. To generalize, he was kind of like a more influential, more charismatic, less paranoid Nixon)

Now I really want to try Moroccan tea.

  Jacob Jun 30, 2014 1:05 AM

About kakimono

Follow Me

Where I've been

Photo Galleries


My trip journals

See all my tags 



Travel Answers about Morocco

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.