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O Fim duma Viagem

Another Time, Another Town, Another Everything

MOROCCO | Tuesday, 22 July 2014 | Views [392]

The Moroccan consensus on Rabat, at least among people of our age, tends to be that it is a boring city.

From the ftour on the beach:

Fati (who has lived her entire life in Rabat): “What do you think of Rabat?”

Us: “It's nice. We like it.”

Her: (With a skeptical look): “Why?”

Later, Mohammed would echo similar sentiments when he said Rabat was a boring town. So, according to him, was Casablaanca. Not having seen more than the airport, I wouldn't really know. But according to him, Marrakesh was where it was at.

According to everyone, Marrakesh was where it was at. Both of my teachers said that we could ot leave Morocco without seeing Marrakesh. Some people on the beach said the same thing. So we started planning a trip to Marrakesh for an upcoming weekend. Then we went to talk to Nisrine, and she told us that Marrakesh would be even hotter than Senegal. Change of plans.

With Marrakesh off the table, we were torn between Chefchouen and Tangiers.

 Tangiers is a major city that is as close to Europe as you can get while still being in Africa. You can stand on the coast and wave to Spain. It's also probably the most (westernized) literary city in Africa. William Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch there. Tennessee Williams wrote several less important plays there. Many other authors stayed there, though they were either less well known or less well associated with that place. Even so, it's enough to give it a fascinating literary history.

 Chefchouen is blue. And it's known for weed.

 Somehow, after much back and forth, we ended up scheduling more time in Chefchouen. I don't think I need to say that it wasn't my idea. It had a decent amount to do with Natasha and Cynthia's sociology professor. He was Belgium, but his father was originally from Chefchouen. He told them that they shouldn't take the bus from Rabat to Chefchouen because the winding mountain roads made it unpleasant,so we should spend half a day in Tangier and use that both ways. He also said that if we stayed at Auberge Dardara we could take mule ride into the mountains and stay there for the night. After a bit of conferring, we decided to take that bus anyway, spend half a day in Tangiers on Sunday, and spend two nights in the auberge, one of them in the woods.

 We made the reservation online, canceled the other reservations they had (all claimed free cancellation. One of them didn't give us any problems, the other wanted to charge us 80 euros until we complained to the site that it had lied to us) and figured out time for the bus tickets. On Thursday, we went for bus tickets to Chefchouen.

 We asked Nisrine where we should go. She told us that we should take the tram to Agdal, and ask around there how to get to the CTM. When we asked if we had time to go now, she said yes, then checked the time and said “not unless you take a taxi.” So we got together, split into two different vehicles, and took a taxi to Agdal.

 Erika and Cynthia told their taxi driver to go to the CTM in Agdal. Natasha, Nathan, and I told our taxi driver to go to the McDonalds in Agdal. Our logic was that we would meet up there and then ask people in the street, like Nisrine had told us.

 We stayed outside the McDonalds for a little bit, then realized the others probably weren't coming. So we started wandering around looking for it, or for people to ask. Preferably people who lived in Rabat didn't look like they were guarding “jewellery stores,” by which we mean “fronts for the Moroccan mafia.”

 I stopped a man in a uniform as he was asking by to ask him (in French) if he knew where the CTM was. He shook his head, then resumed walking past.

 Then it was Natasha's turn. She asked two woman who were walking past. After a little bit of conferring, they suggested we go to Sale, so they were about as helpful as the guy in uniform.

 We started walking towards the tram track under the theory that we should follow Nisrine's advice as closely as possible. Maybe the people standing over by the tram would know. We nominated Natahn to talk this time. He wnet over, and started a pretty friendly conversation with a construction worker (go figure) who knew French (a little surprising.) As the conversation went on, and on, I moved closer to listen in. The guy was giving instructions! Progress!

 He gave us specific directions, which I caught the tail end of. We started following the directions, though it sounded like it was far away. A block or two later, we decided to stop another woman. She asked if we were looking for the administrative office, or the actual station. We didn't quite know (Nisrine hadn't specified) but the latter sounded preferable. She suggested we take a taxi. Which we did, only we told it to go back to the center because we were running late.

We ended up getting back around five minutes late. Nisrine, while introducing the person who was giving a lecture (about Arabs in cinema) included the line “he came all the way from Meknes, and he was still here on time.” Meanwhile, Nathan, Natasha and I had already agreed that since Nisrine had told us we could just ask around and get clear enough directions, it was her fault we were late. Nisrine: “I told you to do that if you took the tram. For the taxi you were supposed to tell the driver to take you to the CTM.” So apparently it was OK for us to wander around for ages having no idea where to go, as long as we were getting there and back by tram. (And not late for the lecture, which would have been impossible with that strategy.)

After the lecture was over (it was a documentary followed by a discussion. The documentary included a lot of clips of Arabs in different films to explain how they typically villify Arabs. It was informative, though it behaved as if other negative racial stereotypes had been completely erased, which they're pretty clearly not. Cynthia had taken a class on depictions of Asians in American cinema the past semester, and some of the parallels were interesting. The other main thing I noticed is that, though the documentary was trying to make a case for how destructive these ideas were for the views of ordinary Americans, the only film I'd seen that appeared in the documentary was The Lion King. Then again, I'm not exactly a good example of an ordinary American. [Me: “I did recognize one of the actors!” Nathan: “Orlando Bloom?” Me: “Actually, no. Alexander Siddig.” Nathan: “Who?” Me: “Julian Bashir. From Star Trek Deep Space Nine.]) Nathan and I tried again to get to the CTM station.

This time, we told the driver to go the the CTM in Agdal. He seemed confused, so we told him we wanted to take a bus. He accepted that, and off we drove to what was hopefully the right place.

The driver was pretty friendly. His French was good enough that we could have small conversations.

The first time we passed an interesting building that I didn't recognized, I asked him what it was. It was not a museum, but it was a place where you could go to look at historical objects. He said the word in Darija, but I'd forgotten it by the time I realized that I should write it down so I could ask someone the next day.

We passed a botanical garden, which was really pretty. I want to be back in a botanical garden. That one looked pretty deserted, though.

We also drove past an area labeled with Hebrew. Nathan was the one to notice and ask the taxi driver about it. He did not try and claim that it was a Koranic school (yes. I'm still bitter about that) but said it was a Jewish (and French!) cemetery. Then he talked about how they're used to be a lot of Jews in Rabat, but with the founding of Israel many of them had left. And they were all rich. On Saturdays, outside the “Jewish mosque,” there would be a lot of nice cars. Having just come from a very academic poli sci discussion of the history of Jews in Morocco, the perspective of a taxi driver we literally found on the street was an interesting addition.

He brought us to a nice little building that had sections marked for arrivals and departures and asked if we were coming straight back out after buying our tickets. We were, so he waited for us. Nathan and I went in, waited in line for a bit, bought our tickets, and went back out. The credit card machine didn't work (hardly surprising, though still a little disappointing) and there was a coffee vending machine that could make hazelnut coffee. It was highly tempting, especially since I knew I still had a poli sci article to read and summarize. But I resisted.

On the ride back, the taxi driver asked where we were going. We said Chefchouen, and he started talking about it. I think he might have used a bit of Darija, or my brain was just tired, because there was a significant lag between one of his comments and me realizing that he was talking about smoking weed. I changed from a neutral smile to shaking my head, going “not for us, not for us.” (According to Mohammed, it doesn't matter. It just hangs in a cloud, and you'll get high whether you want to or not.)

When it came time to pay, I realized that I was a few dirham short. I tried to shake all the change out of my wallet, and asked Natahn if he had some (taxis are terrible about not having change. The ride to Agdal, I paid with a twenty for a 17.40 ride and got back two fifty cent pieces with the brief explanation that was all he had.) The driver assured me that it was fine. I managed to get the two fifty cent pieces out and add them to the fare, though it still wasn't quite enough. But the driver said it was fine, so we thanked him several times and got out.

We had tickets for the bus. We knew where we were going. Nothing left but to do but pack and get psychologically ready to leave Rabat for a weekend.

Tags: film, school, taxi, transportation, travel

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