Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rockin Like a Moroccan Part I

In May of 2006 a British friend of mine and I somehow came to the decision that we were going to go to Morocco for around 10 days at the earliest and cheapest opportunity. I wanted to visit because I had two good friends living there and my traveling companion, DBH wanted to go because he was on the search for a wife and Morocco is known for having ample single women looking for husbands.

DBH was all of 18 years old and actually looked more like 16 at the time. He is of mixed race (as they call it here in the UK) and originally from the south of England but had moved to Birmingham not to long after I had. DBH had received his full UK driving licence just recently and purchased a used Nissan Micra that he drove us to his hometown in, the afternoon prior to the day of our flight. We took the M40 south towards London where we eventually changed to another motorway that brought us to his mom's house. We visited his mother and brother for a short time before heading over to another area named Slough that is not to far west of London where DBH had arranged a place for us to stay the night.

The next day a mutual friend drove us to London Gatwick airport (one of London's 5 airports) which was where we had booked our departing flight that would take us to Marrakesh, Morocco. Atlas Blue airline is one of the many low-cost airlines operating out of London and their website had quoted me a roundtrip price of about £85 each. We were dropped off curbside and proceeded to check in our luggage inside the terminal. The line through security was pretty long but moved fairly quickly and before we knew it we were sitting at the gate waiting to board the plane. Unfortunately the flight ended up being delayed for about an hour and we didn't have much to do except look around for the person with the most outrageously over-weight and/or over-sized piece of carry-on luggage.

I do not remember much about the actual flight itself although it would have taken about three and a half hours to fly over the English Channel, France, Spain and most of Morocco. Upon arrival we were met by a bus at the foot of the aircraft stairs that brought us to immigration where our passports were stamped. I had arranged a place to stay for the night in Marrakesh for DBH and I with a friend who is married to a woman from Marrakesh. Unfortunately I did not know that I would be asked for his address and it held us up for a little bit longer than normal at immigration.

Once cleared to enter the country as tourists we went to the luggage belt and awaited our bags. After a short time they showed up and now we had to stand in a line for custom's inspection. Our turn came and we had to load our bags onto a conveyor belt that led into an X-ray machine. DBH's bags where deemed to be ok but I was asked to open my bag up because of odd shapes on the official's screen.

I had been asked by my ex-wife to bring some diapers from the UK to Morocco for my son as apparently they are much more expensive there. Her family is originally Moroccan although her and most of her siblings were born in France. Her parents had had the fortune and foresight to build a house close to the capital city (named Rabat) as a vacation home.

Upon complying with the customs officer's request to open my bag up for his viewing pleasure he saw 4 large packs (84 diapers in a pack I believe.) of diapers and asked why I was bring diapers when I had to child with us. In his mind I was bringing these diapers into Morocco to sell and make a profit. I explained to him the situation and he reluctantly allowed me to pass without paying any duty tax.

Once on the other side of customs my friend, Karim, who has lived in the UK for most of his life was there to greet us. We caught a taxi back to his place and sat in his in living room catching up on things for the majority of the night. The next day we went to visit Marrakesh's main tourist attraction known as Jamaa' al Fna, a market and square that I imagine has had the same vibe today as it did 500 years ago. In fact this main square has a history going back over a thousand years!

The market behind the main square was a maze of alleyways with hundreds of shops selling everything from clothing and refreshments to cheap Chinese made toys and authentic hand carved Moroccan household items.

But after the sun set the main square became a regular old 5-ring circus! I am talking about monkeys, belly dancers, fortunetellers, and much more. It was a feast for the eyes! You almost wouldn't believe that the same square you saw during the day was the same one you witnessed at night.

At the center of this circus were perhaps 50 open-air restaurants that were setup directly after sunset in the center of the main square. Each restaurant was like a stall with benches around the grills and men yelling things out in probably 5 different languages trying to convince you to eat at their particular stall.

We did and the food was amazing.

Upon returning back to Karim's house we began to prepare for our planned train ride to Oujda (On the Moroccan/Algerian border) with a few hours stop at my former mother-in-law's house near the capital. After packing our bags I decided to jump in the 'shower', which consisted of a closet with a drain on the floor and a tap with a showerhead attached to it, when all of a sudden I heard a continuous loud banging sound.

I had never experienced even a small earthquake at this point in my life but this sound was so loud that this is exactly what I thought it was, so I froze. The extremely loud banging sound continued in what seemed like a steady evenly timed manner. I changed my mind and thought to myself, "Someone must be dragging something extremely heavy down the stairs of the building. Perhaps a grand piano."

Finally the sound stopped and I was about to complete removing the soap from my body when Karim knocks on the door and calls my name loudly. I answer him "Yes" in an inquisitive manner and he then asks if I am okay. I am slightly baffled at his question and tell that I am fine.

Not a few seconds later he is banging on my door again yelling frantically that something is wrong with DBH and he needs me to come out and help him. I am standing naked in this closet with a 'shower' in it with my friend on the other side of the door telling me to hurry and help him. Not knowing what is going on I continue to dry myself off with my towel not wanting to put my clothes on while I still have a wet body. He frantically bangs on the door again yelling my name and telling me to hurry and come help him.

I break and just throw the towel around my waste and come out of the shower. Karim tells me that DBH is in the toilet, which is directly next to the shower closet but that he is not answering. And then the cause of the banging noise clicks inside of my head.

While trying to hold the towel around my waist I push on the bottom of the door that opens into the toilet room but it is no use. It does not budge. After both Karim and I put a lot of equal pressure on the lower part of the door and the middle part we manage to create a gap of about 4 or 5 inches and I manage to squeeze my still wet head, shoulder and left arm into the bathroom and see DBH sitting with his back against the door having a seizure.


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