So far, Morocco has been everything I expected Istanbul to be. Or at least Marrakesh has been. Warm, vibrant, energetic, colorful. The markets are still filled with handcrafts and ethnic goods, rather than Chinese imports (or if they are imported, they do a better job disguising it). The dry air is warm. The weather, sunny. Walking through the narrow streets of the Souks, one could be in 2011 or 1911, it’s hard to tell with the donkey’s pulling carts of fruit or bread, being led by robed men with thin leather sandals.
I actually landed in Casablanca on December 7th, and found my way to Oliveri’s Cafe, the meeting point set by Ali- my couch surfing host. Too much? Let’s back up. For the Moroccan leg of the journey I was hoping to couch surf or stay in hostels. In Casablanca, however, there were NO hostels! Or I correct myself, there was one- Hostel International- but it was booked full for the night of my arrival. Luckily I found a friendly couch surfer who would have me. From the airport, as per my habit, I stopped at the information desk when I landed. The resulting events encourage me to list “stop at the information desk upon landing” as an important travel tip. The attendant recommended the best way to get into town being to take the train (40 dirham) and then a cab (which shouldn’t cost more than 20 dirham). At the train station cabbies offered to take me to my final destination- for 70 or 80 dirham. I was insistent with my 20 and eventually found one who would take me for 25. At the cafe, I met Ali my host. We met, hit it off, had some dinner, etc. General good time with new people stuff. The next day I toured Casablanca, particularly enjoying the beaches and experiencing the Atlantic Ocean from the other side. That evening I took the train to Marrekesh (for only 90 dirham/$10).
While trying to hail a cab back to the train station, I met my first true travel angel. You’ll meet them, when you most need them and least expect them. Mine was not “angelic”. She was not tall and lean with golden hair and a white dress, sprouting feathery wings like an over grown pigeon. What she WAS was friendly and quick to smile, with curly brown hair. She was a little chubby, and was wearing a long black sweater over black leggings with grey boots. She was standing on my street corner, waiting to be picked up. I asked her if this was a good place to hail a cab to the train station. I must have looked inexperienced in the ways of hailing a cab in Casablanca during rush hour (which, of course, inexperienced I am). She took my hand like a child, and began to hail down each cab that passed, asking if they had room for one more to Casa Voyager (the station). She was patient. She stuck with me. Each one that said no, she would return, take my hand, and smile. One dozen, maybe two dozen later (I lost count) and finally success! She put me in the cab, made sure the driver understood, and than stood on the curb and waved while we drove away, like a mother whose child was getting on the school bus for the first time. I smiled and waved back, knowing that without her help I NEVER would have gotten a cab on time. So, thank you travel angel! Thank you! My tip from this experience is not to find yourself a travel angel, but to leave plenty of time to get to the station. It’s rarely a matter of “just” hailing a cab, or hopping on a bus, even when you know where you’re going.
Once in Marrakesh I checked in to the “La Casa Del Sol” Hostel, right off the main square- Place Jemaa El Fna. I had booked it the night before using hostelworld.com.
That was last night. This morning I woke up, ready to explore yet another new city. But the results of that exploration, should be, I think, a story for another day.