Wednesday, November 16, 2016

White House to White House

A direct flight from Washington to Casablanca landed at approximately 9:30am one fine Sunday morning. Being direct was something of a miracle, as the route had only been established in August. Seven hours never seemed so short.

Chris and I watched the Ab Fab movie together before we even took off; it was great to be laughing instead of terrified as we took off. The plane was a Dreamliner and the entire flight was smooth, even when the captain warned of some turbulence. (Congrats, Boeing. You nailed it.) We also watched a poorly written movie about Hemingway, but it was entertaining enough to pass the time, and the Matt Damon movie about fracking.

We disembarked into the absurdity of the customs line, which took an hour. After one day in Morocco, I have discovered that organization is less than efficient and information is not very forthcoming. The line was slow partially because so many people had to fill out their customs form when they got to the window instead of doing it in line. Many people didn't know to do it, as there was no instruction. Royal Air Maroc should pass out the form on the plane like airlines do when flying into the US.

I was something beyond grumpy by the time we exited the airport around 11:30. We had not slept a wink on the plane and it was about 6:30am for us, but when we hit the warm, sunny air outside the airport, I felt a bit of a second wind. A man approached us, whispering one of the most reviled words across the globe: taxi. Had I been a novice traveler, this would have been sketchy, but my experience with many trips to Beirut, coupled with some knowledge given by a friend back home, told me how to bargain so I got the right price for the ride to the city center. Success!

The beaten up taxi had probably never seen better days, but it got the job done as it sped across the Moroccan highway. The countryside reminded me of Lebanon, but I can't help but compare everything to Lebanon since I know it well. We arrived at our hotel and Chris went to sleep. I was determined to explore. Our hotel, Hotel Moroccan House, was charming. ... decorated in the Moorish style, our room featured a canopy bed and paintings of harems. I found it amusing.

hotel room was full of paintings of harems

the princess sleeps

I set out not knowing where to go, and found pedestrians don't fare well on Casablanca. While I made my way to the old city, it was difficult to cross streets or walk down sidewalks without some asshole making comments in the Trumpesque fashion. 

The old city is a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with shops made, it seems, for tourists. I've never been a big fan of these kinds of areas because shop workers implore you to come buy their wares. I have no interest in most of it. If I wanted to buy adidas shoes, I'd get them in the US, shukran.

Granted, I was running on no sleep, so easily irritated, but I found the whole experience annoying. Aside from the shop workers yelling for you to come buy their crap, I had some deranged old woman yelling at me for not having my head covered, a creep ask how much I cost, and another ask to come to his house. Under normal circumstances I would have been annoyed but would shake it off. Jet lag is not a normal circumstance. Instead of shaking it off, I double timed it out of there, fortunate enough that my sense of direction had not been twisted with the winding passageways.

satellites everywhere

the busy old town

for some reason, there are a lot of trees bent like this

sculpture, mosque

view from our hotel room
We asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation and he pointed us in the direction of Ain Diab, a seaside neighborhood. The doorman arranged a taxi for us at fifty dirham ($5) and I heard the driver tell him in Arabic it should only cost twenty. I didn't care. I was in no mood to bargain and find the whole process ridiculous. The taxi driver whisked us across the city, down the Boulevard of the Corniche with the Atlantic blackness on our right, and pulled up in front of a restaurant called Basmane. We dined on lamb and couscous, and I tried my first Moroccan wine. Not bad at all. The ambience seemed to be trying too hard, but then locals started filling up the place and we knew we weren't in a place meant for tourists only.

After dinner, we walked around a bit, taking in sights of the ocean at night. Suddenly, I felt like I was in Beirut - Raouche specifically - and I was staring at Ramla Baida, once Beirut's only public beach. As we walked down the corniche past seaside cafes, the smell of sweet nargila tobacco hanging in the air and the sound of Arabic pop music blaring from every window, I do admit I had some mental confusion as to my location. Even the lighthouse is in the same place as the one in Beirut, albeit a bit farther out. We stopped in a place to watch an Arabic singer for a brief moment before heading on.

We ended up going to Rick's Café for the novelty of it. An American expat opened it a few years ago, modeling it after the place in the film Casablanca. We watched a jazz quartet play for a while before heading back to the hotel in a taxi that told us it would be fifty dirham to go one third the distance of the other. I told him it was a ripoff and he insisted it was the nighttime rate. When he dropped us off, I gave him the fifty and he actually gave me ten back. Small victories.

We crashed immediately and got a full night's sleep, time zone adjustment complete.

at Rick's Cafe

jazz at Rick's

No comments:

Post a Comment