Friday, October 3, 2008

Midnight taxi

We arrived at Tangier arport around 12.30am, having passed through Casablanca on the way. We were flying Royal Moroccan Air and it was an eye opener; even the weird and wonderful planes I hqve been on flying out to the mine sites and to Palm island didnt match this. The cabins are decorated with islamic patterns and the seats are so old they are all saggy. The smell asails you as you get on and doesnt stop. Casablanca airport hd no signage at all and no english speaking staff, in fact no staff; So we wandered around until we found another english speaking passenger from the Madrid flight, who also spoke arabic, spanish and french and was travelling to Tangier. The waiting lounge only had hard plastic seats, by this time we had been awake for 22 hours and had an hours wait ahead of us. Finally Tangier; we went through the slowest passport check known to the world, I think the official was practicing his english as he followed each line of our entry slips with a pencil, and made notes in a book. I was a bit nervous as once again I was the last of the three of us to go thru and Cath and Gill had walked off to the baggage pick up. The passport official fixed me with a steely gaze and tilting his head towards Cath and Gill, said Friends? Oui, I replied, my heart thumping. Maybe he was going to get the guards to seize them too? Then a nod and Enjoy your visit to Morocco; and I was through. BTW this is being written on an arabic keyboard and many letters are in different places, and some of the keys have four letters and symbols on them. So I cant work out how to use the apostrophe or quotation marks. We were met by Achmed, our 77 year old Limousine driver, by now it was 12.45am and Achmed had been waiting for us all day. Our Limousine awaited, an aging black Mercedes, I looked at the tyres, bald, as I suspected. I took the front seat, because I get carsick in the back. The 1 and a half hour drive took 3 hours and I began to seriously doubt whether we would arrive. Achmed drove straddling the white line, the steering wheel reminded me of Kristins old Toyota, with so much play in it, it surely wouldnt pass a roadworthy. The car wove left and right, I talked and talked, keeping Achmed awake. Trucks loomed in front of us and at the last minute Achmed would swing out and overtake. A car came hurtling over the crest of a hill on our side of the road, Achmed didnt react, just held his place on the road, and the oncoming car missed us by millimetres. Argh, I suggested coffee and Achmed agreed, pulling over at a roadside stall. I gave him 100 dirham and he ordered coffee for us, mint tea and breakfast for himself, and kept the change. We meandered onwards up into the mountains, until finally Chefchouen. Pulling into a carpark opposite Hotel Parador, we got out of the car and unloaded baggage. Achmed set off in front of us, up narrow cobbled laneways, past market stalls with all their wares still displayed, pointing out to us the pipes for smoking kif. Apparently Chefchouen is where all the western tourists come to smoke hashish... What a long way Ive come since I was 15... The streets were full of young men, it was 3;3 am, and Achmed explained that it is Ramadan, and everyone stays awake all night so they can have breakfast before the sun comes up, and they have to fast during the day. It was wonderful standing in front of the Casa Hassan door as the morning call to prayer began and people started flowing out of the houses to go to the mosque. Having carted our suitcases across cobbled laneways we were now confronted with two fights of stairs, to get to our room. We were just about in hysterics by now. Our room at the Casa is jut gorgeous the hotel is a small one and very authentic ethnic. Hopefully Ill get photos up on picassa in a few days time. there is not kodak store here to download them to disc at, so it will have to wait.

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