After 15 days in Turkey and a night in Barcelona, the two of us flew Royal Air Maroc on May 29 to Casablanca. We had pre-paid our hotel there, strategically placed next to the Gare Voyageurs train station, so we could take our 10 pm train in from the airport and half an hour later pull our bags to the door. On arriving, I asked the security guard at the Gare where our Ibis Hotel was. “La bas, Monsieur!” “Just there!” He pointed. And of course, there it was, about 50 meters to the right across the station parking lot. We had a large, 2-floor room facing front. It was loud but otherwise comfortable. The French-toned breakfast the next day was a welcome change from the many mornings of Turkish breakfasts. After, we caught our three-hour express to Marrakech. A side note: If you plan to travel in Morocco, the national train system is the way to go. The trains are cheap, fast, and clean, esp. if you select 1 class, as we always did. Of course—and here’s a developing-country bit—you may find the WCs have no toilet paper. So, make sure you have pocket tissues with you at all times, or else!
In her daily poems Cedar has described our magical time in Marrakech, M’rachsh in Magribi Arabic, from which the country’s name is derived. People back home were joking that our May 7 marriage had been “the other royal wedding.” Well, our stay at the Riad Dar Moulay Boubker—I know, the last element of the name sounds like a Yiddish term of endearment—made us feel like king and queen for more than a day. We were picked up at the station by a well-dressed man who drove us to the place in a new Beamer SUV. When we entered the medina, or old city, he did well not to scrape the sides of the car against the walls. Finally, when he could drive no farther, we alighted and walked through a dark tunnel and several dank lanes to a large door. It magically opened from within, and there we were greeted by five of the seven staff members, who would cater to our every whim for the next 48 hours. Led to the garden of a courtyard with the de rigueur fountain in the middle, we were seated and offered Moroccan mint-flavored tea. “Oh my God!” was all Cedar and I could say. The path to heaven had led (briefly) through hell. “Did we need the driver tomorrow?” “No. We prefer to stay here.” “When would you like dinner?” “8:30, S.V.P.” “D’accord, Monsieur. Comme vous voulez!” Now this was, courtesy of a marriage gift from a long-time French Subud brother, our visit to the true Magic Kingdom. Photos to prove the point will be forthcoming on my Facebook page in due course.
From Marrakech we took the bus to the beach resort of Essaouira, since the sparkling new Marrakech train station was the end of the line. Buses only to go south or east. Although sunny and picturesque, the town was cool from the wind off the Atlantic, and our resort hotel’s lovely pool went unused. We should have stayed one more night at our friend’s palace, we lamented. The next day we spent getting to Fez by bus, then train. We left Essaouira at 9:15 and got to Fez at 8 pm that night. Our compartment provided good companions, however, and the time went by quickly. Most notable was Danny, a Moroccan employee of the NationalTourist Office. He was headed home from Casablanca, an intermediary stop for us, to have Friday couscous with his parents in Fez. It was he who, right then and there, hooked us up by cell phone with his colleagues—tour guide Mohammad and driver Mohammad—who met us at the station, got us to our secluded riad, and conducted us to Fez’s major sites and government-sponsored artisan shops the next day. As Cedar explained in her poem, it was Mohammad the tour guide who took one look at me in my jellabah and fez, broke into a huge grin, and re-named me Mohammad Couscous on the spot. Not long after, I tousled Cedar’s longer, now ocean-curled hair and christened her “Fluffy.” Hence the title of this travelblog: “Mohammad Coucous and Fluffy Do Morocco.” While in Fez, we visited a non-profit that assists no-longer-marriageable widows to sell their hand-woven carpets. Struck by the quality and beauty of the work and moved by the opportunity to help the widows, we ended up shipping home four large carpets, three smaller rugs, and a pillow cover. We’ll probably re-sell the carpets, so stay tuned for details and photos. We believe we got a reasonable price, so we’ll be able to offer our friends a good value.
The next day Mohammad the driver drove us via the imperial city of Meknes through the Roman ruin, Volubilis, to the Port City of Tanger (Tangier). We stayed in a lovely guest house there near an entrance to the medina. The roof garden had a breath-taking 360-degree view out over the city, old and new. Down below was the ferry slip, where boats connected Morocco with Spain. A young man working at the hotel took us on a walking tour of the medina, including the castle. How glad we were to have had him with us, since we would never have found our way back to the hotel alone!
Our final stop before return to “Casa,” as everyone calls Morocco’s largest city, was an overnight in the capital, Rabat. Here we stayed in our final riad and did major souvenir shopping a hundred feet or so from our front door.
This was my fifth trip to the Kingdom of Morocco and Cedar’s first. The differences between this North African, Arab-Berber, Franco-Muslim country and what we are used to are huge. The scene is at times like from a Biblical movie or “Lawrence of Arabia.” The sights and smells are periodically overwhelming. The people are lovely, the artisanship attractive, and the warrens that are the medinas manage to be both fascinating and spooky simultaneously. By the time we left Casablanca’s Mohammad V International Airport for Barcelona on June 8, we had been away from home over four weeks and were more than ready to unpack our bags for the first time at Amalia and Samuel’s Finca in the Subud community at Orgiva (near Granada) in Andalucía. We had never been there, but something told us that it would be several cuts closer to what we were used to back in Boulder. I’ll tell you about our time in Spain next week.
For now, love from Cedar and me, aka Fluffy and Mohammad Couscous, enjoying our last days in sunny Espana,