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Mor-rockin around the clock

June 14, 2014

When I went to Nepal nearly two years ago, I was packed (really over packed) a couple weeks in advance of the trip. South America, last summer, I was less prepared, but still when the day of departure came, I was easy-breezy. I’m not sure whether I’m getting more comfortable with these trips, or just less responsible, but on thursday night, I sat down to catch up on Game of Thrones, rather than pack and on Friday morning, with the apartment a mess and two important meetings at work I threw whatever I could think of into a bag and called it a day.

Work meetings done and a final once over of my travel needs I headed for the airport (after a short but annoying fight with UBER.) As I waited at the gate with the other Moroccan bound we watched some might black clouds roll in. And then there was thunder and lightning, as the called to board the plane. No way thought I, though I joined the line. And right there next to me was Beth Fertig, the education reported for WNYC and a woman I see ever single day, but rarely talk to. When we determined we were both going to the same place for the same duration (she with some friends) we suddenly started acting like old friends. Beth and her group were to be met at Casablanca by a driver to take them to Marrakech. Come with us, they said. But I deferred, one thinking, I’ll be terrible company when the plane lands, and two – I can’t give up my chance to ride the Marrakech express. So with promises to connect in Marrakech, we went to our respective sections of the plane to await take off. And wait. And wait. About three hours later the storm had passed, the small children running up and down the aisles had been subdued, and we were on our way.

Royal Air Marok is not an airline I would seek out. The plane was old, the amenities slim, and the seats had legroom only because they’d cut the set length down.  But they did offer Steve McQueens greatest hits on the movie channel so I was good. Just before he collided his motorcycle into barbed wire in the Great Escape, our plane landed in Casablanca. Customs, baggage claim, and more promises to connect with Beth and I headed to the Marrakech Express train.

The airport ran a shuttle to Casablanca terminus where we would switch onto the express. On the platform I met a pair of American nuns who’d been working in Dubai, but were vacationing in Morocco. (“Nuns vacation? queried I. You’d be surprised why nuns do, answered they) and Sal, very preppy  30 something Indian on his way to a bachelor party weekend.  We were told the Marrakech express would be the second train to arrive, so when one had come and gone, we all piled onto the next to arrive. Just as the doors were closing someone yelled something loudly in Arabic and half the train’s passengers disembarked. “What was that” we asked a few times before someone answered “this train isn’t going to Marrakech.” At the last minute we were all able to get off and get on the next one which we were assured would take us to our desired home.

The four of us sat together and ordered bottles of water that we nearly as warm as the air (which is to say very very warm) and spicy potato chips and talked about our respective plans. The nuns and Sal were all staying in Marrakech though Sal suspected they would not cross paths. I was off on my own journey. We laughed, played a bit of cards and dozed the four hours to Marrakech.

Just as we arrived, a low chant began. It took us all a moment to realize that it was a call to prayer. “Welcome to Marrakech” said the moroccan woman behind us as she hurried past us. Some hugs and an exchange of personal details and I jumped into the car of a man holding a Riad Mur Akush sign. We zipped through the winding streets and parked in front of an orange vendor. another man popped out and grabbed my bags from the trunk and walked off without a word. I finally caught up and learned he was Rashid and would be taking care of me. And he did. There was tea and cookies waiting, my suite is amazing, and I was finally able to brush my teeth!

A quick nap and Marrakesh is calling me.

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