I was thrilled and honored last year when an abridged version of “Moroccan and a Half” was published on Hidden Compass, an online travel magazine. There, I got to share space with some amazing and even famous writers and photographers. This past March 1, I was equally honored when the original unedited version won a Solas Award in the Destination Story category from Travelers Tales. Here is that story.
Moroccan And A Half To understand a people, you must live among them for 40 days.-Arabic proverb
The taxi driver glared at me when I demanded that he use le compteur. “What do you think that is?” he snapped in French, pointing at the already-running meter under his dash. Looking both pained and angry, he glanced into the rear-view mirror at another passenger already in the back, then turned again to face me.
Switching to English, I apologized as I got into the front seat of his bright-red petit taxi, explaining that every other driver in Marrakesh had insisted on an inflated, fixed price for tourists like me. “Are you a tourist?” he asked, his voice still raised, chiding me. “Aren’t you living here?”
Literally. While still in Casablanca, I created this title as a joke, knowing that Tangier is a ferry ride away from Spain and channeling Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin. But we didn’t realize how close. When we entered our hotel room after the 5-hour train ride north, we were amazed; I can see electricity windmills dotting the Andalucian coast (not Don Quixote, however).
Tangier has an extremely shady 20th century history, borne of its time as an international zone. Writers, spies, artists and pirates from around the world have all spent time here. But that’s the past of Tangier (though the artists and writers do still come). Now, it’s a weekend vacation spot for Spaniards and Moroccans alike, and the main boulevard along the beach is full of high-rise hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs. The long corniche (boardwalk) runs the entire 2km length of downtown along a sandy beach, inviting visitors to stroll. Yet, Tangier is small enough that with good feet, enough hours and some self-discipline, you could go everywhere worth going in a day. Since I have a week, I can slow down and explore more thoroughly. Continue reading “I Can See Spain From My Hotel”
As I write, I am on the train to Casablanca, where we will spend the next week. The rules around the vehicle in which Yvonne will be traveling prohibit me from joining her. So I am spending the hour-long ride writing. I bought a $7 first-class ticket and this car is as nice as anything you’d find in the U.S.
This morning I went back to the kings’ mausoleum to get a couple of better photos. One of the great things about this trip is that I have so much time and flexibility. I’ve now been there 3 times! It is an extraordinarily beautiful place. Continue reading “Nothing Is Free”
We’ve been in Rabat for 2 days now, still adjusting to the 8-hour time difference. Yesterday, we had a pleasant all-day walking adventure.
One thing I’ve been struck by is the contrasts in the ways women dress. One might see a woman in a kaftan and hijab, walking by another woman in torn jeans and long, flowing hair. Many women wear a hijab with western clothes. And we see them socializing together, not separately. I find myself wondering if there is a deeper cultural significance than just how strictly they practice Islam. Or maybe I just have preconceptions to let go of. Yvonne talks about culture being like an iceberg: What is visible is a very small part of it. Continue reading “First Impressions”