Gilbert is enjoying the five star selection of breakfast. Cornflakes and chocolate covered ricies with UHT milk. No thanks. Fresh fruit salads and fresh dates. OMG these were incredible. Bowls of nuts and olives. Cheeses and stuff that looked like luncheon sausage that didn’t appeal to me at all. Eggs done three ways and mushrooms and potatoes. Freshly squeezed juices and teas with fresh mint. Yumm! Thick black sweetened coffee. Pancakes and fresh breads. Croissants and sticky sweet pastries, almond cakes and chocolate laced gems and even more than that. It’s hard for me to keep my figure with all this laid out like it’s wedding feast!
Then Five hours on the train…from my window on the way…
Dry stalks from crops now harvested. Paper and plastic rubbish thrown from windows lying in furrows of recently ploughed ground as if they grew there, planted carefully by the wind. Acres of dusty dry punctuated by the vivid green of irrigated new growth like a quilt spread over the hills. Donkeys seeking shade and the occasional skinny skinny cow chewing at tufts. Buildings in the distance stained the reddish brown of the earth. The quiet hum of French and Arabic spoken increase when we stop at mosaic tiled train stations where families greet each other with a side to side touch of cheeks. Women stand in their long coloured robes, concealing bodies, daywear and scarves and topped with a peaked hood…and all the while the girl in the seat opposite sings quietly with her iPod. Her voice wavering up and down to a local tune while Gilbert nods off with the rock of the carriage.
We decided to go first class and continue the five star theme of the day as the cost was only about ten NZ bucks more. We have deep luxurious seats with twice the leg room, extra width and as I scan a carriage across the tracks at a station, I’m quietly glad. They are packed in so tight I doubt we would have been dozing off. It’s still pretty hot and I’m also glad we’re not on the sunny side as the afternoon sun is streaming in.
The BnB we were going to couldn’t take us tonight so he’s organised a pick up and a guesthouse for the first night and I’m pretty sure we had our first scam of the day. A guy got on train at the stop before ours, the end of the line. He sat a bit away and then moved down and leaned across asking Gilbert if he was Moroccan. Haha! Excuse me?
After asking me where I was from told me he had a nephew in Chritxhixh. Yeah. I didn’t understand him either but guessed he said Christchurch. He then phoned his ‘brother’ to ask exactly where they were and handed the phone to me so he could say it better. Christchurch. Yep he knew it was in the South Island, and knew Auckland was in the North. Told me his son married a NZ girl and they have a baby now and have they lived there three years. We chatted on. He was a teacher. He has 6 brothers and they live in an amazing old palace actually and his Mother lives with them. His brother phones back. They want us to come for dinner! Do we have a place to stay? I tell him we have a friend to pick us up and we are staying with them. He wants to help us because the guides are pretty terrible here unfortunately but they would love to show us around. We are practically related! He didn’t say that but I got the feeling this was the next thing…I thanked him and said I would see. He gave me his phone number in case I need anything and he hopes I can make some time to see his family. They want to show us photos. They would love to share what they have with a fellow New Zealander as his daughter in law is.
So…first thing is he is soooo happy to meet us he almost kisses me. He presses on us how terrible the guides are but he can help. He says his nephew has lived three years in Chch but doesn’t mention the earthquake. That was probably his undoing. Very sincere tho and totally believable. Shame we have to be so wary aye. I had Zhayna’s warning ringing in my ear. ‘Hope you don’t get scammed too bad Aunty Tricia’ and at first I thought he was genuine but way, way too keen in the end and didn’t hang around to see us meet our ‘friend’ but got out’tve train quickly and disappeared. Worst thing I guess would have been he would have picked us up and we would be at his mercy all day cause there is No Way we would have found our way back to here. Steve our BnB host laughed and said it may have been genuine but most likely not and a day would have been wasted while he took us to meet friend after uncle after brother at all the tourist shops. He has never had anyone have things stolen or be harmed it’s just a pain.
A bit like Istanbul it’s a labyrinth. Narrow twisty turns and stairs. We pass a tannery which almost makes me retch it’s so bad in this hot evening air. Shops line the Medina and the area is packed with people, children ducking and diving through the throng until finally we are at our Riad where we will sleep tonight. Right opposite a small mosque which has just called the men to prayer. We take a walk being careful to stay on the main path after sipping a sweet welcome tea with coconut biscuits. Our room is tiny and typical of a Moroccan Riad complete with a secret window above the bed where the women could watch the people on the street unseen I the old days. Our room overhangs the street and we are surrounded with the muffled sound of a city winding down and by ten pm, it is almost quiet. So I watch from my window as the streets go quiet.
It’s Perfect. I have already scoped out teapots and rugs, bags and shoes but I have to stop because we just might take a camel to the desert on the way to Marakech.