Morocco: Part II

The police officer never showed up at my hotel, but my taxi driver took me to Tafoukt and I could see right away that it wasn’t a tourists hotel, but a stopover for locals passing through the bus station right beside it. When I signed in, I was the only person in weeks who wrote in roman letters, all the previous guests writing right to left in Arabic. I worried about getting a tourist price for a room, but the quote of 30 dirham (less than 3 euros) seemed about as cheap as it could get. The rooms more closely resembled prison cells than hotel rooms, with cement walls, small barred windows higher than eye level, and a bare bed equipped with something that kind of resembled a pillow.

I didn’t care to spend too much time there, so left my bag and wandered out to the busy street scene. I found a couple of snake charmers who had a hard time controlling their snakes, so after one almost escaped into the audience, I carried on. I was only walking alone for 5 minutes before the hotel guy who checked me in found me, and insisted on escorting me through the town. Everything that I stopped to look at he asked the price and asked me if he could buy it for me. I said no over and over, but was also trying to buy a few things, but he would not let me pay, so in the end he bought me two bangles, 30 minutes of internet café time, a bowl of snails (to eat), a coca cola, and a dinner of tangine. This was two or three times more than the price I paid to stay at his hotel, so I expected a large bill when I checked out, but instead he baught me a coffee and croissant for breakfast, escorted me to the grandtaxis, waited for it to fill, and made sure I paid the right price.

my little slice of paradise

I got kind of stuck in a small city called Abaynou after sunset because the hotel I planned to stay at was fully booked. I wanted to bathe in the natural thermal baths in the town but they too were closed only for Moroccan families. I stood at the entrance of the hotel with the guard wondering outloud what to do, and a jolly French man emerged from a truck parked a few metres away.  He stole the attention of the guard and they started talking about some lost guy he was waiting for and that this guy was on his way, on his way, coming any minute. The truck was pulling a horse trailer and I figured out that the guy was lost on a horse, and the French man was waiting for them to drive them home. I asked the French man if he had more horses, and where he was headed once he found the lost guy. He had a farm with 20 horses about 1 hr away, on the coast, which was also a hotel, and I immediately invited myself to it. He said fine, so long as he helped me find the lost horse and rider, and about 1 hr later they appeared out of the dark and we loaded the sweaty horse into the trailer.

riding with Youssef

We arrived almost 2 hours later at Ranch les 2 Gazelles, and in the total dark I could just hear and smell the horses surrounding the grounds. I was given the key to my room and then dined with the staff and planned my next day. Me and the lost rider would take 2 horses and try to find the right trail he never found, and it would take 5 hours through the mountains, 32km, through the heat of the day. We had the most extraordinary scenery, riding through remote rural villages and passing donkeys loaded with this and that, and enjoyed the satisfying feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, but in the end we found the trail and survived with the help of 2 fresh water wells on the way to keep our horses from exhaustion. The next day we took two crazies to the beach and galloped them over the dunes and through the wake of the waves, and it was almost impossible to leave after that, not only because I had found paradise, but because hitchhiking from this random farm took a few hours.

I got picked up by a younger Frenchman and his Guinean friends, who were probably more uncomfortable with picking me up than I had been to hitchhike. They were more than safe, and started worrying about leaving me in the next town, so wouldn’t let me out of sight until I had found the right bus to my next destination.

the grand mosque at Casablanca

I was going next to Casablanca, where I found a couchsurf host that didn’t seem to be interested in a girlfriend or marriage, and he turned out to be wonderful. He was Moroccan but lived in Paris, smoked like a Parisian, and was incredibly intelligent. We had the most interesting conversations that lasted for hours, days even, about music, economics, poverty, prostitution, existential philosophy, and love. I was supposed to leave after 2 days, but I dragged him with me to my next 3 stops: Rabat, Asilah, and Tanger. It helped that he spoke Arabic, and beside him, people also started to assume I was Moroccan, so my last week of travel in his care seemed mindless after the struggle of backpacking around solo in southern Morocco.

the camel charmer

I made many other friends, through horses and camels and surfing, and in Taghazout I met all of the above. Abrahim and his 3 yr old mare waited with his dad and two camels to sell some tourist a photo or a ride, and in the end I was sitting on his camel wrapped in his head scarf having pictures taken of me by his phone… it’s a strange sensation when you become the tourist attraction and people who live of the tourist dollar refuse your money.

Morocco has been one of the only countries where people have been more concerned about my money than me, not trying to rip me off but actually trying to save me money or pay for me. It was hard to appreciate, since it creates a strange sense of suspicion. But, over and over people proved to be giving their best hospitality without expecting anything in return other than your friendship and a promise to return one day for more hospitality. So now I owe a lot of people a lot of visits, and my favourite Moroccan in Casablanca still has my Berber hat I need to return for.

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