Morocco, Chapter 1.

August 16, 2012

[Now that enough time has passed (has it really been more than four and a half years?), I feel less embarrassed about drudging these untold stories back up.]

From the minute we arrived at the Barcelona Girona airport and took note of the demographics of the check-in line, we should have known we were in for it. Both long lines consisted exclusively of Moroccan men with the exception of five women, all besmocked in heavy, full-body black veils that left only their eyes uncovered. I didn’t even know these were called burqas. My friend E and I glanced at each other wide-eyed in nervousness and sheepishly attempted to ignore the fact that we really had no idea what we were doing.

The original plan had been for E’s Moroccan friend to accompany us and provide a local’s grand tour of the country. So we purchased our tickets without so much as consulting a tour book or conducting any research beforehand. The friend ended up backing out at the last minute due to a work commitment, leaving us to our severely underwhelming defenses. Neither of us knew anything about Morocco aside from the basic information I Googled briefly before take-off and worse, neither of us spoke even a whimper of Arabic.

It was anxiety and helplessness immediately upon the point of arrival. We allowed ourselves to be herded out of the dilapidated airport after having our passports stamped, squinting into shockingly bright sunlight and not much else. Our first task was to find a taxi to take us to our hotel, which we had only booked for the first night. E’s friend had advised us to find cheaper lodging when we were actually in the city, but more about that later.

We glanced nervously into an expanse of nothingness and scattered cars. None of the vehicles looked even remotely like an official taxi. They were all ramshackle metal contraptions helmed by heavyset Moroccan men, almost all of whom were clamoring at us in unintelligible (at least to our ears) Arabic. We scurried back into the airport, found no one who could provide assistance, and were turned back out into this indecipherable world.

After dithering about and debating catching the next plane back to Spain, we risked getting in a purported taxi, handing the driver an address written in English. Fingers, and perhaps every other part of our body, for that matter, crossed.

It was a long drive through a tan-colored arid landscape. My best efforts at memorizing landmarks in case we had to pick our way back were futile as the scene outside my window was mainly dirt and non-descript square edifices. At that point, our bravery (or was it simply bravado?) was still near full tank but starting to run out rapidly.

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