Tuesday, September 13, 2016

MOROCCO: MARRAKECH TO CASABLANCA TO LOS ANGELES. SIGH.

Our Moroccan adventure was drawing to a close. After our cooking class we were driven back to our riad just in time to get our bags and meet our new driver for the 2 1/2 trip to Casablanca.

It was still light enough to enjoy the sites as we drove out of Marrakech. Two miniature horses and a camel are not the standard corner decor in the United States, at least not where I live:

People watching isn't quite the same in my neck of the woods either:

. . . and this isn't the type of church steeple I'm used to seeing:


Our driver was a man we hadn't had before. His English was not very good, but he spoke enough to predict that we would arrive at our hotel in at 7:00 PM. But then traffic at the toll stations just before the city was bad, as was traffic in the city itself, slowing us down substantially. It was deep, dark night when we finally pulled into Casablanca.

At first we were glad not to be riding on the crowded city bus.

However, after a while we began to wish we were on a bus and not in the chauffeur-driven car. Our driver could not find our hotel, and he would not use the phone to call someone for help. For at least 45 minutes we drove around the same section of the city, passing one McDonald's at least three times.
Bob told the driver that he had the phone number of the hotel and suggested he call, but the driver would say, "No, it is just over there." He did ask directions of people on the street multiple times, but it didn't help. He just couldn't find it. Turns out the hotel was on a rather obscure, dark alley. We were beyond relieved to finally arrive, but it was 8:45 and too late to go out to see the Grand Mosque, the whole reason Bob had booked a hotel in town rather than near the airport, which would have been 45 minutes closer to Marrakech.

Then we discovered that the hotel, rated #14 in Casablanca on Trip Advisor, was long past its glory days. It was old and shabby.  Here's the light swtich in our bedroom:

The walls were very thin, and our neighbors were very loud and very noisy until at least 1:00 AM, making us very unhappy. My alarm was set for 4:55 AM, but I think both of us were awake most of the night. Even the view from our window was nothing to cheer about:
The final insult was when we discovered at 5:15 AM that the elevator was not working and we had to haul our bags down five flights of stairs. Luckily, our driver was more successful at finding our hotel the second time around and was waiting for us, and the ride to the airport was uneventful.

Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca must rank as one of the most unexciting international airports in the world. This wall covered with living plants was seriously the only interesting thing in the entire airport.
We got there two hours early and sat around in a small, crowded area with far more people than seats. We sat on the floor until a flight left, then scrambled for seats as if we were in the middle of a game of Musical Chairs. After a long wait, people began to line up at the posted boarding time of 7:20. After at least 30 minutes it was clear we were going to be quite late.

Then a new boarding time of 10:27 was posted, making it seem certain that we would miss our connecting flight in Paris. Everyone sat down but we were too slow this time to get a seat, so we remained standing. A new announcement was made (not in English), and everyone jumped up and got back in line, but now we were near the front of the line rather than at the back. So why had they posted the 10:27 time if we were boarding?

Suddenly a huge altercation broke out at the front desk. An older man (60? 70? Maybe not so old after all...) was screaming at one of the female agents in what we assume was Arabic. She was responding in a controlled but somewhat heated manner. He wouldn't let up, and occasionally one of the two women with him would angrily chime in.

Soon multiple Air France agents were involved. In the United States, security would have quickly and assertively escorted the man to a locked room. As we walked through the gate to board the bus that was taking us to the plane, the yelling was still going on. We have no idea how it ended. 

But we weren't done. On the plane, we learned our flight had been delayed due to an air traffic controller site. (Nice to know Moroccans are allowed to strike, but not so nice when we were already late.)  Finally, with or without air traffic controllers, we took off just an hour late.

We had a fairly quick turnaround in Paris, but at least I had some time to pick up  three key food items. The first was pain du chocolat. How I had missed good pastry:

I also had a divine chocolate tart:
. . . and some yummy chocolate. As a nod to our African experience, I DID include chocolate from the Ivory Coast. There just isn't enough chocolate in Morocco.

What we didn't know was that while we were somewhere over the Atlantic, terrorists set off bombs in the Brussels airport and at a Brussels metro station, killing 32 people and injuring over 300 more. Security had been very, very tight in Paris, probably the tightest we've ever experienced (For example, we had to show our passports at the top of the ramp when we got off the plane from Morocco before we were allowed to disembark), and we were glad we were out of Paris before this happened.

In our innocence, we could freely enjoy the beauty of the northern flight path from Paris to NYC, which comes in over Labrador. The ice floes were especially spectacular:

The St. Lawrence River on our approach to New York City:


And then we were home.

Next: Final thoughts about Morocco. 

4 comments:

  1. The drive around Casablanca with the driver passing the same McDonald's was surreal. So glad we made it out of Paris before the Brussels terrorist attack hit. Can't imagine what the security would have ratcheted up to.

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  2. What a memorably bad ending to a great trip! That hotel is one for the books. No wonder your driver took so long to find it--he wanted to save you!

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  3. So sad it ended on the note it did, after your amazing stay in your other cities (don't make me spell them). Why is it that the last night of so many stays is just above sub-standard? It's happened to use more than once, too.

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  4. PS We were in Madrid when the Brussels attack happened. It was tight security at all the train stations, but that may have been normal.

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