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.
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:
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.
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.
I also had a divine chocolate tart:
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.