Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Casablanca The Reality Show

I wrote the last posting after being awake for 31 hours. Melatonin does wonders for jet lag...


The coast of Africa stretched long and straight and plain as we approached it from the Atlantic on Air France. Casablanca appeared as if out of nowhere, looking much too small for a city of 5 million. The airport was neither primitive nor fancy, about on a level with that of El Salvador. Entry into Morocco was painless.

A train connected the airport with downtown. Looking out the window, the countryside looked a lot like the Middle East, with poor white squares of houses and stony soil. The sky was blue and the fields were green, this being the rainy season.

Morocco has a reputation for having the most annoying tourist hasslers in the world, so it was a very pleasant surprise to find the average Moroccan to be unfailingly polite and pleasant. Even the traffic is exceedingly well behaved. The city itself, while not super slick modern, is white and pal,y and pretty clean for the Third World.

That said, there's precious little for a tourist to see, which made it all the more annoying this morning when the first of my carefully laid plans was torn slightly asunder.

I was supposed to have an easy in-out on my Mauritanian visa, but they changed the regulations on 1-1-05. Now I had to wait in line for 2 hours, then wait another 24 hours for the stamp in the passport.

So I went to Rabat for the day. It's the capital, about an hour away on the train, and the downtown part is even more uptown than Casablanca. It's also got an older part, and a teeny tiny medieval part, its own Casbah. I stood on the ramparts, gazing out to sea, due west to... North Carolina. North Africa is still pretty far north.

Below me were numerous brown dots in the water. I finally figured out that they were Moroccan surfers, waiting inside the breakwater for some wave to come along. In 7 minutes of watching, I didn' see a single guy catch one.

Well, gotta go. This French keyboard is a pain. Also, this somputer has an annoying habit of erasing my posting when I'm halfway through it.

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