Friday, January 14, 2005

Molasses In January

The plan was to pick up my Mauritanian visa at 11, put on a jaunty little red hat, and take off for Fes. That was the plan.

It started off all right, with me sauntering around Casablanca for a couple of morning hours, finally ending up at its distinctively unattractive seashore. There stood the Hassan II mosque, supposedly the largest, and arguably the least inspiring, religious building in the world. Like the megachurches in the States, this megamosque ignores the deep spiritual truth that God probably isn't about being bigger than everything else.

Then it was down to the Mauritanian consulate for the visa. Except that the consular official decided not to come in this morning. (Why they didn't stamp the passports yesterday afternoon...) So about forty of us--a few backpackers, a few Moroccans, a few French car thieves, and a whole bunch of German retirees waiting to take their vans and mini-Winnebagos south--stood around being pissed off for two and a half hours.

Finally at one thirty the passports were produced, and I got to race back to my hotel room and talk the clerk into not charging me for an extra day. Then over to the bus station, where I talked the clerk into re-issuing my noon ticket. THEN it was off To Fes.

Except I decided to stop in Meknes, about 40 miles short of there.

So let me fill you in on the Moroccan landscape so far: It's rather flat. And insipid. Mostly pasture and a few stands of scrubby forest thrown in. Casablanca was surprisingly clammy, which isn't so surprising when you consider that it's on the ocean.

And a sartorial note: I only brought tropical clothing, and it gets cold enough at night to see one's breath, so I walk around in 4 or 5 layers. Which will probably start to get rather funky pretty soon.


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btw - thanks for the great stories!

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