A Travellerspoint blog

The Good and the Bad

Good news: the sabbatical is over Bad news: this one is a dry politics column

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Unfortunately, I have been remiss in my column-writing duties over the past few weeks or so. To be quite frank, I have not had the time to collect my thoughts, let alone express them! Since my last column, I have had three weeks of “midterm week,” a northerly trek to Gibraltar, yet more work, and a southerly trek to the charming beach resort of Agadir (Cue foreshadowing). Only now, as I am sitting in a café on the beachfront, have I found the time and inspiration to write.
Perhaps I should begin this Moroccan column on a non-Moroccan topic: the political status of Gibraltar. As I have previously mentioned, Gibraltar – whose name comes from the Arabic “Jebel Tariq” or “Tariq’s mountain” – is a British possession along the coast of southern Spain. The British took control of the 7 km2 (2.7 mi2) peninsula in 1704 during the War of Spanish Succession. This annexation was formalized in the 1715 Treaty of Utrecht, which among other things gave the Spanish the right of first refusal in the event of British departure; in other words, the British were required to offer the Spanish control of the territory if they ceased to administer the Rock.
So, I bet that you’re wondering what bearing an 18th-century treaty has to do with modern-day politics and specifically with Morocco. Well, the short answer is that while the naval base is not as vital in terms of strategic interest as it once was, the Spanish are still extremely upset at what they see as perpetual British imperialism. This British Rock has been a slap in the collective Spanish face for over three centuries. The lowest point in Anglo-Spanish relations with regards to Gibraltar was during the years under the nationalist Franco government, which closed the border for over two decades, thus cutting off many of their own citizens from gainful employment in Gibraltar (ironically enough, the Spanish now use these workers as martyrs in their struggle, from a monument “to the Spanish workers of Gibraltar” at the border to demands that the British pay their pensions!). While the border was reopened after Franco’s death, the territory remains a point of contention between London and Madrid.
The dispute is further complicated by the political situation in Gibraltar. While almost all Gibraltarians are pro-British and do not wish to have any Spanish role on the Rock, they currently do not have any say in negotiations. This is because the UN recognizes Gibraltar as a “non-self-governing territory”: in other words, a colony. Under international law, Gibraltar’s citizens are deemed to be colonists, and the principle of territorial integrity – that is, Spain should control Gibraltar since it is geographically part of Spain – is applied. In order to prevent this, Gibraltar – which has held elections for a local assembly since 1969 – has implemented governmental reforms. Under a constitution enacted earlier this year, the legislature has been renamed as a parliament and the chief minister – akin to a prime minister – has been granted greater executive powers. As this constitution was overwhelmingly approved by the citizens of Gibraltar in a referendum, say the British, the territory is self governing and therefore no longer a colony. By this logic, the theory of self-determination applies. Under this principle, the people of Gibraltar must be consulted before any change from the status quo, which would supersede both Spanish claims of territorial integrity as well as claims based in the Treaty of Utrecht. Because of this important nuance, Gibraltar’s government has mounted a campaign to be removed from the UN’s list of non-self-governing territories, a move vigorously opposed in Spain.
So, what does this have to do with Morocco? As it turns out, quite a lot. Spain has two cities on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco: Ceuta (Moroccan name is “Sebta”) and Melilla. These two cities are autonomous cities under Spanish rule, although Morocco claims both cities. Therefore, Spain is in the awkward position of claiming a historical right to a territory through geography in Gibraltar and through self-determination in Ceuta and Melilla. While the dispute between Morocco and Spain has been mainly peaceful, on occasion there has been military action, such as the Spanish Navy’s retaking on an uninhabited island (Isla Perejil) off the coast following its seizure by the Moroccans in 2002, or even bloodshed, like the deaths of many Moroccans and other Africans who try to illegally enter the cities as a method to enter the EU.
Given these two situations, what are the prospects for Gibraltar and – by extension – the Spanish cities? Given that a full handover of control, like the 1999 British departure from Hong Kong, seems very unlikely, since the majority population of each is overwhelmingly British and Spanish respectively, a proposed compromise has been joint administration of the territories, similar to Andorra’s situation of having both French and Spanish heads of state. However, this sort of arrangement has been rejected outright by those in the cities. Additionally, another option – independence – seems highly unlikely, as the cities are dependent on the finances of their respective mother countries. As a result, probably the best and most likely solution is what has governed these cities for centuries: the status quo.

Posted by golladayp 16:40 Archived in Gibraltar Tagged events Comments (0)

Hypermarts and Haggling

Comparing commerce in the Ville Nouvelle and Medina

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At the end of a long week, I have finally found some time to do some non-required writing! As promised, here is what happened to me yesterday:

I went down (altitude-wise, since it's actually north of here) to Fes with five other folks: a VMI keydet (Eddie), another American exchange student (Kelsi), a French exchange student (Camille), and two Moroccan students. We left here around 10ish, and we took a grand taxi to Fes and got there around 11:30. Upon arrival, we decided to head over to Marjane, the Moroccan hypermart chain, located on the outskirts of town.

Now, you might a fairly decent idea of what a hypermart is like. I don't. But the best comparison I can make is halfway between a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a full-fledged shopping mall. After all, how many Wal-Marts do you know of which have Lacoste and Swatch boutiques within their doors? Not many, at least from my experience!

Well, in any case, one of the main reasons why I needed to go to Marjane was to purchase a jacket. Being the genius that I am, I had managed to pack everything except for a cold weather jacket. Since Ifrane's temperature fluctuates around 25 to 30 degrees Celsius over the course of a day, this has become a rather serious problem for me! In any case, my family had briefly investigated the cost of shipping the coat and other items to Morocco, but the cost of shipping (around $150-250, depending on the carrier) was to the point that it would be more economical to purchase a nice coat over here.

So, being a bit foolish, I decided to drop into the boutiques first. I think that I realized how bad this idea was when Eddie and I dropped into Lacoste. Indeed, upon asking for the price (in Moroccan derija, no less), we received the price (in French) in euro: a coat for only 300 euro! I decided to check out what was in Marjane proper. Fortunately, they had very nice, simple Italian black wool jackets on sale for around 400 dirhams, or about $50. Even more fortunately, they had them in my size! After getting some other items (mostly food; shopping while fasting is another very, very bad idea), we went on to check out.

Just to throw the very familiar shopping style of Marjane and the ville nouvelle into relief, we then moved onward to a place I had promised myself I would never return: the market in the medina qadima (old city in Arabic). As Fes receives a large number of tourists year-round, the medina is very much built around the tourist industry, meaning that shopkeepers are usually more aggressive (and prices therefore higher) than in cities on the road less traveled. That being said, I would still say that the Fes souk (market) is less aggressive than its counterpart in Marrakech!

Fortunately for me, I had wrapped up all of my planned purchases, meaning that I was not looking for anything in the medina. Unlike shopping in (most of) the fixed-price shops in the ville, one of the centerpieces of shopping in the medina is the ancient and noble art of haggling. It is a game of sorts played by both seller and buyer, and it certainly has many stages. The start is when the seller gets the potential buyer into his (most shopkeepers are male, so political correctness be damned!) shop. Often sellers of high-dollar items, like rugs, may offer his guest some mint tea, the Moroccan national drink, as the buyer looks at various items for sale. Once the buyer sees something he or she likes (many times the owners are very good at figuring out what the buyer wants the most, even if he or she feigns interest), then the next stage - that of negotiation - begins.

The price first given by the seller is never the price at which he intends to sell; most sellers are in fact insulted if the buyer doesn't negotiate the price down, as it doesn't follow the rules of the game. Frequent tactics by sellers include lowering price "because you're a student/American/whatever I want to get you to buy this," commenting on the quality of the product, the good cop/bad cop approach (the second seller is unwilling to drop the price, while the first and more senior seller "forces" a lower price), and preparing the product as if the sale has been completed. Conversely, tactics for the buyer include praising the seller and his goods, claiming a lack of funds (one good method is hiding funds in other pockets or areas, so as to show a lack of money: the poor student act!), and breaking off negotiations/walking, which (if timed correctly) can get a further drop in price.

However, once there is a handshake on a price, it is obligatory for the buyer to purchase; this is yet another rule of the game. The actions of the seller post-sale are a sign of how the buyer has done in the negotiations; if the seller is extremely angry at the buyer, then he or she has gotten a good price, while kindness from the seller probably means that the buyer has overpaid. Then the process begins with new buyers and sellers!

After going through this for what seemed like an eternity, we finally decided to escape the sweltering labyrinth of the Fes medina in order to prepare for ftour at a most unusual place: McDonald's, transcribed into Arabic as "MaakDounaalds." Incredibly, ol' Mickey D's has done a very good job of localizing in Morocco, as they were serving traditional ftour food in addition to their usual menu. Never before have I seen a McDonald's sell harira, dates, and bread alongside Big Macs and the "Royale Cheese" ("You mean they don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?")! After not eating or drinking for the day and walking several kilometers in the medina, I had a veritable feast. One "Maxi Best of..." (think like a large-size value menu) Royale Cheese (which they refused to make plain for some strange reason...), a bottle of strawberry-flavored water, and a Kit-Kat McFlurry. Never before (except for possibly one particular McDonald's in Stephen City, VA, where my dad and I stopped while moving my sister to New York) had McDonald's tasted so incredibly amazing.

After leaving the McDonald's crafted by the hands of Allah, we finally made our way back to Ifrane by grand taxi, tired but happy.

As always, I love getting comments or topic requests, so if you've got any for me, please feel free to email me at golladayp@gmail.com, and I'll see what I can do.

(Unfortunately) Back to the salt mines of academia,
Phillip

Posted by golladayp 17:55 Archived in Morocco Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

Fasting and Ftour

The Joys of Ramadan

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As promised, I am giving you an additional update this weekend. Who knew that I would actually keep my word on this one?

In any case, the month of Ramadan is upon us, so I wish you a “Ramadan mubarak sa'id,” or what amounts to “Happy Ramadan.” For those of you are unfamiliar, Ramadan is a month in the Islamic lunar calendar during which the Prophet Mohammed received the Qur’an (or Koran; the Islamic holy book) from Allah. What this entails for a Muslim is that he or she must abstain from many activities permitted by Allah from the first prayer call of the day (fajr, which is right before sunrise) until the next to last prayer call (maghrib, which is right after sunset). For example, here in Ifrane the current times for beginning and ending is from around 4:30 AM until 6:30 PM, although these times are getting closer together, since the days are shortening. During these hours, people are supposed to abstain from any sort of eating, drinking (even water), smoking, and sexual activity.

Now that I’ve given you the encyclopedic definition of Ramadan, I’d like to let you know what it’s like to be in a Muslim country during Ramadan. Even though Morocco is a fairly liberal country in its interpretation of Islam, Ramadan is a very serious event here; one way of putting it is that their strict adherence to the fast makes up for their lack of adherence to the other four pillars of Islam! Seriously, though, life in Morocco changes completely during Ramadan. Even on our campus, which is home to a large number of non-Muslim students, many campus services close around 3:30 in the afternoon and don’t reopen until after ftour, or the breaking of the fast. This doesn’t apply to places on campus alone; while in Fes last weekend, I was at Marjane (think something resembling a Wal-Mart Supercenter) when we were asked to go and check out, because the store was about to close. At 6 PM! That – combined with the fact that the alcohol section of the store was completely closed off – was one of the more surprising things I saw there.

So, with no food and nothing to drink, what is a person supposed to do? Well, most people rest for as long as possible during Ramadan, in large part because during fasting, one’s blood-sugar level is near zero! Unfortunately for the average college student (or professor), classes are not optional, so frequently sitting through class becomes an exercise in self-torture, especially if a class is right before the end of the fast. Not surprisingly people become a little more high-strung during Ramadan, and sometimes tempers can be on the short side.
However, this is all made up when it comes to the time for ftour. A traditional Moroccan ftour usually resembles something like this: the first food to traditionally break the fast is the date. Usually after eating one or two dates (the first one I ate at the first ftour was possibly the sweetest thing I’ve ever eaten!), the next thing to be consumed is a bowl of harira, which is a tomato-based soup with chickpeas, pasta, cilantro, and (occasionally) meat. Other items include milawi, or a grilled flatbread, shebekia, which are honey-covered pastries, and various juices, milk, and water.

The process of eating continues long into the night, until right before the beginning of the fast. At this point, most people are quite tired, so to no one’s surprise most people sleep as late as possible the next morning. Then the whole fasting process begins once again!

Well, that about sums up a brief explanation of Ramadan here in Morocco. Once again, I love to get feedback on the column, so feel free to send me a message at golladayp@gmail.com, and I’ll try to address it in future columns!

Signing off from Ifrane,
Phillip

Posted by golladayp 20:33 Archived in Morocco Tagged events Comments (0)

Of Delays and Travels

Why I Haven't Been Writing

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You know, one of the problems with writing any sort of blog or column is that whenever you are remiss in your writing duties, the amount of material tends to stack up, becoming rather like a snowball rolling down a hill. As the topics increase, this makes the writer less inclined to write, knowing that it’s extremely difficult to prioritize the pile of information which he or she wants to present to the reader. It truly is a vicious circle, and my circle was certainly not helped by being rather busy, both in terms of classwork and travel.

Fortunately for yours truly, I am turning the proverbial lemons into lemonade, and I shall be covering these two
obstructions for this column (thus wrapping up that sappy little bit of writing about my writing!). After around a month on the ground here in Ifrane, I can now safely report about my academic life on campus. The term had quite a slow start, in great part because of the need to take placement testing as courses were already starting! The Arabic exam two days before classes started, while French was completed only after the first day of classes. I am currently taking 13 credits worth of classes, which is a light but recommended load for us international students. I’m taking beginning Arabic II (where I placed, as well as the place in the book where we stopped in the summer!), Algeria since independence, 20th century international history, and computer programming in C.

But wait, you might be thinking: What about French? Well, I placed into consolidating French (kind of like beginning II/intermediate I French) but I ran into a major scheduling conflict: the French class conflicted with both sections of programming. This gave me three options: drop programming for French (didn’t want to), try to take the next highest level of French (probably not a good idea for someone who hasn’t taken French in a classroom for over four years now), or work in my spare time to improve my French for placement back at W&L. The third choice, needless to say, became the least bad option for me.

Enough about placement, though; let’s talk about the courses. I am in the fortunate position of being in two classes with mainly international students (Arabic and Algerian history) and two classes with mainly Moroccan students (Programming and 20th century). This provides an interesting situation, especially in my programming class, where I am the only non-Moroccan student in both sections. Some funny situations have occurred, such as when I was asked a question by a classmate in Moroccan Arabic! My blank look must have been priceless. However, programming does have one major advantage: we are all on the same playing field when it comes to language, since we are all newcomers to the C language.

Classes in the sciences are certainly interesting outside of the States, particularly when you are not a major in that field. I have been asked countless times by my classmates why I am in programming; they are quite surprised that a liberal-arts major would take any science/math course for (essentially) fun. The other classes, though, are quite different, especially since they are in my major area. The two history courses are great, although one of the biggest surprises I’ve had thus far has been in the area of textbooks, or rather the lack of them. At W&L, it’s not uncommon for a history class to have at least five or six books, if not more! Here I have two texts for both history classes. I was shocked when I picked up my books here.

Of course, studying abroad is not merely about textbooks and lectures; one of the most important parts is taking the opportunities to visit and enjoy your host country and culture. Two weeks ago I was presented with a prime opportunity to do just this: Morocco had parliamentary elections, which meant that the university was closed to allow students to go home and vote (they don’t have absentee voting here). For those who didn’t vote (only about 37% of the electorate voted) and internationals, this meant that we had a three-day weekend. A few friends and I decided to go up to Tangier (also spelled Tanger (French), Tanja (Arabic), and probably other ways too!), which is on the northern tip of Morocco. As we wanted to make the best use of the three-day weekend, we took a train from Meknes – the closest train station – at around 2:45 in the morning on Thursday night/Friday morning. We got to Tangier around 7:30 AM, meaning that we went to our friend Khalil’s apartment overlooking the port to recharge our batteries (travelling in second-class meant that it was impossible for some of us to sleep!). We then went out for a delicious lunch at a Lebanese restaurant along the boulevard running alongside the beach, then went up to Cape Spartel, which is where the Atlantic Ocean becomes the Strait of Gibraltar. On clear days you can actually see where the water changes, even current and color of the water. Needless to say, it wasn’t a clear day. Oh, well.

After a quiet evening (for some of us!) I got up bright and early at 6:00 in order to cross the Straits to Europe with a friend. After getting to the port and buying our ferry tickets, we waited for our 9:30 AM crossing, which would take approximately an hour. We arrived in Algeciras, Spain, around 12:30 PM. Now you’re probably wondering where those two extra hours went. Well, Spain is one hour ahead of Morocco in terms of time zone (though they are at the same longitude), and Morocco, unlike Spain, does not have Daylight Savings Time, causing a two-hour shift. Undaunted, we walked to the local bus station in order to get to the city of La Linea, which is the Spanish side of the Gibraltar border.

Gibraltar’s name comes from the Arabic “Jebel Tariq,” or “Tariq’s mountain,” for the Berber general who landed there and started the Muslim conquest of Spain. When one approaches “The Rock,” it becomes apparent why the names for the area revolve around the big hunk of stone. It’s huge! After arriving at the bus station in La Linea (cost only 2 euro to get there!) we continued on foot in the direction of the mountain. Then we arrived at the border. For a territory which is a constant thorn in the side of Anglo-Spanish relations, the crossing was surprisingly simple: the Spanish authorities gave a glance to the passport, as did the British customs official. After that, we were in the realm of the Crown.

Knowing that our time in Gibraltar was going to be limited (since we needed to return to Morocco), we immediately set out on a walk. After walking across the runway of Gibraltar’s airport, which is the only such road crossing of its kind as far as I know, we continued along Winston Churchill Avenue into the town proper. Union Jacks and the Gibraltarian flag were flying everywhere: it turns out that the next Monday was Gibraltar’s national day, and patriotism in Gibraltar is at levels I never thought were possible! Finally, after a long trek, we managed to find the cable car which goes to the top of the Rock. The view was incredible. Also, we got to see the monkeys; legend says that as long as the Barbary monkeys live on the Rock, the British will remain in Gibraltar. Not surprisingly, the monkeys are treated extremely well. After many photos on the top of the Rock, we descended, almost ready to go “home.”
Before we left, though, I had one obligatory stop: one of the many pubs in the territory. After sitting down to a pint of bitter (incredibly the drinking age in Gibraltar is only 16!), my friend and I decided to take in the atmosphere of the pub. There were three separate sporting events going on, all involving British teams: Scotland-Lithuania in soccer, England-India in cricket, and (as we were leaving) England-US in rugby. I found out later that we showed a lot of spirit in a 28-10 loss to the current world champions! But we needed to get back to Algeciras in order to get to Tanger, so we took a bus to the border, meeting an American couple along the way, and then the bus back from La Linea to the port.

Several hours later, we were back on Moroccan soil, where we found several of our friends quite ill (possibly a case of food poisoning, possibly a bit of a bug). The rest of the group decided to go get some food, so we walked over to the local Pizza Hut. I had some Pizza Hut while in Casablanca before returning to the States, and what I had remembered (some of the best pizza ever!) remained just as true in Tanger. A Moroccan friend and I split a large pepperoni (beef pepperoni, of course!) pizza with what they called “Cheesy Volcano” crust. Imagine an over-stuffed stuffed crust pizza with mozzarella and cheddar, and that’s what it was. The next morning, we hopped on the next train homeward, and got back in the middle of the afternoon.
Looking at this, I think it was a bad idea to remind myself of that incredibly delicious pizza, since we are in the middle of Ramadan. However, as it seems that I’ve run out of space for now, I will have to leave that for next time, which hopefully will be sometime this weekend. Of course, given my track record, I make no guarantees!

Feel free to drop me a line at golladayp@gmail.com, and let me know what you think!

Good night from the Middle Atlas,
Phillip

PS: I have set up an account at Flickr for my photos, and I am slowly uploading a small selection of pictures from my travels. Feel free to visit it at http://www.flickr.com/photos/12487417@N03/.

Posted by golladayp 18:07 Archived in Gibraltar Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

What a Day It Has Been

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FES – It is now around 8:30 PM local time here in Fes, and I am only just now getting a chance to review what has happened over the past twenty-eight and a half hours. They started fairly in-noccous enough when I parted ways with my father at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. Unlike my flight over back in May, though, this trip was going to be slightly trickier. First off, instead of taking Royal Air Maroc’s (RAM’s) daily flight from JFK to Casablanca, which would have required taking a domestic flight from Casa to Fes (something which I have heard needs to be avoided if possible), I instead flew from Charlotte to Philadelphia, from which I departed to Charles de Gaulle in Paris and then finally on to Fes. Additionally, this trip was somewhat com-plicated by the fact that as soon as I got on the ground I needed to make my way to my hotel, which I will discuss later. On top of all of this, this was my first time in Philadelphia’s, Paris’s, and Fes’s airports, which exacerbated the fact that I was doing all of this on my own for the very first time! Needless to say, it was a bit daunting for he who is with very little solo travel expe-rience.
Keeping in mind these potential problems, I had decided to set up my flights in such a way that I had enough layover time to account for potential delays, so I wouldn’t need to worry about po-tentially missing a flight. The inevitable outcome of this travel schedule was that if my flights ran on time, I was going to have a marathon day involving close to 24 straight hours of flight and layovers until arriving in Fes. True to form, there were indeed no delays. My first flight – a 1:25 PM flight to Philly – was only about ninety minutes long, meaning that I had about three hours before my connector to Paris. Fortunately I still had cell phone service, so I spent most of the time talking to family and friends. After getting a last bite to eat in America (appropriately enough, a burger and fries from good ol’ MacDo’s), I got on the plane bound for France, which departed around 6:45 PM local time.

This was only my third overnight flight, and this flight gave me a chance to compare and contrast with my previous two on Delta/Alitalia and RAM/Delta (the first airline was the operator of the plane, in case you were wondering). The first thing I noticed was that the flight was not very full: in fact, yours truly got a three seat middle row all to himself! The obvious upshot to this was that I got a lot more legroom than usual, crucial to how well the flight goes for me. Another difference with US Airways was their entertainment system for the A330, which is what we flew over. Even though I was in coach (4 rows from the back of the plane, in fact), we received an on-demand entertainment system, complete with movies, TV, and even CDs. Given this new-found freedom, I decided to keep myself entertained. After reading this week’s Economist dur-ing takeoff, I decided to start a massive Sudoku book to the sounds of the Scissor Sisters’ Ta-Dah! Incidentally that was the only album of music I had with me after I was forced to reformat my computer during the summer, so the album which kept me sane while in Morocco also relaxed me during my return. Over dinner (an interesting barbecued beef dish with – among other things – a packet of organic white chocolate lemon cookies from Flat Rock, NC) I got to watch a fascinating show highlighting the rivalry between Hershey and Mars, the two largest candy man-ufacturers in the US. Finally, I decided to watch the film Breach, which is based on the opera-tion which entrapped Robert Hanssen, possibly the most damaging mole in American intelligence history. I highly recommend the movie. Finally, I tried to get a few hours of shuteye, but the next thing I remembered was them serving breakfast. Then I started thinking about jetlag over breakfast, and I realized something very funny: I don’t think that I’ve ever experienced jetlag. What I have experienced has been the extreme fatigue of running what amounts to an all-nighter and then getting to have another stress-filled day on top of that. If that’s what jetlag is, then I’ve had it; I’ve just never thought of it like that.

Finally we got on the ground in Paris at around 8:00 AM local time, which gave me a very slim window of almost eight hours in which to sit around with my bags, since I was switching air-lines! The reason why is because Charles de Gaulle (CDG) is like most major airports in that its terminals physically separate. In other words, we flew into Terminal 1, home to long-range in-ternational flights. Terminal 2 is where mainly Air France and its affiliates fly, while most short-range international flights and charters go through Terminal 3. After spending nearly three hours in Terminal 1, waiting for when I could find the check-in counter, I found out that I needed to go to Terminal 3. No big deal, though, as a quick ride on the fully-automated shuttle train gets you there, albeit with an additional five minute walk attached to it. After arriving in the terminal, I quickly learned something: As it deals with small carriers and charters, Terminal 3 doesn’t have much in the way of permanent check-in counters; instead, they are shared by the airlines as they are needed. The short of this is that I got to sit for an additional two and a half hours in the terminal with my bags at my side. Oh, yeah, there’s another problem with traveling solo: if you need to do important things like, say, go to the restroom, it’s not really possible until after you’ve checked baggage. Five and a half hours of torture later, I at long last earned a reprieve. The other problem is that focusing on not having baggage stolen for that long really numbs the mind, especially when you’re running on maybe ninety minutes of sleep (in large part my fault, I know) and when your reading is A Political History of Zambia (again, my choice; the book is really quite interesting, just a little thick at times).

After getting the baggage checked again and going through passport control again, I got to wait for another two and a half hours to get on my final flight, which was on Atlas Blue, RAM’s dis-count carrier (how a developing country’s national airline has a “budget carrier,” I really don’t understand), and it went straight to Fes. The flight was quick and straightforward; dinner and service were very good, as it has been for me on RAM. When we touched down and I walked down the staircase to see one of the peaks of the Middle Atlas, a massive smile came across my face. It was akin to returning home to me (well, kind of like a second home in my heart). Another passport control and customs check, and I was finally back in Morocco. A grand taxi (French for “large taxi” and not necessarily a grand ride!) ride into Fes took me to my hotel for the night: the Sofitel Palais Jamaï. The reason it is for only one night is twofold: first, nearly every hotel except for the Sofitel were booked up for tonight (again, my error); secondly – and more importantly – it is prohibitively expensive (my room’s going rate is close to US$300 per night, though I got it for significantly less). However, upon getting here, it has been truly one-of-a-kind. After checking in to a pot of mint tea to consume as I overlooked the medina at my own leisure (and having a talk with the concierge and general manager of the hotel!), I was taken up to my room, where a table had been laid out complete with roses and carnations, fresh bananas and peaches, bottles of spring water (a necessity here, for reasons stated in previous entries), and a box of Moroccan cookies, including a type of thin biscotti with dried fruit in it, a sesame seed roll, an oatmeal and almond cookie with a peanut “thumbprint,” a coconut and almond con-coction covered in confectioners’ sugar, an almond cookie that simply melts in your mouth, and a cookie that has a delicious almond filling (see a common theme here?). As if that wasn’t enough, the bed was turned down, complete with two espresso truffles! The hotel (and its incredible service) has been the perfect end to what has been an obscenely long day for yours truly.

I’ve certainly gone on a lot longer than I had anticipated, and as I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in…well, I’m not completely sure how long!...I suppose that I will wrap things up here. I will definitely try to get in the habit of publishing an entry once or twice a week, although unlike the summer, I will try to make each entry more of a column on a particular issue. That’s where you – my loyal readers – can come in to help. Think that my topics are mundane? Hear too much (or not enough, for that matter) about food? By all means, let me know what you think! Just drop me a line at golladayp@gmail.com, and I’ll be happy to read your comments, praise, and even *gasp* criticism! Also, if you have any column topics you want me to address – from Moroccan tea culture to Islam in Morocco and everywhere in between – just send me an email at the same address, and I’ll try my best to answer your questions. After all, one of the biggest benefits of studying abroad is the ability to dispel rumors and stereotypes of the host country! Many people I have talked to were indeed surprised that the average Moroccan street does not resemble its Saudi counterpart. I’m just trying to give you what I’m seeing from my perspective.

Farewell from Fes for now.
Phillip

Posted by golladayp 03:46 Archived in Morocco Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

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