My flight into Casablanca was uneventful. I landed at 1 am in a dense fog which immediately brought to mind the scene in the movie, “Casablanca” when Humphrey Bogart is saying goodbye to Ingrid Bergman. There is little direction or order to the Customs process, but navigating the form and the line was no problem. Walking out to the taxi stand was a little more daunting but I managed to ask politely to be taken to Hotel Le Doge; a Relais & Châteaux property near the Casablanca Medina.
Arriving at 2 am to a dark lobby did not do the hotel justice at all but my room was as I fully anticipated; stunning! The Charlie Chaplin Suite was brilliant; dark wood floors, adorned with movie poster art and a bathroom fit for a Princess. The bed was all I could focus on after a near 48 hour journey thus far. I did, however, manage to pop open a bottle if beer from the mini-bar using the bathroom door jamb as a bottle opener. As expected, it was devoid of flavor but worth the attempt anyway.
I manged to get 6 hours of solid sleep and awoke to the smell of fresh coffee and baked croissants in the parlor. My appetite was not big but a breakfast of cheese, meat and bread was perfect fuel for the day.
Casablanca is not a place I had much desire to spend time in and my big adventure planned for the day was a 4 hour train trip to Fes (Fez), the cultural Capital and 2nd largest city in Morocco with about 1 million people. The hotel driver helped me purchase my 1st Class ticket for 165 Dirham, which is approximately $20. Unfortunately, the high speed option was not available for this time of day so my choice was the normal train which stops at most stations between Casablanca and Fes. Four hours is a long time to “not” be able to use a toilette so water was not an option on this journey 🙂 Most of the passengers were men but fortunately ( and I am not sure if by design) my compartment included myself and 5 other women, all local. Apart from my ability to greet them in Arabic, the only communication was the occasional smile of acknowledgment. The ride was long and silent, albeit fairly comfortable. I felt welcome none the less and that was a good feeling. The view was that of countryside and several town including the capital of Rabat.
I faced the poverty that I have seen in so many countries to which I have traveled. It can be very difficult for a Westerner to witness but for me, it serves as a reminder that this world is large and diverse. Life as I know it is but a small piece of the puzzle. For the average person in Morocco, it would seem their level of faith serves more as measurement of wealth. Morocco is a collectivistic society and “duty” is a word I would best use to describe the mindset of people here. Whether they know a person or not, the nature of most people here is to help. A common response to thank you, La shukra عala wajib, loosely translates to “Don’t thank me, it is my duty”
This is not saying materialism and greed do not exist here as they do throughout the world. There is somewhat of a caste system evident here. There is no shortage of iPhones and designer handbags but for the most part, I view this as a culture of great faith and conviction.
I will end this post with a challenge. At least once in your lifetime, travel to a distant land; one that greatly contrasts the life you know. Apart from gaining an even greater appreciation for the life we are blessed with, you will likely develop greater respect and perhaps even tolerance for cultures that are so very different from our own. We judge our success and failure in very different terms. Regardless of beliefs, it would be hard not to realize that we are but a tiny grain of sand in this massive universe. For me, it brings peace and clarity.
معالسالمة Maعa s-salaama
“Go in Peace”
“When the Universal Soul breathes through a man’s intellect, it is genius; when it breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Next stop “Riad Laaroussa” in Fes…