A Welcome Note: On Filling the Gaps

Dear Friends and Family:

Although I haven't added any posts since the summer of 2007, this blog continues to be a warehouse of my thoughts and experiences from my time abroad.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

Morocco: Day Two, Part I

2.24.07 - Only a few hours after finally getting to sleep on Friday night, we were up again and ready to go. We began the day at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, and although I was content to once again have a coffee that was larger than a single gulp, I was disappointed. I had expected this of course, but not only was I unsatisfied with the watered down taste of American coffee, the gross Americanization of Madrid really made me happy to be living in Rome, where there are only a handful of McDonalds and Starbucks and most other non-Italian chain restaurants are non-existent. Of course I am most definitely biased as I was hardly able to spend any time in the large city which during my short stay felt more like Chicago than any European city to which I had traveled). In minutes we were back on the metro and made our way back to the airport. It was good we arrived with ample time, since we ended up first at the wrong terminal and were forced to backtrack to Terminal Four once again where we had arrived the day before to finally depart for Morocco. Before we knew it (55mins later to be exact), we were in Tangier, Morocco. We set our watches back an hour and stepped out onto the tarmac.

The airport consisted of not much more than a few concrete boxes, which paled in comparison to Spain’s architectural masterpieces, but we were in Tangier which was all that mattered at that point, and duty free shops were the last thing on anyone’s mind. We passed through customs, withdrew our first batch of Dirham from the airport ATM and stepped out into the fresh Moroccan air by the taxi stand. Our first destination was Café Hafa, a seaside local hangout that was once frequented by celebrities like the Rolling Stones according to Holiday. We hired Mohammed, the first of many we came across in our travels, to drive us . On the way there in his beige Mercedes taxi, replete with ochre shag interior, we drove along the outskirts of the town and noticed the incredible amount of development occurring surrounded by at the city edges. High rises shot up from the ground and cranes swung in the dust, schoolchildren walking home and donkeys ambling about. We passed a large circular structure which we had noticed from the air. What we had believed to be an ancient ruin of some sort, an old Roman amphitheater perhaps, turned out to be a modern football stadium under construction with only the concrete foundation and vertical supports already standing. Apparently, the current stadium, closer to the center of town, was no longer adequate to accommodate the increasing number of fans. After flying by a few important palaces (which Mohammed cleverl including a palace once owned by Forbes, and the local university, we woundy pointed out), our way away from the city center and came to an abrupt stop in front of a metal barricade at the edge of what seemed to be a building project. One sun burnished construction worker peered out at us from under a straw hat and behind a wall he was building. Another balanced on a plank spanned across the dirt road on which we stood, painting the second floor of a stucco structure. After paying our drivers 150 dirham each (equal to a little less than 15 Euro—the ratio is about 11 to 1), we asked once again where this café was since there was clearly no indication anywhere around the semi-deserted block. Mohammed confidently pointed down the road and we, despite our skepticism, followed his directions. Sure enough we found it.

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