For the past two weeks I’ve been travelling again for work. Back to Warsaw first, and this time joined by Bex who very graciously endured my abridged, second-hand re-enactment of an Old Town walking tour. It was also great to see Mark and Caroline again, and along with a couple of others we visited what I can only assume is one of the city’s premier gambling establishments. Alas it still failed to arouse my interest in actually gambling (no surprise there) and so instead I amused the Italians by ordering tea (with milk) at the bar. I was desperate.
After a couple of hours wandering around Brussels on a layover, my next stop was Morocco. Having been advised that Marrakesh would be a more interesting place to spend a weekend than Casablanca, I started there.
I was excited – this was actually my first visit to any African country whatsoever, let alone Morocco – and spent Sunday exploring the city. (Yes, I know I’m wearing a super-touristy hat: it’s only because I needed to get some change for entry into the Saadian Tombs.) The central square, Jemaa el-Fnaa, is breathtaking and the souks alongside are fun to explore, just as long as you watch out for the motorbikes which some people see fit to ride through the packed, narrow paths.
I’m also very glad I visited the Majorelle Garden – it’s a small, enclosed space but is astonishingly colourful and peaceful inside. The perfect calming antidote to a bustling market, and the last thing I saw before catching my train to Casablanca. (A three hour ride, in wonderful old-fashioned compartment style for about $14. The rest of the world should take note.) I’m pretty sure the two Spanish men to my right were complaining about the English, though.
I should mention that Morocco is very much an Arabic and French speaking country, and the limitations of my English-only tongue were particularly evident in the taxi journey from Casablanca’s main railway station to my hotel. I was somewhat confused when another passenger joined us – this turns out to be a normal and, I guess, somewhat economic quirk of their taxi system – and then the driver grew increasingly impatient with my inability to answer any of his questions. Thankfully, the atmosphere lightened when he stopped the car in order to hide away some cash in a secret cubby hole hidden in the middle of the steering wheel, and we both started laughing together. You don’t really need to share a language to bond. A shared love of the absurd will do.
I didn’t get a chance for much touristy stuff in Casablanca, although I was well taken care of by Francisco and Jessica while I was there, and enjoyed hanging out with other visitors from the French office. We did make it to the world’s third-largest mosque one night, right by the sea, which was beautiful.
But soon it was time to go home, and fortunately this time the mysterious gods of yield-management airline pricing granted me an overnight stay in Brussels. So as a lovely bonus to the whole trip, my parents popped in by train so we could have dinner together and see the city sights by night.
So now, in terms of tourist sightseeing, I can tick off the Grand Place, the Mannequin-Pis (or the “peeing boy statue” as everyone actually says) and the Atomium. We worried the latter would be a wasted cab ride – with nothing to see in the dark – but were pleased to discover that at night it lights up and sparkles more than a Twilight vampire.
Oh, and in the midst of all of this, I also scored theatre tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child from an intense online booking queue. But that is a story for next year…
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