Okay, so it’s starting to feel real now.
I’m sitting in my apartment in Océan right now in my Moroccan salon, which generally entails little Moroccan couches around the room with tables in the middle for meals and tea. Our apartment is clean, which is a huge deal, and it’s a lot more Western-style than where I stayed last summer, which is nice because both Mack and I are experiencing some culture shock.
Today has been such a long day. I guess it’s a new day since we set out, actually, but either way it’s been incredibly long. We boarded our massive Royal Air Maroc flight last night around 10. My first impression of the airline was not a good one, but our opinion quickly changed when we realized we had an empty seat between us. It only got better from there when our flight attendant started flirting with us and gave us free bottles of wine. For the rest of the flight, he kept bringing us more and more. I think we got a total of six free bottles, so now our fridge is full of tiny little Moroccan wine bottles.
The flight was pretty uneventful other than that, and we got into Casablanca around 10:30. Getting our passports stamped was an obvious milestone of the day, so that was exciting! In my head we were sort of dividing the day into little milestones to make it more manageable, so things like going through security, taking off, going through customs, etc. When we got off the plane, our next step was to find the train station. We didn’t know exactly how to find it, but it turned out that there was a train station attached to the airport, so that was no problem at all.
Our first real hiccup of the day was transferring trains. We were so exhausted at this point, and the motion of the train was completely lulling us to sleep – we were lucky I was awake when they announced the stop name. We had to get to the other side of the tracks for our next train, which is easier said than done when you have three heavy bags and zero upper body strength. We made it to the other side and had to wait in the heat for a while, but finally the next train arrived, and we were off to Rabat Ville.
When we finally got to Rabat, I called Nzha, our contact here for our apartment, who spoke to our cab driver and gave him instructions on how to get to our place. For me, this part was pretty exciting because I was back in Rabat, and it was all coming back to me from last summer! We went down the same boulevards and by the Medina, and it was very comforting for me to be back where I recognized everything.
The taxi was stopped by a security guard, and all of the sudden a man was carrying my suitcase away from the car and into a nearby building. I hopped out and we followed him into this building, which turned out to be our apartment building. It’s all a complete blur, but somehow I was passing off my suitcase to the building keeper and following a little Moroccan woman up five flights of stairs to our new place.
We were so hot, and I hardly remember Nzha going over everything with us. Somehow we managed to keep it together, and after seeing the place handed over our month’s rent in cash. As soon as she left, we both passed out in our Moroccan salon and slept for four hours. I would have slept longer, but Mack woke me up so that we would be able to sleep later tonight.
After our nap, we got changed and made a list of groceries ad things we needed, before going down to Nzha’s apartment on the 3rd floor to ask for directions to the closest supermarket. She invited us in and made us the famous Moroccan mint tea, which felt like such a comfort even though it in now way is a reminder of home. She introduced us to her family, including her son Nabil, who offered to take us to the grocery store because it was getting dark. It’s easy to forget after being away from Morocco how amazing the people are here. These complete strangers welcomed two sweaty Canadians in to their home and have really gone above and beyond to help us with everything that we need. I don’t know if there’s anywhere else in the world like that.
After tea, we followed Nabil through the streets of Rabat to pick up some groceries. He is a software engineer, and was super friendly! He lives with his mother (Nzha), his wife, and their five children. It was very interesting to hear him talk about his family; he said that five children is too much, but his wife is the one who deals with it and since she loves it he doesn’t mind.
He also told us that we don’t need to worry about dressing a certain way or being over conservative because people in Morocco are so nice and accommodating. I remember Abdelmajid saying the same sort of thing last summer in Morocco, and it’s interesting to hear men talk about that sort of thing. Obviously when we’re walking around with them we experience little-to-no street harassment, but the situation is completely different as two foreigners walking around alone. He also had the same sort of pride that I remember Abdelmajid having about Morocco. He talked about how stable the country is and admitted to the undeniable wealth gap, but also said that there’s poverty everywhere and that it’s ignorant to place it specifically on Africa. It was so interesting speaking with him about poverty and development, because both Mack and I are studying it.
The grocery store ended up being the same one that Mom and I used to stop at last summer, so that was definitely exciting. Nabil waited while we picked up some necessities like toilet paper and soap, and then helped us carry it back, claiming that Moroccan men are “gallant”.
He asked us if we’d ever had citronade, and since we hadn’t he said we had to stop and get a drink. We went to a typical little Moroccan café and he ordered us each one. It’s basically really sweet lemonade with thick whipped cream on top – a combination I’d never think to try, but it was pretty good! We sat and talked while we drank, and Nabil talked about how Rabat is very “tranquille”. That directly translates to “quiet” in English, but he meant it in more of sense of “secure” and “safe”, in that people won’t bother you.
We’re back in our apartment now, and I’m back to not really believing that outside my window is a view of the Old Medina and an ancient Muslim cemetery. We’re hot, tired, and culture shocked, but also excited and bewildered that we’re here.