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Bobbi, Dusty, Glenn, and Vance in Morocco and Spain

June-July 2000


We alighted at a busy and unkempt bus yard in El Jadida, more what I expected Moroccan bus stations to be like, as opposed to the sterile efficiency of the one in Casablanca. We ignored offers of guidance from the all and sundry who crowded the bus when we were retrieving our bags and retreated to the interior of the station where we found smelly but reasonably clean toilets (pipitunities at a dirham a pop) and left baggage at 5 dirhams a bag. The baggage handlers, and everyone we had met so far for that matter, were helpful and efficient and eager to please. We patronized both places and grabbed a petite taxi on the street and told him, according to what I'd read in the Lonely Planet guide to Morocco on the way down, 'vieux madina'. 'Cite Portuguese?' he countered. We had a deal.

Our destination was an old walled town where we could walk on the ramparts and see a couple of monuments, such as the old cisterns used by Orson Wells in his filming of Hamlet's Othello (they'd been used for water collection before that, but the floors were dry when we arrived). We made our way past a collection of souvenir shops and eschewed the kindly old guide in traditional dress who stood ready with pointer rapping on map of the complex, and who had started the explication in French when I asked the lady who'd sold us the ticket if he came with the price. She said no, we'd have to tip him something, and he hesitated at that point, and we've been in enough uncomfortable 'as you like' situations, where you offer the person a fraction of what is in your pocket, he pretends it's but a fraction of what he needs each day to support himself and family, and you're strongly encouraged to dig deeper. I can't think of any explication that would be worth dealing with that touch and counter-touch, and now I just say no. The explicator accepted this, and we viewed the old cisterns in peace and blissful ignorance.

Afterwards we went on a walk on the walls. The view extended over a harbor with a pincer-like jetty that looked like it could have supported the colossus of Rhodes at some point, Kids poured into the water at its mouth, and a windsurfer plied back and forth, out of place with the rest of the more traditional boats in the fishing fleet. The other senses were not as pleasantly accosted. Trash washed into what was once a picturesque quay in the qasr walls, and the smell of urine wafted up from stairwells leading to filthy dead ends in the watchtowers. Kids loitering on the wharves or playing soccer in the dirt around the walls called up occasionally but otherwise left us alone. We walked along the ramparts to return to the city gates and make our way back to the station where we'd left our bags. We started walking but we hailed a petite taxi when we began to lose our way.

At the station the baggage handlers explained to us how to get to Oudaliya, our destination for the night. We had stepped off the last bus to the place when we'd disembarked at 3 that afternoon. So we were told to pile into a petite taxi and get taken to the station for the grands taxis, where spaces filled on a first come first served basis for Oualidia and other destinations. The 3 of us filled half a cab, so it wasn't long before another three were found, and we were off in the heat of afternoon.

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