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

June-July 2000


The seascapes had me trying to identify any productive surf breaks, but the landscape was uninspiring, scrubby, with rolling outcroppings reminiscent of other parts of the Middle East. The towns were frenetic concatenations of traffic, businesses and humanity on main streets sometimes brightened with parks. Oualidia appeared to be one such place, but it was possible to walk down a street heading to the level of the ocean. The town disappeared at the start of the descent and the view was of rooftops surrounding a lagoon spread below with waves breaking at its narrow mouth. It was starting to look picturesque.

I'm not sure what I was expecting. I had told Dusty earlier in the day, after days of fever and delay and inconvenience, that I was looking forward to a good seafood dinner with a bottle of wine on the table. He had said, sure dad, dream on. At the time I'd have taken either one of those.

Pete never really explained why we should go to his recommended places. The Ibis had been a good call, and now we were responding to "Day 2 - Oualidia - stay at l'Arraignee". No reason given. We had the Lonely Planet guide for Morocco. Oualidia was favorably described esp. as a place where it was possible to view birds. So there we were with our packs on our backs walking down from the busy main highway into the relative tranquillity of the lagoon with its houses set back from the half-moon beach, following the faded signs for l'Araignee.

It didn't look like the kind of town I would have picked to stay in, but we were there at sundown, and we were in luck. There were rooms at the inn. L'Araignee was a tastefully decorated old house, with wood paneling and tasteful tiling. The place was awash with French families with children sandy from the beach and Moroccan families down for the weekend. We dropped off our packs and went for a wander to see what the draw could possibly be. After doing a circuit up the road to the headland and back down the beach, we couldn't figure for the life of us, besides the picturesque lagoon and maybe the prospect of joining in a soccer game with the locals, what the attraction of the place was.

We found out back at the hotel. We had agreed to take the room with dinner and breakfast for $60 the three of us, but when we went down to dinner, it wasn't clear what menu we should choose, so the patron came over and wrote out an itemization: room 260, breakfast, etc. the idea being we could just order what we wanted. So we ordered three seafood menus, one with lobster, and of course a bottle of wine. The wine was superb and just $5 a bottle. We were tasting the wine when the soup appeared. A muddy broth, we were looking about at each other wondering what we'd got into when lo there appeared a huge platter of sea urchins interspersed with oysters on the half shell and topped with a huge crab. Unsure that we had actually ordered that, I asked the waiter, and he said "fruit de la mar," which come to think of it was the name of one of the courses in the set meal. So we were using the special pliers and prods provided to dismantle the crab when a huge platter of small shrimp was plopped down at our table. The shrimps were as tasty as they were plentiful. They had been tossed in as an afterthought when we were ordering though they hadn't been on the menu. Not sure what we were getting into I asked for and received assurances that it was all in the fixed prix.

Next to appear were platters of mussels and cockles. Getting through those, and getting the shells off the shrimp, and digging out the last bits of crab cost us the dregs of our wine bottle, so when the lobster appeared we had to order another. The lobster was a big one, with plenty of meat to share around, and I discovered that the claw I had been dismantling was actually that of the lobster. Somewhere in there we relinquished the uneaten cockles and mussels and purposely untouched sea urchins, a bit salty with little payoff in substance, in order to make room for the 4 fish that still awaited our pleasure. The cost for all this was just $8 each plus $10 for the lobster, plus $5 for each bottle of wine, which we finished on the terrace among other customers at the outdoor tables just getting started on their messy orgies of fine dining.

Next morning, after sleeping off our excellent meal in our upstairs room, I was presented a bill totted up to 960 or something like that, but the patron had written 800 on it and circled that, and this was what we paid to eat, drink, and sleep three people. I forgot to mention that we'd had a couple of beers in there before dinner that turned out to be on the house.

L'Araignee in Ouladiya.- Bien Racommande'.

As a parting gesture, the patron asked if we had a car, and when I said we didn't, he said, well this man does, indicating a driver whose English was quite good and who offered to take us to Essaouira with a stop in Safi for 600 dirhams. He made it clear he was negotiable, but I made it equally clear I wasn't interested. He passed us in his car as we hiked uphill with our packs in the gathering heat, though the mornings and evenings were refreshingly cool on the coast there. I figured the three of us could make the trip for 200 dirhams and that we could manage any outing we cared to make in El Jadid on our own, and do it more spontaneously than if we always had a 4th presence with us, and no telling what carpet shops he knew along the way. It turned out my calculations were about right, and since there were 3 of us and together we took half the 6 places in a grand taxi, we could have hired our own grand taxi for 400 dirhams, so having our own driver for 500 or so would have been a reasonable deal. But we passed it up when we waved the guy on as we hiked up the hill to Oualidia town center and the grands taxis depot there.

We were crammed the 3 of us in a grand taxi in no time. Bobbi got in the back next to a young woman and Dusty and I joined her. Then the woman was called out of the cab, and a young man took her place. So we all three got out and filed back in me first, to be next to the man. Dusty and Bobbi were now by the window. Soon the cab spun into action and headed down the road past the phosphate works and into the scrub countryside bordering the sea.

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