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

June-July 2000


We pulled up an hour later in a grubby sand lot in Safi with not much indication of where we should go, but we solved the problem by engaging a petit taxi to take us to Qasr Al Bahar, a monument which LP indicated existed in the old town. We were driven past the walls and gates of the old medina and around to the seaside where we were deposited opposite the castle on a promontory near a rocky cove where children were swimming in the water frothy with waves.

To get to where the kids were we had to cross under a pedestrian underpass that reeked of urine even as we descended the stairs. We had to practically hold our breath in the passage and we were grateful to emerge in the sea air on the other side. There we found a corridor leading to the ticket window where we put up a dollar, 10 dirhams, each, for the right to wander around the castle. It had been used in another famous film I think, and it had a nice collection of cannon wrought in Rotterdam and faithfully inscribed with Arabic script. It looked to me like the frame for the inscription was a standard royal arms sort of motif, so that the Arabic in the center looked a little incongruous surrounded by distinctly European flourishes, but I doubt if such distinctions were important if they were ever used. We prowled the battlements, trying to imagine what it would be like to wield a crossbow through the slits in the walls, and eventually we emerged to run the gauntlet back through the urinary canal to the main road.

We were asked before leaving if we wanted to see a chapel in the old town. Our answer was a tentative shrug. It's only that the key is here, the man explained. It seemed a long walk to the old town, some couple hundred meters away, and to be accompanied that distance by a man with a key would require a considerable remuneration no doubt. As usual, no indication of what that would be was given, only that there was a chapel over there and if we wanted to see it, this could be arranged ... We said thanks and went on our way (Why not just put a sign up and post a ticket taker there for the convenience of tourists? What, and subvert a key underpinning to the local underground economy?).

We went to the old town and I walked through the gate breaching the walls family in tow. We strode up a passage and soon had accumulated a group of children shouting "dirham" and "stylo". We strode purposely forward down the covered passageway and straight into a dead end. Uh, oh, turned around, started striding purposely out the other direction, surrounded by laughing skipping children, palms outstretched, having a good laugh over the naivety of these foreigners trapped in their midst.

We made a correct turn and wandered down a more well-used shopping street. The usual businesses were there, and a particularly colorful one was a ceramics souk. Beyond that there was not much to hold our attention and when we emerged at the gate we awaited the first petit taxi. We got the driver to take us over to the bus depot to see what we could find going to Essaouira.

It was by then a little after noon and we found that there would be no busses until about 6 that evening. All the possibilities were explained well to us in combinations of French and Arabic. We could get a seat on a bus at 6 or we could get a grand taxi to the next town through which all the bus traffic passed to and from Casablanca and Rabat, but they speculated that chances were poor there, since the buses would likely be already full on a Sunday. Or we could try and hire a car to Essaouira.

That was the bus station. Around the corner were the grands taxis. We were met by someone speaking Italian who shifted to French and Arabic while he explained that we could have our own chauffeured car to Essouira for 300 dirhams or we could share one. When we opted for the latter (what we'd wanted all along), we were plopped in a car with three people already in it, and the tout was careful to show us as he collected the money, 50 each, that he had collected 300 dirhams for the full load. Then we were on our way.

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