Entrance to Hotel El Salaam
I’d dreamed of going to Morocco after Art History—all those famous painters who claimed their idea of light and how they painted changed dramatically as a result of their time in Morocco. So I signed up for a painting tour through a British company and after more than a few emails, organizing of work schedule, and so forth, found myself about to experience the wonderful light of Morocco personally.
My husband planned to drop me off at the airport and so we set the alarm, had the coffee premade except for pushing the on button, and did all those last minute kind of things you do before being away from home for ten days.
Neither of us slept very well; I suppose we were nervous about missing the flight. My bags were packed and repacked and rearranged and repacked. We stopped in Liberty for sausage biscuits and more coffee and I realized I had forgotten t o take my Humira—I hope I won’t be so stiff I can’t move before the end of the week.
The flights were uneventful with the exception of moderate turbulence from Atlanta to London. My seat mate snored and for awhile I thought she was going to put her head in my lap.
I had planned to spend the day exploring London. The train information was a tad confusing; and worse because they were speaking English and I still didn’t understand them. I did buy a ticket and rode down to the London Bridge station; then I was supposed to get off and find my way to the Underground or to a bus. Apparently there is a strike of some of the flight attendants as well as the train attendants. I thought the train was proceeding further but discovered it was actually returning to the airport. By this time the weather had turned quite foul—not just misty but actually pouring.
So, I bought some postcards, some postage, a huge cup of coffee, and made my way to the hotel for an early check-in.
Sunday March 21, 2010
Gatwick is incredibly noisy and packed with people. I had printed out my boarding pass before I left Texas—most fortunately as it turned out. There were lines of people everywhere, people carrying their skis, chatting on the ramps, and official EZ jet staff directing people here and there. I got to skip to the head of the line, went through security—after the computer was re-booted to check those of us with non-UK passports, and then entered what looked like something out of Vegas. Two floors of shops, people eating, people chatting, shopping, carrying small paper bags of delicious smelling food. Unlike US airports with banks of monitors displaying prominent gate arrivals/departures, I finally spied one—and I was on the wrong end! Not to say I ran, but I did hustle down long hallways that looked very space age—all gleaming silver arches.
The flight was pleasant, even more so because the seats were roomy and I had plenty of leg room. It is reminiscent of Southwest with no assigned seating and limited services on board. I could buy a breakfast or snacks or a Gulliver bear; I opted for just a coffee. Upon arrival in Marrakesh, the plane off-loaded from both the front and the back.
I picked the slowest line in Immigration and was the last person to pick up my bag sitting all by itself on the baggage runway. The airport itself is covered with beautiful tile work everywhere—I wanted to take photos but the security personnel did not appear friendly. I met my group, changed money into dirham’s—thinking of them like fat dimes—there are 8 to the dollar.
We rode in a typical tourist van to Taroudant. The roads are bad in places, and the driving is much like it is in Honduras or Mexico. Lots of covered trucks labored up the hills, people riding motorcycles and small scooters—I spied two women in typical Muslim dress riding a small scooter. Donkeys, motorcycles pulling a small truck bed, lots of bicycles, people on foot, horse- drawn carriages, and then the camels. The mountains here are as old as the Alleghenies, and as we head further west, the mountains are taller and covered with snow.
Huge plastic covered greenhouses that cover acres and acres house bananas and pineapples. The almond trees are in full bloom and everywhere there is green grass and trees. In many ways it resembles parts of Big Bend but with more water. Citrus trees hang heavy with fruit amidst olive trees. Much road construction is under way, herds of goats and sheep are guarded by a single goat-herd.
Our local host is Berber and tells me that the Berbers, some of whom are still nomads, were the first to inhabit this land, over 5000 years ago. Then the Hebrews came—then the Romans and finally the Portuguese, French, and Spanish. Thus their language is a mixture.
We stop for tea about half way; there is a pleasant breeze and it is good to stretch for a bit.
Our hotel is quite plush—a former palace—and I am assigned a lovely room with a raised bed—no doubt to accommodate the plumbing retrofit, a seating area, small table and chairs and a basket of fruit. I had worried a bit about who I would be assigned as a room-mate but now I have just myself to worry about. We have supper in the hotel and then early to bed—it’s been a long day.