... a travelogue page 5 of 5
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2006
Subject: final moroccan musings.... (no Camels in this one, well not many anyway)
first of all a BIG thank you to all of you kind people, (and there were quite a few) who emailed with offers to organize a Camel ride in Australia, or who told me about the annual Camel races in Alice Springs, or the Camel Rides in South Oz, or even how to fill up a Camel with water.... . You are all soooo kind ;-)
its all very... very tempting but after giving it some long and serious thought, I'll just go stay clear of Camels for a while. (NB there are brass Camel souvenirs for sale here - I just managed to resist).
ok another long one coming up....
Rabat, 14July06 FRiday
the feeling of walking into Rabat a second time was great: started from the train station, then picking up a mini timetable on the way through, knowing there is a hotel room booked for me is a great feeling - no searching, not checking, just GO!.
Check into hotel, 3 mins later, I'm having yoghurt fruit salad at the local fruit shop, as they give me my container, pushing it through all the curtain of fruit hanging down all around, they smile and say "Sans syrup" (without the red Syrup). They remembered my personalized settings :-) wow ! (and its not even a Microsoft product)
Rashid, 'my' waiter at my favourite (and only) restaurant greets me with much handshaking and smiling and Moroccan greeting ritual, he has the selection of grills waiting and I'm all set for dinner within 20 mins of hopping off the train.
This may not sound like a big deal, but if you've had to explore a new place, with a map, for weeks, wander about cautiously, everywhere, restarting everything new in every place, this is a great feeling, esp if the place is somewhere you liked anyway and all your old comforts are there waiting for you.
Ahhh,..... the smell of the coffee from the cafe next door, the same chaos everwhere, same shouting and market turmoil, .... I look forward to finding my corner seat in the cafe across the road and watching the people for the rest of the evening.
Its also the last time I'll pass this way, I expected to feel a bit of sadness, but no, strangely enough I don't, I'm happy to have come back for one more day and happy to leave now.
a poem from a friend showed me springs to mind:
My house says to me :"do not leave me for here dwells your past".
And the road says to me: Come and follow me, for I am your future".
And I say to both my house and the road,
I' have no past, nor have I a future,
If I stay here, there is a going in my staying,
and if I go, there is a staying in my going.
Only love and death change all things
by Khalil Gibran
I hadn't realized till I started to feel a heavyness in the chest that every day for the last 5 days I'd moved cities, constantly doing a few hours ( 100+ km's a day). Today 4 hours on the bus, + 4 hours by train to Rabat. usually just 3 hours a day in a hot shared long distance taxis.
15Jul06 Mme Tangier... .............Saturday
what a hot welcome: the heat in the train from Rabat was unbelievable litterally sweltering, like the opening of a Pizza oven. Sweat running off everybody in rivers. The worst was at Siti Kacem , where we changed trains, The train arrived we all piled on, and it sat there for 50mins....argghhhhh ! (see below)
I was impressed by the fact that although there were kids on board, quite a few in fact, none of them whinged, whined or cryed in the all-seats-taken Carriage.
Now pleeeeeassse indulge me and be patient with me because I have a feeling I am going to go 'ape' and over the top in my description of Tangier. In fact I don't even know where to begin.
I discovered another part of Tangier I'd not seen before tonight, full on activity, patieseeries, open till late, cafes, cars, hotels.
This is not the Medina (old part) but its all on a hilly area and there are palms , strangely lit Hotels, luxury to affordable, perched in the midst of the chaos. One Hotel is an old huge stately mansion, on top of a hill, with stunning views, and its within Heiko's price range... in the middle of the park, market, shopping area.
The roads bend and dip and curve and the hilly terrain makes for an interesting setting. Suddenly there is a lookout area with views of the bay, old Cannons with kids climbing all over them.
Old stairways lead from the Medina and Central market straight into this area called the "Plaza du France" (has French Embassy next to it funnily enough).
Almost everywhere I look is a scenic shot, its a photographers paradise, but tonight I'm too shy too pull out my camera. Tomorrow, Manana....
The buildings are old, well used, maintained, and have that magical 'old' ness antique quality about them, no concrete slab house of cards...
this will of course only make sense to you if you love that smell of quality and antiqueness in things... be it furniture, jewellery, or whatever...
More than that, this place reeks of the art deco and art nuveau style which I just LOVE ! its like some of that exuberance of the past still lives on in this area. The internet place is set in an old courtyard, marble stairs, Art deco iron grating, all old, all in good order, but just old.
The people here are different too, they somehow seem more free, more lively, of course still Moroccan, everyone mills about. in some ways THIS is what I've always imagined France , Paris to be (have never been there).
Imagine a wine tasting shop, crowded and different wines from all over the world on shelves all around, ceiling to floor, in decanters and old glass flasks. Now instead of wine substitute perfume, and you have one of the shops here.
A crew of bearded strong, Morroccan men serve the perfume to be 'tasted'
Customers, men & women all 'tasting' perfumes, husbands nodding, "yes dear that one is better like you said.... ".
I drool outside in the doorway of a souvenir shop over some old French Poster art of Morocco, early 20th c. ..I check my wallet count the money, put it back thoughtfully,,.."should I? shouldn't I ? "
The owner beckons me in,
"Just come in for a sec", he seems not to just want to sell me stuff, so I go in.
"NEVER open you wallet on the street my friend. Every city, every country in the world has its pickpockets. Someone might watch you,", he acts out someome ooogling me surreptitiously, then goes on:
"they see where you put your wallet," he gives me a meaningful stare....
"then one of them bumps into you from behind and the other slips your wallet out....
There that's some free advice for you".
He goes back to whatever he was doing before and ignores me. I feel like a kid receiving fatherly advice.
There is a sharp edge and an edge of seedyness lurking here too, that I haven't smelled in other Moroccan cities as much. I've see more women of the night run around near the night club areas. But mixed with the abandon here , is a kind of 'joi de vivre' that is good to feel. Strange isn't it, that when Singapore 'cleaned up' its famous Boogis Street, it lost something that travellers of old still fondly remember and that the Sing Govt is vainly trying to re-created.
On a more sober note: I do realize that most people here have pretty low paying jobs, work long hours, and do one thing and one thing only day in and day out ... for THEM it's not as magical or amazing, only for the tourists who can wander in and go "ooooohhhh aaaaahhhh, etc..." (like me now)
But this city has its own life, it does not depend on the tourists to make it live, although they help. I can dissappear here, I'm not the main object of interest, just another foreigner.... wonderful. .....
Tangier was what drew me to Morocco, and after seeing almost all other big Moroccan cities, this one wins my heart hands down.
(above: picture of Cafe du Paris) Pity I only have one more full day there tomorrow, I'll be BUSY I think...: time to stop writing then.... - and then its good to have only one more day, no time to get dissillusioned!
This city alone would make me want to come to Morocco again, though I doubt I ever will come again.
I can see why so many famous writers wrote their books here,... I'm trying to suggest to a friend to come and write his autobiography here. Gosh I'm tempted to come and do it here myself even....
Sunday 16Jul06, Tangier,
writing this quickly in the middle of the Medina, in an internet cafe and "teleboutique", hidden, in a small doorway and opens up into a mulitlevel cavernous place, with courtyard, and views, through a doorway to other houses, rooftops, and the sea.. bizzare place, I love it.
of course it helps that the sun shines an its hot, and cool inside, people milling about everywhere, selling stuff, cafe, doing stuff, its full on all the time here, yet strangely relaxing as well.
Various odds 'n ends -
after the first week i didn't notice the fact that there were mainly men everywhere doing almost any public kind of job. A few odd women were about, esp in the big cities, Rabat and Fez. It's like getting used to watch a movie in Black and White, after a while you don't notice it and into the story.
Until someone with colour walks in of course.
The equivalent of that happened a few times outside the main cities, when Western women talking and in 'normal Western' behaviour walked past. I would turn around and go, oh, I see, that is the effect, Hm.... now I understand a bit more what it must be like to grow up here as a man.
Of course once such a great divide is set up, its hard to bridge it, you can't just talk to them, they have their male-repellent sprayed on thick and heavy. So the two worlds move in speparate orbits.
Again: big cities are the exception, and only the center of those cities. There you see people walk around mixed, dressed as they would be in Melbourne . Not much difference, ok well, a lot more headscarves but a LOT without as well.
The sight of the day was in Tangier: cool new BMW, windows open, music blaring, driven by model-type-of-Barbie-girl, honking the horn through thick people traffic at a rather fast pace. She looked like she and her girl friends had a great time. Behind her people gave her the 'V' sign equivalent in Moroccan.
Internet cafe in Quarzazat: the local geek and computer wiz proudly showed off to me an email he had just received, listing Credit card numbers, and name and details. No idea if it was real, or the numbers would actually work, but he seemed to think so.... good luck to him actually getting any money from them.
I guess every new generation needs to cut its teeth on something, push some boundary, and in the absence of doing wheelies down the main drag of the town, this is probably a new equivalent... this topic kind of follows on from the previous stuff on giving people genuine, legitimate "adventures" (risk activities) because if you don't, they'll make up their own anyway...
how would you do that ? that's a good question............
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2006
Subject: Tangier Kasbah seaview
I sent you send this description of a special place: It's an account of a place but really I'm trying to convey a feeling through words and descriptions, lets see if it works....
Walking around the Kasbah again today for the 2nd time I stopped, particularly taken by one view, one glimpse caught just momentarily. I am standing just outside the wall of the Kasbah, on the highest point of Tangier, overlooking the harbour and the Atlantic Ocean. A narrow road clings to the outside, then a very steep drop of about 100m.
Out in the distance the air is hazy and the sea and horizon merge.
One particular angle the high walls of the Kasbah, the road, going along the bottom of it, in the distance the coast line and houses going down like stairs to the sea, a tree, a child plays along the road.
Its dusk, the sun is setting in the haze. A glimmer of the sea, the coast, the tree, the wall, the road with children playing, and I imagine the sea to be dusky purple, the whole scene like those 1930 art-deco art-nuveau pictures.
The scene evokes a feeling of a far away place, not far away in time and place but far away in some other way, its like a beautiful memory, the road, the child the whole atmosphere of a world different from ours, with a sheen on it, and there is a sweet longing and memory of a time that was, and will be again... and IS somewhere even NOW.
Imagine a picture: with a wall on the left, and the road, and the glimmer of water in the distance with the rugged coastline on the right steeply descending to the sea. then put all that in the left hand corner of the picture and the dark evening sky dominates it all, takes up most of the picture.... - add a soft haze, purple dusky water.... and you have the picture.... that brings through the feeling.... ...
..... beauty, longing that is pleasant and beautiful in itself. Somehow there is a promise that is hidden, it too is out of sight. There is NO sense of loss in this, it is a memory, a promise, something that IS now on some other world, and will come again...
This feeling is what makes it all worth while. It makes everything that happens in this life worthwhile, this feeling alone is like a secret knowledge that once you know it, nothing can faze you. A secret whispered, a solution, that once you hear it and know it, nothing on the outside world changes, but YOU KNOW: it IS all worth it. It sits there in the background, it changes nothing in this world but suddenly your realize its all part off a greater, wonderful picture...
Hm.... I can't get it down in words, it was all in the moment, the instant, the time, meant for that instant only not to bottle and conserve and franchise and sell by the truckload to the millions...
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2006 09:10:11
Subject: last travel email
in the previous email ( 17 Jul 2006 ) I pressed the wrong button,and sent the email before it was totally finished. Not to worry.
17Jul06 Tangier, I miscalculated, got ONE MORE day here than I thought :-)
Sitting in the Cafe du Paris at the Place du France, the roads are all emptied, and the King of Morocco drives past, in a motorcade followed by trucks without number plates and lots of antennas on the roof. . The King was preceded by BMW motobikes where the passenger guy faced backwards watching the crowd. All very impressive.
Can I die in peace now that I've seen the King ? no, got a few more Kings, (and Camels) to see first.
I like the simplicity of travelling: each task is all absorbing.
1) find hotel to sleep in
2) find food
3) find transport.
- wander about, meet people, see sights, go back to 1,2, or 3 above as required that is it.
18Jul06 ferry to Algeciras, Spain: it rained, Tangier is not as nice in the rain, hot, hot weather makes it really shine. don't go to Morocco when its cold...
after Morocco, Europe feels like a cold shower. Sure the constantly being watched is gone, but so is something else, something I kind of liked after its gone. Whatever it was I can only describe of being part of 'something' in Morocco, something that is definitely NOT there in Spain, how to describe it ?
I can't really, so let me EXAGGERATE it to make the point: In Europe everything is sedate, hushed, feels like a hospital ward, compared to the quirling life in Morocco.
The shop assistants don't give a hoot if they sell anything to you, they really hate their jobs, it bores them brainless and they are just waiting to get outta there to start their REAL life. In Morocco most businesses are family businesses run by some member of the extended family.
In Europe: I notice that there is a lot of thumping, and bashing of car doors, doors, chairs, etc..., slouching and sullen-ness in the attitude of the people, compared to Morocco. I would never notice it if not just ouf of Morocco.
And I don't feel quite as safe walking around in Spain.
Pardon me: (chuck chunder warning) this is a real cliché, but it is actually what I felt: They might be richer in money terms in Europe but hey, they lost 'something' that they still have in Morocco, (and they don't even know they have it, and are busily trying to lose it too).
Zurich: it suddenly dawned on me that instead of lounging about in the Airport for 6 hours, I could go into Zurich Town and explore. What a clever thought that was Heiko :-P sometimes I amaze even myself.
what can I say about Suisse ? NICE. Picturesque !!! to me it felt like a golden cage. Too nice. The quietness, the absence of quirling life. I'd feel I was in a sanatorium popping pink pills if I lived there.
The attitude of the shopkeepers was a little off-putting: curt, short answers, no attempt to pretty up the reply or anything: A brief reply is shot out, without much interest, "Take it or leave it, I don't care" seems to be the attitude.
of course it might all have been a reflection of my own mood, I don't think so, but who knows.
Certainly the fact that two Swiss people from other parts of their country asked me for directions says that I blended in totally.
please do keep in mind that: in the above description I've been exaggerating, drawing a caricature to make a point. The differences I've described are subtle, one can get on with things regardless of these differences.
NOW, 20Jul06 in Macao ,a former Portuguese Colony just south of Hong Kong. Two nights stopover, on the way to Oz.
Picture the Muslim world of Morocco, where men and women move in different universes, each a world onto itself, with little public overlap, rarely do men and women address each other, usually only for utilitarian purposes, directions, etc... and I've hardly ever seen casual conversations unless it was clearly family - the difference in gender is implied and in everything, everywhere.
Now contrast this with China:
I arrive in Hong Kong airport, at the info desk I mention the famous ChungKing Mansions (from 20 years ago) as the level of accommodation I'm aiming at. The totally bilingual girl explains to me where ChungKing Mansions can still be found, and where to stay "el-cheapo" style in HongKong, She hands me maps and info on ferries to Macao. The Ferries are handled like any other flight , using airport gates, no need to leave the airport even.
As I walk up to the Ferry terminal a pretty girl waves me to her desk with a wide smile, and helps me buy the ticket. She jokes a bit, the others at the desk laugh, and the guys tell me she called me handsome... (glad so see someone recognize my stunning good looks ...she obviously has discernment and good taste. you can see why I like this place ha ha ha )
"you say that to all the boys" I reply.
They all laugh. etc...
Then they carefully explain what airport gate the ferry leaves from and how to get there . they give me a printed piece of paper with all the info they jsut told me on it. I get my ticket, hang around the gate, and after 50mins on the boat I'm in Macau.
(NB: of course I only mention this incident to highlight the cultural differences, modest as I am, I try to keep my handsomeness out of the spotlight... )
In Macau, no one watches me (overtly), no one asks where i am going, no one wants to take me to a hotel or sell me anything. When I go the internet place the staff joke and smile. The place here is busy, food everywhere, people milling about, many many Phillipinos walk around here.
The women interact with the men in what seems totally "normal" to me. They dress western style, ie. as in Melbourne in summer, move about freely.
I am the poor relation in this place. When I named my price of 200 to 300 HongKong dollars per night, (20 to 30 Euro dollars) they just smiled !
Once I got off the ferry I saw why: the harbour area is lined with Casinos, mega MEGA Hotels-casino style monoliths. They all try to stand out from each other, with crazy designs, glitz, neon lights whatever... .
I head straight for the old quarter.
What else can I say about Macao so far ? I walked from one side of the island to the other in 50mins, in search of a Heiko-style hotel.
The search takes longer, because I didn't do my homework on Macao, meaning I didn't read the lonely planet guide on budget hotels. After wandering about for hours on end, taking it as part of my sightseeing tour I finally find a place for about 25Euro dollars, clean, bathroom, hot water, towels the works, its fine.
20 years ago, I passed through Macau briefly and loved the old quarter, it was a bit like the old Medina's of Morocco (now I know what I liked about it at the time). The island is crawling with 25+ UNESCO world heritage sites and has some great views and old Portuguese remnants on top of the hills.
BBC news: last Updated: Saturday, 22 July 2006 , 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK
Spanish intercept migrant boats
Would-be immigrant eats a biscuit in Los Cristianos on the Canary island of Tenerife
Almost 250 migrants arrived in the space of 24 hours
Spain says it has intercepted four boats carrying almost 250 people, thought to be migrants from West Africa trying to reach the Canary Islands.
They say two boats arrived at the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera on Saturday while on Friday two vessels reached Gran Canaria .
Reports say that some of the migrants were suffering from dehydration and twelve of them were taken to hospital.
Thousands of people from Africa try to reach Europe via Spain each year.
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