21st January 2011: exams finished, and then, 10 free days. As an Erasmus student, is there something else to do, other than travelling? I need sun, warmth. For this, I have the solution: one of my friends, Jeanne, had gone to study in Morocco, Casablanca to be exact. My best friend in France would be on holidays as well, so the decision had been taken, it would be Morocco. I would arrive the 21st, and Louise, the following day, from Paris. So, Friday 21st, I arrived in Casablanca, where I met my friend Jeanne. The following day, we went to the train station, to pick up Louise. But she didn’t come. I called her, and she said: “I’m still in the airport! I just have an Identity card, and they don’t want to let me enter the territory! I’ll call you back.” Few minutes after, she called, saying that it was OK if a Moroccan, or somebody with a residence permit, came to collect her at the airport. Hopefully, Jeanne knew a girl who had a permit and agreed to come with us. We took a train all together, towards the airport. Few minutes after, we arrived and ran to the border police office. We said we were coming to pick-up our friend, we explained that one of us had a residence permit, but an old man replied: “We called our manager’s office in Rabat (the capital), and the decision has been taken. She has got no valid papers, she will go back to France by the first plane tomorrow. No need to chat, it won’t change.” We asked if at least we could speak to her. “No!” We asked if at least we could see her. “No!” OK, we understand she couldn’t enter the territory, but at least, they could have been nice enough to let us see her, even through a window. And why did the airline let her take board in the plane!!!
These holidays we dreamt so much about, would finally not be as good as expected…
On Sunday 23rd, we went to a restaurant with Jeanne and two of her friends, to try a typical Moroccan breakfast, thinking of something else… She then took me to see the huge Hassan II Mosque, built few years ago on the ocean.
After, we went in the old Medina, walked through its little streets, the souk, and came back home. The following day, Jeanne would go back to class. But I didn’t want to spend all the week alone. I needed to meet other people. CouchSurfing.com could be the solution. I tried this website once, and it was really nice, so, why not in Morocco? I logged on to my account, and started browsing the website, looking for Moroccans, who could help me discover the city. Immediately, I got in contact with a boy and a girl, and planned to meet the following day.
So, Monday 24th, I joined Yassine, in the Habbous, a precinct of Casablanca. He was 20, student in computer sciences, really nice and interesting to talk with. He showed me around, the Royal Palace… It is a very quiet area, more like a little village. We went to the market: olives, spices, fishes… After four hours with him, I met Sofia, in a bar. This 25 year old student is also one of the leader of CouchSurfing.com in Casablanca. With Yassine and Sofia, I spoke about many different topics, such as Moroccan food, monarchy, the life of young people nowadays, their dreams for the future… We spoke also about our different experiences via CouchSurfing. Sofia told me she had met and acted as host to an American movie director, a Vietnamese boy, other French people… It allows her to discover new cultures, to meet people from different countries, even if she can’t afford travelling. The evening, I booked a night in a hostel in Marrakesh, in order to have the time to visit the place a bit, before leaving Morocco. And I looked for some people in that city, through CouchSurfing again. Wednesday, Jeanne skipped her class to accompany me to Rabat. We visited the blue-and-white “Oudaïa’s casbah”, the Medina,…
The following day, I left Casablanca for the very “touristic” Marrakesh. I met Hakim, in the famous Jamaa El Fna Square. He was waiting for me with two bikes, the best way to view around the city when we don’t have enough time, he told me. And then started a wonderful afternoon, through the tiny streets of the Medina. We left the centre and arrived in the palm grove, then residential areas. After three hours cycling, it started raining, but we were far, out of the city. We rode on for an hour, and stopped, totally wet, to visit an old man Hakim knew. This man was paid to keep watching on a building site, and thus, lived in a hut. He offered us a tea, to get warm. We left and continued our way for an hour, under that heavy rain. We came back in the centre, and arrived on Jamaa El Fna Square, much livened up by night, with musicians, dancers and food stalls. We ate there, and went for a walk in the modern area of the city. We spoke about his studies, his teaching job, religion, the wearing of headscarf… It was a really interesting, and rewarding day. Friday 28th, after a quick visit of Majorelle’s gardens, I left Morocco.
To sum up, I spent a very different holiday from what I expected, but nevertheless awesome. I met interesting people, motivated, happy to discuss about their cultures. People proud of their country, who want to change it, to make it better again. Would I have met them if everything had happened as expected ?