March 17-19, 2000
Paco decided to stay in Fčs for an extra day while Juan, Julia and I headed out for Meknčs via grand taxi. A petit taxi is just what you have in American cities, but a grand taxi doesnīt leave until itīs full, or at least each seat paid for and there are six "seats," seven if you count the driver. The cars are all regular sized Mercedes-Benzes with four people squished in the back, two in the front passenger bucket. When in Rome...
It would be the last I would see of Paco, but I hope to keep in touch with him via email when he gets back to Canada. Right now heīs basking on the Moroccan shore, just South of Casablanca (or Casa Voyages as itīs called here). He gave me a guide book and I promised to email about the architecture in Barcelona when I get there.
The day before many cars had white nappy haired passengers in the back seats. When they turned around, youīd see the yellow eyes of goat. Walking through the streets, youīd year bah coming from inside apartments.
Today there were homemade grills on the street charing the heads. When back and crisp, theyīd be cracked open. I havenīt had the brain, but the parts I have been given tasted great. Actually, every Moroccan food or drink Iīve tasted has still been fantastic, although Iīm sure the US FDA would have other comments.
I decided to stay in the hostel. Juan and Julia found decent hotel with hot water and Western style toilets. Since the hostel was closed until 6pm (for the holiday) I hung around and met some Meknčs locals. They have seen people like me before, but said that many of the town people never saw a European looking person in their neighborhood before.
It had a nice view, but trash was scattered everywhere. This isnīt uncommon in the side streets of this country. There are hardly any trash bins on the streets, in the rooms or even bathrooms. From what I can see, every so often, itīs raked into a pile and lit on fire. This appears to have worked rather well until plastic bags came along, which tumbleweed up and down the hill.
I cautiously accepted their offer for a bite to eat inside one of their homes and had home made cookies and bread. Again the food was perfect. The aparment had bare walls, nice floors, and a decent amount of space with the kitchen looked well stocked. A small car stereo played music in the upper room through a good set of speakers.
I told the guys my next day plan and that they were welcome to join me. They did. At this point, I wasnīt sure if they were just friendly or wanted to be a guide. I donīt think they were sure either. One started saying, "Where you want to goah?" I didnīt see much of anything impressive in Meknčs, old town or new, so if they were guides, I donīt feel bad for not tipping them. A police officer stopped us and told them to stop following us. It was no bother though and they met up with us later, but headed home after seeing more tourist police. Official guides have licenses and we were warned that you never know who you can trust, so itīs best not to have a bunch of guys following you around like that. The Meknčs boys explained later that this guy wasnīt the police and was someone they knew. I donīt believe that one.
Inside the old town we took a tour of a traditional school. It resembled three floors of well decorated prison cells. In each there was one student and one teacher. Now thatīs private education!
The hostel charged extra for warm water and also to use the stove. The shower part I can understand and didnīt miss the stove and stayed another night. All the other guests I talked too (two American guys and a French couple) werenīt happy with their treatment and left the next night to find cheap hotels or simply move on to another town.
The next nightīs guests were two guys and two gals from England. Actually, one was German. Two of them were dating.
Of all the hostels Iīve been seen (close to 10 in the US & Europe), the sexes have been segregated, unless you were a family or couple requesting your own room. This one, everyone was together, probably so only one room would have to be maintained. Part of the great thing about hosteling is meeting other people, so this actually worked out fine. Also every two beds had walls around them for a bit of privacy.
An older German guy was led into my section by the hostel manager and he saw the two courting Britts laying on the same bed together (fully clothed I should add), his hand on her shoulder looking at a tourist brocher.
I guess we were all pretty ignorant. He said they should show some respect... this was "Islam country, not Christian." He pointed to me, "You pay now," and I followed him out. Although pointing and saying "you pay now" doesnīt sound polite, the guy was OK, remember English was his third language and was far better at it than any of us were in German.
On the way back to the office he told me that what he saw was not normal. I sort of hinted that it was, he paused and said, no, sex in a hostel is not normal.
I was discovering the tip of the iceberg about sexuality in an Islam culture. Iīd learn more in Taza.