Had I been anyone else, in Morocco for any other reason, my association with Amine would likely have continued, perhaps until I left. Besides, his insistence that he continue on with me, despite my assurance that I no longer needed him, made me a bit uncomfortable. Furthermore, his repeated rant that he “Swears to God, that I got the best carpet bargain he had ever seen,” and insistence that I not tell anyone else (especially my friends in Fes) about my purchase made me squirm a bit. “They’ll just be jealous and tell you that you could have gotten a better deal somewhere else.”
Despite my gratitude for the “wonderful assistance” he had provided, learning that he had a pre-purchased a train ticket on to Fes gave me the opportunity to part ways. I “really needed to get to Fes immediately, because my friends are already there waiting for me,” and the train would not be leaving for there for two hours. He promised to call me as soon as he arrived, “to help me in any way possible.”
Taxi service in Morocco, as I’ve described in a previous post is a real treat. Although I observed many others attempting to haggle on price, apparently on the longer, established routes, like between cities, one uses a “Grand Taxi,” and the price per seat is firm. These (typically black small old Mercedes) cars are packed with 4 in the back, and 3 in the front. Insanity appeared to be the only requirement for the drivers on each of the three times I utilized this fine form of transport. The authorities seemed quite generous in licensure, since one was clearly younger than 16, one was most definitely older than 80, and one seemed to have Turret’s or was under the influence of something, which under different circumstance would have been entertaining.
I had to take my fellow passengers word that we had in fact arrived in Fes. Nothing was posted in any language that I could understand. I got out and looked for someone who in retrospect I suppose expected to have the name “Abdullah” printed in a bubble-cloud overhead and an arrow pointing towards him.
Then I remembered that I did have a phone I had purchased the day before in Casablanca, and I had added three contacts. Amine had called me (numerous times), so his was there by default, and Katie (a later post) had given me numbers for both Abdullah, and his brother Allal. I tapped Abdullah’s name, and as the phone rang, I noticed a man standing not ten feet from me reach for his phone and answer it. Our eyes met as we spoke to each other.
We embraced with the traditional greeting: A light man-hug, followed by kisses on three alternating cheeks, and I proudly blurted out, “Asalamu-wa-alay-kuum.” Abdulla smiled approvingly, and as he replied, “Wa-lay-kuum-a-salam,” he pointed directed to his brother, and very soon to become my own, Allal.
Allal took it even a step further, and after our embrace, bowed slightly and touched his right hand to his heart. I have learned in so many cultures, that all this gesturing is not only tradition, it is very important, and symbolizes how heartfelt one’s feelings are about something or someone. We miss so many of these nuances if our eyes and hearts aren’t open to them.
The taxi from the airport dropped us off at what everyone called “bahtah” (sp?), which was kind of a central area, with a few shops, a cafe overlooking the street, a mosque, and I’d soon discover a couple entrances to the “Old Fes” souk. My two new brothers led me through a maze of cobblestone paths between what at night seemed to be tall walls with doors at street level and windows on the next floors, at intervals. These were actually hundreds of homes, and each block between streets (paths) seemed to be about a dozen homes, all connected in apartment kind of buildings. I was struck by how well lit these streets all were, and that there were children out so late – it was well after 11:00pm.
Soon we stopped, and after unlocking the door climbed lots of white terrazzo stairs into the home of Abdullah and his wonderful wife Nisrine. We were met with screams of excitement from their beautiful little boy. Reda appeared to be about three years old, a bundle of energy and enthusiasm. When I opened my backpack and pulled out the customary gifts for my “host family,” we bonded instantly. Who knew salt water taffy, a shirt from Melbourne Beach, Florida, and a couple of ball caps would be so treasured?!!
I was tired, hot and sweaty, and looking around for a couch or a corner where I could unroll my sleeping bag. Nisrine cleared the table, in what I assumed was just tidying up prior to retiring a very long, exhausting day. This couldn’t have been further from the truth.