I’ve tried a couple of times to explain this place, but the first attempt became a mass of details no one could possibly care about and the second was self serving to the extreme. I’ve given up trying to desrcibe the trip from Portugal to Morocco as the memory is completely overridden by the deluge of sights I’ve seen since. Don’t get me wrong, I still remember everything, but it’s difficult for me to capture the feel of something that’s seems so distant.

I’ve been in Morocco for just over a week now and it’s hard to overstate my satisfaction. This place is incredible and it’s difficult for an inferior wordsmith such as I to really capture the feel of it. I’ve been to four cities/towns so far and each has been incredibly different. Tetouan is notorious for the swindlers and crooks of a town close to the border which is the first stop for so many naive travellers. Caught unawares it’s easy to see how someone could be taken in by a confidence man. I managed to escape without too much damage to my wallet … and a couple of rugs.

Chefchauoen was next. Hash capital of Morocco (and maybe the world). Grown in the Rif mountains it’s impossible not to visit here without smelling it on the air. For the first day you get approached by all the dealers, after that they know your face and don’t bother asking again. Most are making an easy living bringing it down from the mountains and selling it to tourists, but there are scams to be aware of. Oh, so many scams. When you see how many people have to scrimp and scrape every day just to earn their daily bread, it’s hard to begrudge them an illegal drug trade. Surely the benefits far outweigh the effects and yet it still carries a harsh sentence if your caught. Despite being a drug capital (and it’s main pull, evidently), Chefchauoen is a beautiful place. The whitewashed houses are tinged with blue, unlike the rest of the country. High in the mountains this faintly azuelean town rests amongst peaks, the medina stretching away up the side of a mountain.

From Chefchaouen I took the five hour bus journey to Fes. It passed through many other places on the way, any one of which would have been at home in the landscape of Fallout. This is a beautiful and interesting country with many magnificent sites, but the level of litter and rubbish just discarded along roads and shanty towns makes it seem far dirtier than it is. Every object is used to it’s last degree, but once it’s finished with it’s simply put down and forgotten. Pits of rubbish show where once a shanty town lived until it became too polluted for even the homeless.

Arriving in Fes, I headed straight for the hotel but could immediately tell this place was unlike the other two. The largest and most densely packed of the three so far, Fes was a mass of people coming and going constantly. Pushing through the tiny streets of the medina, I made my way to the hotel. With a tiny veranda above a restaurant it was perfectly situated five minutes from the bus station outside of town (ten for a fully laden traveller). I had dinner across the (tiny) square on a terrace looking down on it all. Walking around Fes I managed to finally snag a taxi to take me to the Ville Nouvelle. A place so completely different from the medina that it’s stands apart from it’s medieval sister like another city.

Transport from Fes was a very comfortable journey on a sleek modern train. A double decker coach as operated by the French company ONCF. I’ve never seen a double decker train in England, but they are everywhere on the continent and since so much of Morocco was French territory (at least for a while), it makes sense that they should be here too. Despite it being the equivalent distance as getting a train to Edinburgh (from home, of course) it still cost less than £8.00.

Rabat was next. After deciding that Meknes could be missed I headed for the capital. A little bit further south and on the coast, Rabat is the capital of Morocco. Again, it’s as unlike the previous three places as anywhere could be. A modern city with a high street as close to being European as any I’ve seen here yet. However, just a short walk down the main thoroughfare brings you to the medina. As well as the traditional maze of side streets it has wider than normal avenues where the sellers ply their trade. Dozens of outlets and stalls mixing the modern forgeries of fashion with the traditional Moroccan goods as well as. Many legitemate businesses have baskets out front with hundreds of pirated films in, it’s not fought in any way, it’s just a way of life. There is no industry to export modern cinema to Arab countries so it’s pirated and subbed and sold at fifty pence a go without impunity. Contrasted with this are the traditional wares of a Moroccan merchant. Handwoven rugs, jelabas, sweaters, silks and sundries covering every facet of the shops they inhabit, every piece different and unique. Every ten feet I see another item I know would be perfect for someone I know and wish I could buy it. The limits of my endurance only stretch so far however, and my backpack can only take so much stuff strapped to it before it becomes unwieldy.

I sit writing this at a desk in my hotel room listening to my £150 mp3 player blaring Rob Zombie’s Dragula (recently released on Rock Band!) whilst below, a purveyor of goods offers his wares to the patrons of the cafes in the square. The waiter gives him the leftovers in a doggy bag in passing. It might be all he gets today. I think of my ever shrinking bank account and consider it a fortune to the beggars and denizens of the street. Walking twenty feet through the medina means facing men with misshapen legs from birth defects and women sat motionless, hand outspread (one woman in Chefchaouen merely repeated “Ola! Dinero!”, meaning “Hello! Money!” to anyone passing).

I’m in Casablanca right now, and it’s just as disapointing as everyone said. No moodily lit bars with light jazz in the background, no smart talking, chain smoking English rogues with an attitude (well, maybe just one). You’ve seen Casablanca, right? Well it’s nothing like that. It’s just North Africa’s biggest port town. It’s ok for a stop over, but not much else. Tomorrow I head on to Essaouira, on the coast. I’m gonna crash there for a few days.

I’ll be out of touch for a while.

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