Sunday, May 5, 2013

From Morocco with Love

It took me well over 30 hours to reach Agadir, long flights and layovers take their toll. In the future, if I go again, I will probably try to fly through Spain rather than Germany, I think it would be easier.

Killing time

The hot desert sun brought out the smell of exotic spices from dark alcoves. Thin faced men call out in Arabic and French, trying to lure you into their shops. Strange sounds and smells from the camel caravans drift by on the warm breeze. Dark eyed women gaze from covered faces. These were the visions I had when I learned I would be going to Morocco.

The reality was not far from this. The hot desert sun did bring exotic smells, but it smelled more like raw sewage than raw spice. Men did try to lure me into their shops, but it was in English (after they unsuccessfully tried French).

 "Hello Sir, how are you? Where are you from? Oh! America, a wonderful country, Americans are almost as nice as the French. Where are you going? Just walking around? Let me take you to my shop... It is Berber shop, with many spices. Come, come with me." I follow, somewhat curious and somewhat wary. It was obvious he wanted to sell me something. We rush through busy traffic, dodging cars and go down a narrow alley. In a small, dark alcove is a shop brimming with bowls of herbs and spices. "This is my cousin, Moustafa, this is our shop, we sell spices from the mountains. Would you like to have some tea? Come in , sit down, have some tea." I sit down, surrounded by jars and containers of spices. Oils, soaps, and creams line the shelves.

Moustafa shows me the tea he will prepare. "Only four ingredients, all natural, good for your stomach" After putting the tea in the teapot and lighting the single burner stove, he continues to talk, showing his wares. Roots, flowers, herbs and spices I don't remember many of them, but the black cumin stands out. He put a small pile in a piece of cloth and vigorously rubbed it then thrust it under my nose. "Smell this, isn't it wonderful?" It did smell great, although I had the brief thought flash through my mind, was this some trickery?

The tea was ready, he pours a long pour into a small glass cup. "Drink, it is very good, and no sugar" It was wonderful, and very sweet, I know there is sugar in it. We talk about family, about life. He shows me his soaps, his amber, argan oil and creams. "Try this" as he rubs some oil into my arm " Doesn't it smell good?" It did, my arm was warmed by his vigorous rubbing. "Would you like to buy some?" We go back and forth, I was not that interested but it was an amusing experience. I pick out a couple of small items. "Very good, now this is Berber shop, no bargaining, we have fixed prices" Yeah, right... I don't take the bait. We bargain, I am trying to do the conversions in my head while we discuss. 8 dirham to the dollar.

It is friendly, and we finally settle on a price. He is happy and I know I am overpaying, but my goal was to get him down 50% and after that I am happy too. In hindsight, I could probably have gone lower but I don't mind, I pay a little for the experience. We chat some more, drink some more tea and then I go on my way. There is something satisfying about purchasing this way. It is time consuming but it is more personal as well.

Shoes anyone?

I wonder what it means

I was jet lagged and had a busy week ahead of me and so I make my way back to the hotel. This was to be my only real taste of Morocco. The rest of the week was all work.

My office

One nice thing was that we were fed on site, best food of the trip was here.


At the end of the week, we had a couple of hours to do the tourist thing.

My French Counterpart, Bruno

We went to the Medina, a replica of the old town square which was demolished in an earthquake in the 1960's. It was very clean and seemed very un-Moroccan but still was interesting.

Global Melon Team (minus Rakesh)

 And no trip to Agadir would be complete without a visit to the Agadir Oufella with views over the city.

Agadir at night

View from my hotel room
MMMM, shrimp!

On the way back, I had one night in Frankfurt. Great city! I was surprised how much I enjoyed myself there, maybe because it was so easy to get around.

The only picture I took in Frankfurt

As much as I enjoy traveling, this month was a bit much. Good to be home for a while!