Friday, August 21, 2009

Take Me To The Casbah

And so I entered Morocco. Passing through Tanger on my way to Casablanca, it was like walking into a dream. It was the Arabian Nights. It was a thousand years ago. The maze of winding streets, the braying camels and donkeys, old bearded men wearing robes and turbans, the beautiful haunting calls to prayer, the open-air shops selling colorful spices, the tantalizing smells of food being cooked outdoors. In the cafes, the business men wore red fezes, drank glasses of sweet, bright-green mint tea, and smoked from hookahs.

All around me, the crowing of roosters, the incessant honking of horns, the fabulous rhythms of north African music playing on radios, mixed in with snippets of Jimi Hendrix. Now, at this point, I was spending a few days in the Medina, or old section, of Casablanca. I'd met up with a couple guys I'd hung out with in Spain, and we shared a room to save some money. They had heard about a beautiful seaside town called Essaouira. We decided to check it out.

It took a long bus ride down the coast to get there. I dozed off and it was night when we finally arrived. As I stumbled off the bus and rubbed my sleepy eyes, I saw a vision I will never forget. The sky was ink black and brimming with the brightest stars I had ever seen. There was a golden-yellow crescent moon hanging low over the whitewashed walls surrounding the little town. It was perfectly silent, except for the gentle sound of distant waves on the shore. This was Essaouira.

After the cacophony of Casablanca, it was a vision of stillness and peace. It was a timeless vision. It was a place Moses or Jesus could have walked by. My heart opened
up to this place. I settled in and spent a couple weeks there.

I had some nice adventures there in Essaouira. One night, one of my friends decided he could make opium by boiling down some poppy bulbs which we could buy in the market. We eventually drank the miserable stuff. I can't say for sure if it really worked, but I do remember dancing and laughing all that night down by the fishing boats.

One day, while sitting and reading in a cafe, I met a really nice Australian guy named Jim Robinson. And he had a CAR! Jim currently lived in Amsterdam and he said he'd be happy to drive me and a few of my friends up there. He even said he could find me a place to stay up there FOR FREE! Well, that closed the deal. Two guys and a girl I was with piled into Jim's funky old Volvo, and we headed north.

(to be continued.....)


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