Heading South

“God bless America” played loudly on the cafe’s radio station without anyone taking an interest; Strolling along a wide boulevard as someone whispers “Vive la France” into my ear as they pass; the America Embassy and even the American Bookshop are heavily fortified, the pavement is closed and it’s forbidden to take any photographs; a young girl offers everyone (me included) some biscuits on the Casablanca to Marrakesh train. People as a whole are uninterested in global politics, they dont want to be killed by anyone as much as they want to kill someone else. Does the war on terror succeed? I don’t think it ever will as you drive those “fundamentalists” deeper underground and fortify your own business and embassies and huge costs to all nations, and in doing so you forego what freedom you had left. Anyway I’m on holiday but these things need to be said.

Casablanca is a sprawling city, the economic hub of Morocco, and, apart from a few fine pieces of colonial and art-deco architecture, the world’s 3rd largest Mosque and a pleasant Medina, there is not much to entice the tired traveller in need of some rest and recuperation.

There were culture shocks abound when I turned up late in Essaouira having travelled down on a pleasant train/bus journey where the sunsets were more vivid against the sillhoueted mountain scapes and the stars (how many stars!) where brighter than ever before in a perfect night sky. A 50 metre walk (I found out later) became a 10 minute taxi ride and having been deposited at the city walls, I was the tourist who stuck out like a sore thumb in the late night air. I struggled past street vendors as chickens clucked and footballs bounced around. Hashish? No. My Friend, you want good room? No. etc.etc.

Finally found the place I wanted, right next door to where Hendrix stayed in the 70s when it was part of the hippy trail I have been told. It was late and my head hit the pillow, but not for long as the distant sounds of the call to prayer echoed around the Medina at 5.17, then the sounds of donkeys bringing in the goods for some reason reminded me of girls in high heels against cobblestones on a Friday night out in Newcastle… (never having been there!) I couldnt have been more wrong…. I think I needed some more sleep.

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