We just returned from 8 days in Morocco. We decided to take our housekeeper/nanny, Dorothee with us as she speaks French and we could always use an extra set of hands with our toddling brood. So we woke up very early and flew to Casablanca. We then rented a van and drove to Marrakesh. We didn’t arrive in Marrakesh until 10pm and we were all starving so we pulled through McDonald’s. Now, I know some of my friends will hate me for this but when you’ve been traveling through deserts and odd lands that are so unfamiliar and everything tastes different and your kids hate everything then judge all you want but when we saw the yellow arches there were shrills of delight! And I must say I particularly enjoyed those fries more than ever before. It took us about an hour of driving around in circles (ahem, Frank) until we stopped for directions. A nice old man with a bunch of broken cardboard boxes taped together for his makeshift caddy showed us the way through the Medina to our Riad. A Riad is a building that has a garden-like courtyard in the middle, open to the sky and has rooms all around it. I knew I was in for it when Dorothee made faces as she wiped her fingers over a painting with disgust from the inch thick mound of dust on it. Within 30 minutes I saw a cockroach the size of my palm, a lizard, and hundreds of ants crawling through our courtyard. The rooms off of it had curtains no doors. There was also a hole in the kitchen about a foot wide that opened into a floor full of wires almost directly under the sink. Oh and no AC in a place that was easily over 110 degrees mid-afternoon. Needless to say we moved to another hotel as soon as we could the next morning. The next place was great. It had a pool and restaurant and was CLEAN! I could actually put my twins on the floor and did not fear for their lives which was wonderful.
We stayed in Marrakesh for 4 days. We went to a traditional horse show. I took a cooking class at a top-notch hotel and learned how to make chicken pastilla. The boys loved walking through the medina and seeing the snake charmers and monkeys. There was a man with a mama monkey and baby on her back. The man was trying to put the monkey on JP’s back and while doing so, mama monkey took a bite out of the mans shoulder. So I grabbed JP’s arm and yanked him away to which the man was furious because mama and baby fell to the ground. The man continued to yell Arabic obscenities at me as we hurried away. Sorry buddy, but your biting African mama monkey has nothing on this mama bear! While there we also saw a man sitting on a curb, with his arm bloodied by I don’t know what but the man was obviously bleeding badly and oddly enough pretty calm. There was a police officer directing traffic just a few feet away. I was blown away that the police officer wasn’t helping him but Dorothee explained to me that the man “was sick in the head” and therefore the police wouldn’t bother helping him. Crazy, but true. Poor man probably died soon after.
After our stay in Marrakesh we drove on to a mountain town in the interior of Morocco called Chefchouen. The drive was one I will never forget. It was a 7 hour drive through very poor villages and we were about an hour away when it happened… As we were pulling around a mountain we stopped short to avoid crashing into two cars that had stopped traffic (one car on the other side) and the cars were perpendicular to the road. There were about 20 men, 10 on 10 in a full-out brawl, throwing axes and huge rocks at each others head bloodying each other. I sank down into my seat in a panic and begged Frank to back up, as fast as he could and get out of here. My first thought was that they looting the cars, stealing everything inside and hurting/killing the passengers. Frank was as calm as a cucumber and told me to calm down he had it under control. I must admit aside from the twins terrible delivery when the nurses were yelling for Cardiac I have never been more scared for my life! These men just 20 feet away were throwing axes and the biggest rocks they could find at each others heads! It was crazy! Frank started backing up and bumped a motorcyclist who had no idea what lied ahead and was furious. Frank waved him around and he sped through the fight as it moved toward the mountains as one group of men were chasing each other with axes. frank weaved through as fast as he could and we were safe. I have seen bar fights in my day but I have never witnessed grown men trying to kill each other before my very eyes and I never wish to again. Thank God the boys were asleep or I’m sure they would have nightmares for years to come. Even Dorothee from the Ivory Coast was frightened. Thankful doesn’t even describe how I felt when I went to bed that night. Whew.
So we all made it to Chefcouen in one piece. It was a charming old village rich in culture. We stayed in a small old hotel that was actually a man’s home with upper floors with rooms. He was very nice (besides completely ripping us off with a 12 Euro Meatball and egg dinner) and lent us his 13-year-old son out to us to show us around the city and “waterfall”. This waterfall took about 2 hours to get to through winding mountain roads that had no siding around the mountains. Once there, Frank held G and I had A strapped to me as we walked to the waterfall that was really just a glorified rapid that was a 30 min walk away over very steep terrain. Once we arrived at the rapid Mohammad (13-year-old boy) told us we had to cross the rapid by foot to get to the waterfall. So with A strapped to my chest I very slowly walked barefoot on slippery rocks through a river. (don’t ask me why) Once we got to the other side I was tired, scared, and sweaty (100+ degrees) and just wanted to be on stable ground. So we decided to let the boys “swim” in the shallow part and call it a day. While we were walking back to the other side little Mohammad was helping JP across when he lost his footing and JP started going with the current until he was up to his neck in water! Frank quickly grabbed him as I ran down a steep cliff with A on my chest. Poor JP was scared to death and vowed to “only swim in pools at nice hotels.” I can’t blame him.
Next, we drove to Tangiers just for a day trip. My mom had told me how terrible it was and Frank and I were curious so we onward we went. It was just like any other Moroccan city to me (besides Marrakech, which is actually much cleaner and has lots of shopping and restaurants) we had lunch and ice cream and headed back to Chefchouen.
The next and last day we spent in Casablanca. If you know Frank, you know that Casablanca is his all time favorite movie. We have seen it many many times so this stop was a must for us. I must say that Rick’s Cafe was the only nice place in the city, that I saw anyway. The city was very dirty and very very poor. As soon as I stepped out of our van three boys came up to me for money and when I said no they circled our car in a rage. Quickly, the security for the hotel came to my rescue and shooed them away. On our walk to Rick’s we witnessed a boy try to steal a bicyclists wallet to which the bicyclist slapped him on the head and then the boy picked up a good-sized rock and threw it at the bicyclist and the fight continued until the police ran over to stop it…
Rick’s cafe was an oasis. It was awesome. Just like the movie. Really, it was set up just the same and even had a man named “Issam” at the piano. They had delicious fare and it was great to see some American choices on a menu. It was very expensive and as soon as my frugal husband saw the prices he said “everyone gets water.” This was especially funny when our femme de menage (nanny/housekeeper) ordered the crab, filet mignon and a beer.
The flight home was a long one and I must say we are all happy to be “home”
When H woke up as we were landing I told him we were almost home and he smiled big and said “I want Memi to tuck me in!” I had to break his little heart and tell him no we were home in Tunisia. But all was well when I mentioned he could sleep with his spiderman blanket.
And so life goes on with four little ones in a strange land we now call home.