To the Kindness of Moroccan Strangers
Moroccan Introduction: The Kindness of Strangers
I landed in Marrakech from Madrid via RyanAir. It was a 2 hour flight but I landed at the same time I departed since Marrakech is two hours behind Madrid. I have 8 days before I start my workaway and I wanted to see more of Morocco than Marrakech since I’ll be living in Marrakech and have lots of time to explore. So I decided to go to Fez. Without Hicham I would of been lost. This is my ode to: The Kindness of Moroccan Strangers.
Unlike my usual self – I did not look up the train times leaving Marrakech to Fes. I figured there would be a train. I grabbed a taxi from the Airport and headed to the train station. I never even entered the Medina; not the most fun I’ve ever had as an introduction to a city.
I arrived at the train station and head to the counter. I asked “Do you speak English” bright smile on my face. My french is so horrid I didn’t want to embarrass myself this early. The desk man replied “Yes” with a friendly smile. Great; I am not yet doomed in Morocco.
I ask for the next train to Fez. He says it leaves at 5AM. I look at my watch and it is the ripe hour of 7:30PM. I ask what is the next train leaving and where is it going. “To Casablanca”. Is there a connection there I can take onwards to Fes? “No, you’d arrived at Midnight in Casablanca and have to wait until 5AM there to catch the next train to Fes. The Train terminals do not remain open all night”. Now I’m in a pickle.
I ask if he knows any hostels or cheap places I can spend the night close by? “Nothing is close but let me call a hotel I know; They say it is $70 USD/night – that is not cheap I am sorry”. I resign myself to a night of tramping the cold streets of Marrakech bidding my time until 4AM when I can return to the Train Terminal.
The desk man looks at me contemplating 4 hours of homelessness and tells me “You can stay at my family’s house for the night. Let me give you my number. I do not get off work until 9PM though. I am Hicham.” I looked at him slightly dumbfounded; did a stranger really want to help me? He is a male; am I getting my solo female self into an unwanted predicament? I smile and say let me have your number – I’ll go sit in the cafe pointing to my left, and wait. I figured I could take his offer and if anything appeared off I would flail my arms like a mad woman screaming and run down the street. That is a good self-defence move right?
9pm rolls around and he takes me, my backpack, and himself on his motorbike. “Are you hungry” he asks as we’re zooming around cars and other motorbikes as I death-grip the metal bar under my butt. We roll up to a restaurant that is overflowing with patrons; I could use a good meal since my snack peanuts only fill me up for so long. Turns out, Hicham also works at this restaurant and a gigantic plate of seafood, olives, and sauces appear in front of us. What a feast.
Hicham is a sociology graduate and is looking for jobs in his field; Hicham is very warm and by the end of dinner any worries I had disappeared. We hop back on his bike and head to his family’s home. He lives in a beautiful home outside the Medina walls. Both of his sisters and his Niece are in town from Rabat so the house is full. I arrive to meet his sisters, parents, and his aunt. I was quite the surprise to them all as he could not reach them during dinner so I just appeared like a foreign non-french speaking stranger.
The stranger part soon disappeared as they welcomed me into their home so graciously. Sweet tea, rice, and traditional dress ensued. They asked if they could take my photo and I promised yes if only they would take one with my camera in return. With my green dress on and the family crowded around, the child bouncing on my knee, we smiled for the camera.
I fell so lucky to have walked up to counter that Hicham was working at; The night I experienced with him and his family is something incredible; I’ll never forget it. And I’ll always remember the The Kindness of Moroccan Strangers.