Posted: 1/13/2007


   The Moroccan rail network is not so big, and stops south at Marrakesh, though there is talk of extending it South West to Agadir and Layoute in Western Sahara.  Anyway, I missed a connection from Fes to Tangier, the gateway to Africa and had over 3 hours to spare in the little rail junction of Sidi Kacem.  I walked the kilometer into town from the station, down station boulevard past a row of neat houses and on the sidewalk I counted 52 orange trees. Each tree had at least 150 oranges in its branches so thats 7,000 or so delicious fruit to pick in the morning, bring into the kitchen and squeeze. There are millions of orange trees lining  many avenues in Morocco and neighbouring Spain. I often reached up and picked and peeled one for a quick thirst quencher.

   Fes is the most medieval city in the Arab world, and with international help and UNESCO World  Heritage city status it may long remain preserved by the Fassis, as the natives are called. Out of its populatioin of over 800,000 over a quarter still live in the cramped Medina.  It was Moulay Idriss II who succeeded his father in 792 AD and started building.  He also invited refugees from Andalucian Cordoba and Kairouan from Tunisia, the 2 most important cities of Western Islam. They built their own separate walled medinas and the city prosperred. In the 10th Century Pope Silvester II studied at Kairaouine University, which is still going strong, and took Arab mathematics back to Europe.

   I also went into the souks and paid 15 cents for a red plastic fly swotter, which probably saved me $50 dollars or more. Let me explain. I heard the bzzzz and tried fighting back with quicker steps, or waving my hands or just playing dumb, but the pests continued. It used to be a real problem in Marrakesh until tourists complained by the thousands and didnt return. The authorities got wise and chased the local touts and conmen away, and Marrakesh is trouble free, but the problem still persists in Fes and worse still in Tangier, from where we get the name Tangerines.  "Can I show you around", šLet me get you a taxi", I know a good hotel", "Do  you want a good time?"  " I can change you money".... Anyway, THIS infidel hit back, started waving my fly swotter around and issuing curses, and they left me well alone.  One guy near the port in Tangier got really annoying so I screamed by best Arabic curse-   "May a 10 kilometer long caravan of pissed off, sweaty camels attack you and lick your scrotum raw with their VERY rough tongues."

   Crossing the streets in Morocco is very dangerous, and even in the narrow souks there are lots of mopeds going at crazy speeds. I was pretty brave and just went for it, dodging as best I could. I felt that I earned the British Commando Special Services badge for my bravery - HE WHO DARES WINS !! Tangier used to be an international city, governed by the British, French, Spanish and Americans, but since independence it has got rid of all of the brothels and most of the vices-well, some of them any way.  Apart from the touts its a fun place with lots of great bars and cafes and a beach and promenade.  You can take a giant catamarran to Spain in as short as 35 minutes to Tarifa, the wind surfing capital of Europe.  There are a number of competing shipping lines and I sailed in one hour to Algeciras, not far from Gibraltar by Balearia Line, and the good ship NAUTAS  Getting on board you go through  the airport style screening door and put your bags on the conveyor belt. The difference was that NOBODY was there to check what went in the machines, and I went through the door with a a pocket full of change and other metal objects. The catamarran can handle about 60 cars and 600 passengers on the short trip to Algeciras, where there is no hastle from the citizens of Adalucia and hardly any formalities.

   DON,T  let me put you off.  MOROCCO is a great place to visit, and next time I hope to get into the Sahara with camels, 4 wheel drive and visit the Berber villages, high mountain passes and the many oasis.  are just two of the discount airlines offering great prices from UK, Germany, France and Spain into the airports of Fes, Marrakesh and Agidir, as well as Royal Air Maroc, Air France, British Airways into Casablanca and beyond, and a new Moroccan discount carrier  AIR INTER has entered the race with intra Moroccan flights as far south as Layoute, which is about 18 hours by road from Casablanca.