A Month in Morocco: Waiting for the Bus

The bus station, like most round the world, was situated in a derelict part of town. I arrived before it opened and found the main entry blocked by multiple piles of yellow vomit, one being consumed by a feral tabby. When an employee arrived, she aptly hosed things down then waved me inside. When she confirmed that I was traveling to Marrakech (I wasn’t), we had to change my ticket to Erfoud. This altered my departure time by five hours.

I found a rebar bench near a chaotic grand-taxi lot. Drivers were scrambling to get a fare, then aggressively scouting for more people wanting to go to the same destination. After I said no once, I was left alone for hours. The taxis are designed to carry a total of four passengers, but they won’t leave the lot until they’ve sold seven seats. Sometimes the taxis wait all day before departing, it just depends on how quickly they fill up. If riders are in a hurry, they can purchase the “empty” seats, but it’s mostly tourists who do this. When the taxi is full, five people pile in the back seat and at least two ride shotgun. Children sit on laps and don’t count as a fare. It was fascinating to watch people squeeze in—reminded me of that fancy clown bit at the Shrine Circus.

I killed time walking the back streets of Ouarzazate and used the minaret on Mosque Mohamed V as my point of reference. As I wandered, the call to prayer (Adhan) crackled through tinny speakers. A white light illuminated atop the tower so deaf people know when to pray, too. When I first arrived in Morocco, I found the eerie call unsettling. But after a couple weeks the daily tradition was soothing. Five times per day it blankets the city with a calm energy—and afterwards there remains a sense of peace. Even rug hawkers and street hustlers mellow out a bit.

I stopped at an open-air café for tea and traditional Moroccan breakfast: a large basket of homemade bread and plates of olive oil, honey, jam, cheese, butter, peanut sauce and black olives. The kitchen was set up outside and instead of bread they fried up a stack of something that resembled thick tortillas.

I ate everything with my right hand as instructed to do by Lonely Planet. Occasionally I took a sip of my tea with my left but I promptly returned it under the table and made sure nobody caught me in the act. In Morocco, the left hand is believed to be unclean. It’s the hand that washes after using the toilet. I never got a straight answer when asking locals about whether or not this rule is upheld, but still I tried to comply. Once while traveling in Thailand, my friend Kent was scolded for sitting on a bench and accidentally pointing his foot at a Thai man. The man shook his finger in Kent’s face and said, “I don’t know about in your country, but here you are very rude.” From that I am forever traumatized.


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