Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Travel Tuesday : A Lengthy Train Journey in Morocco

Up early in the morning to catch the 9:00 train to Fes. Breakfast was a bit late, but it gave us the chance to play with Khalim the kitten. Then off to the station, stopping on the way to the Djemaa el-Fnaa to pick up water from our second favorite shop. An old lady begged me for bread and when I said no, just grabbed a loaf. I looked at the shopkeeper, who nodded and took a 1 Dh coin from my change. Probably not enough to cover the sale of the bread, but hopefully enough to cover the ingredients. 

Then a taxi, where we were told it would be “fifteen”. Fine, okay – until we got to the station the driver asked for fifty. We knew he was having us on – it shouldn’t really have been more than 10… so we laughed at him and held firm.

Unhappy surprise at the train station: there were no 1st-class tickets left on either the 9 or the 11 train. Oh well. So we bought 2nd class tickets and hoped for the best for the 6.5 hour journey.


As the train arrived, the usual boarding scrum occurred – complicated by me getting my pack stuck in the doors. (I’m awesome.) We got in a car marked with a 2, went through doors marked with 2s, but found a compartment that looked suspiciously like a 1st-class compartment: 6 velour seats with nice wide armrests rather than 8 orange bench seats. Still, we sat down and hoped we wouldn’t be moved.

We were joined by 2 German girls who had been in Morocco for about 30 hours and already seemed ready to leave. They were leaving lovely Marrakesh for icky Casablanca – I hope they find something they like. Later, 2 young Moroccans joined us just before the train left. 

We stopped several times at a variety of stations – our original Moroccan couple left and a family with 2 small sleeping children took their place. At some point a ticket collector passed through and didn’t seem phased by our presence, so I guess we really were in a 2nd class car. Perhaps it was just an older model? Regardless, we'll book first-class tickets for the trip back to Casablanca.

The countryside was very dry and sparse. In the south the only green was from the cacti which seem to have been planted as hedge/fences around where animals are kept. As we’ve come farther north, there’s a bit more green – olive trees, some palms, something that looks like sugar cane? Also, the closer we got to Casablanca there was more industry and the villages, once just a few houses and a mosque, were replaced by towns – more houses, some shops, a pharmacy, and of course bigger mosques.

Strange glimpses out of the window – shanty towns covered with satellite dishes; skinny Holstein cows surrounded by cacti.

The German girls got out at Casablanca, and were replaced by a Moroccan family including a grouchy lady who immediately took off her shoes and put her nasty bare feet on the seat across from her, her skinny husband, and their surly teenage son. The lady kept holding the door shut so no one would come in and take the open seat, even when people were standing in the aisle outside. And shall I mention the belching?

All this meant the ride from Casablanca to Fes felt very long; and when the train arrived, an hour late, we were happy to see the end of the fat belching woman.

We went immediately to the ticket office to buy 1st-class tickets to return to Casa after three nights. We had been relatively lucky with our seats, but didn't want to push our luck!

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