April 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
We had the stature of zombies as we crossed into Melilla early Friday morning, our sunken eyes from a night train’s brutal sleep stealing, our words escaping in yawns, and our movements delayed. We hoped in vain that someone might invite us home for Friday couscous, that we would find harsha, and to find a cheap hostel, things we missed about Morocco already. Feet dragging along the newly renovated cobblestone, we attempted to see the touristic sites of the ciudad Viejo. Perhaps the coastal fort was impressive, but the architecture that gave us the most delight was a goldilocks wall of just the right height and breadth to indulge us a much-needed siesta. We dozed, balanced on the wall between the street and the ocean, undisturbed for nearly an hour. We awoke refreshed and ready for the European novelties of ice cream sundaes and as always, a super market mission. Not wanting to push our luck with our hosts, we kept the tapas bar-hopping to a respectable 1:30am. The next morning, we held our breath at the border, anxious to cross back to where buses create their own schedules and crosswalks are little more than street art. Getting back to the unpolished rhythms of grand taxis and bumpy buses, we rejoined the chorus, finding again that sweet melody as we steered through the Rif mountains. I don’t know what it is about Spain that makes me want to get back to Morocco as quickly as possible.
The following two days gazing at the Mediterranean from Al Hoceima had our minds racing with thoughts, but with a gloriously minimal amount of action. It was essentially a lazy vacation other than the strained efforts at communication. In the northern regions of Morocco, very few people speak French and even their Arabic dialect is different from that of the Southern regions. Nonetheless, some boys we met at a café got their point across. At first we ignored the “hey, hey, girls, hey you girls” as normal, thinking it was yet another group of callow kiddos. It turned out to be a plea for help. “Excuse me,” said one as he approached our table. When he said “do you know anyone who works with human rights violations?” our ears perked and the group proceeded to tell us the story of February 20 in al Hoceima. If you recall, February 20th was the first large demonstration in the recent “arab spring” uprisings here in Morocco. There have since, of course, been others. According to the boys we met, the protests in Al Hoceima became a little rough, with the protestors burning a bank and some cars. However, according to them, the reports of the 5 deaths were falsified. Yes, 5 people were killed, but not by the protesters. The boys allege that the 5 bodies found in the bank were planted there after being brutally beaten by police. The boys are now seeking any foreigner with connections who can help spread the word because they feel the Moroccan organizations are too powerless or corrupt.
As always, the trek back to Rabat was even worse than the way north. A Monday morning mischievously marred our moments of mellow mood. All that concussive alliteration means is that we were given the wrong bus information, so we ended up taking a 7-hr bus to Fes, waiting for over an hour, then taking another 4-hour bus to Rabat where we were stopped by a police officer for taking a short-cut, and had to backtrack one hour to the ordained route and finally to our destination.