Never miss an opportunity, even in Morocco

I didn’t know what to expect at all. This was my first time on the African continent, and I was standing face to face with some of my American prejudices. I’d just gotten off the plane and was making my way to immigration in Casablanca, my steps slowing the closer I got. All the way down the maze of hallways, a man had been shouting at the top of his lungs. Shouting, and I couldn’t understand. I glanced at him casually, masking my annoyance and his long, black beard stabbed at me. He continued yelling in Arabic. Part of me was bathed in relief, the kind you feel when something embarrassing is happening around you and you’re glad that the person committing the deed isn’t black. The other part, the part that has been bombarded with orange alerts and strip searches, cringed and tried to distance itself from the man and his unintelligible rant.
We ended up in the immigration lines next to each other. His yelling kept getting louder as we neared the desks, despite his friends trying to calm him down. By now, he was making a scene and had caught the attention of some law enforcement types. Some innocuous looking, and some toting machine guns. I couldn’t tell what they said to him, but whatever is was, it made him quiet. Finally. It felt like a stern, “Don’t scare the tourists.”
I couldn’t help it. I’d been unsettled. I had quietly in the taxi as we made our way across the city, to my hotel. I didn’t feel any better even as I spied the red carpet that was waiting for me. It tumbled down the marble steps and greeted me at the curb.
The bell man wore a fez and greeted me in English French and Arabic. They walked me through a side door and it wasn’t until later that I realized they were steering us around the metal detector. A man positioned by the door wrote down my arrival in what looked like a huge guest book. He would keep track of my comings and goings throughout the next 24 hours.
I checked in and they gave me a big key. Literally. Old-fashioned metal key was attached to a metal block. I was to check it and out every time I left the building.
The hotel was charming. I literally felt like I’d fallen into the movie Casablanca.
Once I got to my room, I finally felt more comfortable. They left rose petals inside the toilet to welcome me.
Like always, I only had one day. Thankfully, there we only two places that seemed to top the list of things to see in Casablanca, the mosque and the market. Non-Muslims could only visit the mosque at certain times. I had a few hours, so I headed to the market first. I had to find some Moroccan shoes. I grabbed a scarf to cover my head, and hopped in a taxi. For 200 dirham, (about 20 bucks), he would win if the market until we were done, and then take us to the mosque.
I meandered through the stalls, checking out the merchandise. It seemed as if the shoes that were worn most were slipper like, some decorated with beads some plain, But the ones that caught my eye were good old Louis Vuitton (or Louis-Vuitton like).
While I was visiting this particular store/stall, I realized I was about to have a feminine problem. I had to find a bathroom ASAP. I turned to my companion and let him know that I had to go, and I had to go now. I could tell that at first he did not understand, but the urgency of my face let him know that I was serious.
He somehow let the shop owner know of my dilemma, And an assistant was dispatched to take me to the toilet.
“ I take.” He said, beckoning to me.
I was supposed to follow him. Away from the store, and down an alley. I turn to my companion. “I know you don’t think I’m going to the bathroom with this strange man by myself,” I told him. “Strange bathroom, strange man, strange country. I don’t think so.”
He looked at me quizzically And hesitated for a only short second. We both scurried behind the shopkeeper. We followed him, down one alley up another and around the corner. Finally we reached a passageway with a lone man in the chair guarding the door. I think he wanted money, But our guide shooed him away.
By now I had to go so bad I was following blindly. When I finally looked up, I was inside a wide open room, completely tiled. It was lined with benches that all faced in, and they were men sitting around with no shoes on, throwing buckets of water on their feet.
The guide led me to a stall, on the side of the room. It looked like a saloon door, with swinging shutters attached by hinges. He pushed the door open while he spoke in Arabic and grabbed a bucket, filling it with water from a spigot on the wall.
“ I clean for you,” he said, tossing the bucket of water in a tiled hole on the ground.
I looked at my companion. “I can’t do this.”
I wasn’t being difficult. If I were a man, there would be no problem, I would be able to stand up, and those outside would only see my feet and my stream. I couldn’t even squat and hover here. I glanced around the little stall. Worst of all, there was no toilet paper, And now I was aware that all of the men in the were staring. I gasped, realizing that I was in the room behind the mosque where feet washing took place. The male side.
I shook my head and tried to smile politely. I didn’t want to offend. “I can wait.” Thank goodness I was wearing dark jeans.
We went back to the stall and completed our purchases. Once done, I said again, “I really need a bathroom.”
My companion once again asked the shopkeeper, and he suggested a café up the street.
The Café reminded me of Paris. It was surrounded on the outside with seats that all faced out. We scurried inside, and I realized that there were no women anywhere. Not inside nor outside.
The guide once again led us to the back, and through a door. This time the door and stretched all the way from floor to ceiling, but there was just a urinal.
And no toilet paper.
I shook my head again.“Non,” I said.
A lightbulb finally came on. I followed him down another hallway, and this time a Western toilet appeared.
But, guess what? No toilet paper.
My Girl Scout training was minimal, but I was glad that I paid attention some of the time. I dug in my purse, and finally found tissues.
The conditions weren’t ideal, but this was an unusual situation. Now I know why they said it was impolite to do anything with your left hand. It occurred to me that this was as good as it was going to get. My big sister’s words echoed in my head, “Never miss an opportunity,” she would say. If I passed on this one, I might be faced with another tiled hole in the ground.
I only had one day, and didn’t want to waste it looking for suitable facilities. I put my western sensibilities aside and I did what I had to do, and continued my quest for good shoes.


Anonymous said…
Now judging by your tweets you also traveled to Paris and which had the best shoe shopping? It seems like your Moroccan adventure yielded the best shoe for you, however that seems kind of far fetched to me....but perhaps I need to get out in the world a bit more. Holla if you need a travel companion the next time.

Nina Foxx said…
I will, and yes, I did. I plan to blog about other parts of the trip once he muse his me again.
Juan G said…
Depends work wonders!

Interesting day -- now I know why I basically have a passport that has no stamps in it.
Carmen said…
Stop leaving the Country!

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