What am I doing here? The Moroccan Atlantic

Vago Damitio. What am I doing here?

Asiliah, Morocco
03 October 2012

Man, oh, man. We needed this. I don’t know if it was reading about Anthony Mathenia’s weekly column or reading my own imminent state of meltdown but last Thursday I got on AirBnB and rented a little seaside apartment here in Asilah, Morocco.  Part of it was probably seeing that picture of myself from last week.

My wife hasn’t been doing anything professionally since our daughter was born. Aside from  visits to her friends or the doctor when she has a bout of mystery intestinal pain – she hasn’t had any appointments, so imagine my surprise when I broke the good news to her that we were heading on vacation and her reaction was ‘Oh, no.”

She’d put together a little English class she was going to start teaching in our apartment which began the day I’d rented a seaside vacation rental.  After a bit of panic, she realized she could call the students and postpone until we returned.  I gave her the option of staying while I went on vacation, but after two seconds thought she realized that she didn’t want me to have all the fun. With all of that arranged, we got our bags ready for our departure the next day. In the morning, she came out of the bathroom with a grim expression “Guess what time of the month it is?”  I didn’t need to guess. Her menses seems to be uniquely timed for family travel.

Moroccan Art, AsilahOur daughter, on the other hand gooed and gawed and did a little dance. Not because she was excited but because that is what she does all the time. She’s fourteen months old. We get excited when she points at something.

My wife got angry with me when I told her that she needed to pick up the pace a bit because the train wouldn’t wait for us.  Even though we’ve missed trains and planes in the past because she dawdles and won’t tolerate my rushing her, she still feels that I don’t have any right to say ‘hurry up’. Despite dawdling, menses, and postponed English classes, we were excited to be heading to a family beach holiday and packed up some beach toys, bathing suits, and everything else we would need for a four day sun holiday. Then we stepped outside into the rain…

A big storm was covering all of North Africa and on the taxi ride to Fes it poured down on us.  The grey skies mocked my swim trunks and all the baby’s beach toys. As we pulled into the train station, I saw that a train was departing. “There goes our train..” I said.

“Stop teasing me,” my wife said. “Look, we’re right on time.”  Yeah, the train doesn’t wait. Luckily the agent gave us tickets on the next train and we had a three hour wait in the train station restaurant which is actually a nice little place. I got to enjoy Eggs Benedict minus the hollandaise and we were dry and comfortable.

It rained all the way to Asilah. The little apartment was great and at $60 a night, I found it to be a great value but after talking with the neighbors, my wife let me know that I had paid far too much. Still, she was happy enough to stay inside watching TV the first 24 hours we were there while I was happy to be outside tromping around in the rain, smelling the sea air,  and enjoying being at the coast. I’m from the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii, after all – so the combination of rain and ocean is familiar to me.  I’m definitely not made of sugar so there isn’t any worry of me melting.
Wedding in AsilahI finally coaxed her out for a seafood dinner. “Hey, it’s actually not that cold” she said. The dinner was great – a big mixed plate of shrimp, sole, and a bunch of other fish plus a salad and fresh orange juice.  On the way home we wandered by a wedding and spent some time hanging out with the dope smelling Gnawa musicians before the bride was brought out loaded into a bier and then loaded on a horse and carried away to the groom’s house.

The next day she was outside about half time and we managed to explore the old medina of Asilah a bit. Dinner was delicious hamburger and omelet sandwiches (kifta wa tortilla) and a nice wander around in the early evening. The rain was disappearing.

I should point out that during all this time, I was really enjoying myself.  Just being away from Sefrou does wonders for me, plus, the rain meant that I could wander around to my heart’s content and enjoy doing things on my own time without having to stop and look at scarves for a half hour.

Our next day was mostly sunny and we had a great lunch at Asilah’s famous Spanish Restaurant where I bought a small painting from  a street vendor. It’s a watercolor on a couscous bag of musicians in Asilah. I don’t always buy souvenirs, but sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder of a trip. One, small, meaningful reminder. This was mine.

Hanane was starting to have fun and we played at the beach. I actually was able to do a little body surfing in the storm swell and the water wasn’t as cold as I had thought it would be.  The only downside was the creepy Moroccan dudes that lurked nearby.  My impression was that they were either waiting for us to leave something valuable unattended or they were there to bikini watch. Either way, it’s a big beach and there was no reason for them to be so near us aside from creepy ones.  If all the creeps would just go away the world would be so nice.

Asilah Beach HolidayOur last day was sunny and beautiful. I’d heard about a ‘secret’ beach that could only be reached with some real effort.  My plan was to hire a horse and carriage and get them to take us the ten kilometers to it – I’m a western guy and to me, anything involving a horse is more romantic, memorable, and just cool. My wife though, she’s Moroccan, horses are so old fashioned and bildy (country), plus the lady at the fruit stand told her that the horses  would be more expensive and take longer and we could just hire a motorcycle truck instead…

One thing I’ve learned in Morocco, my opinion counts for nothing next to that of a neighbor, a fruit vendor, or strangers watching from the street – so we took a motorcycle truck and saved 30 dirham ($3).  We bounced and jiggled going out the sand country roads so much that I was afraid our daughters head was going to bounce off, but we arrived intact and the beach was magnificent.  Our timing couldn’t have been better in that all the Moroccan holiday makers are gone and there was just a lone cafe set up with some homemade beach chairs and umbrellas. 40 diram rented us a spot and there was no one on the beach but us and an English couple who had come out by horse drawn wagon plus their wagon driver and a sun bleached little blond Moroccan surf kid.

The day was beautiful, the water was perfect. The beach toys got played with. Me and the Moroccan surf rat body surfed and swam. The baby got to learn some of the joys of the beach. My wife got to tan, cavort in the water, and much to her joy found a big puddle of green mud which she rubbed all over her face and body.  All the Moroccans we saw walking down the beach did the same. It’s a mud that is good for the skin.

When I came from the water after my final surf, the baby had puked all over my sarong but she was smiling and enjoying the sand. The bumpy ride back to Asilah town followed by another platter of fish and more fresh orange juice and we all slept like we’d had a wonderful family day at the beach. Because we had.

Now though, it’s time to pack up and head back to Sefrou, but hopefully that painting on the couscous bag will keep me in sunny spirits as I get back to work.  But who knows? Maybe we’ll miss the train…

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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook