I am back in Morocco although I have not determined exactly how many times this basic activity has occurred in the past. A friend asked me last week if this would be #35. A quick recounting on the flight over confirmed it would be mid-thirties, but my memory not being what it once was, I am reluctant to state precisely an exact number. I can with certainty say that all our journeys here have taken place in the past 48 years. The first occurred in January 1971, the U.S. Navy providing the cost of my first ticket gratuitously! This time connections were made in Detroit and Paris without difficulty, and within 20 minutes of the scheduled expected time of arrival, I exited the Rabat terminal through the “Nothing to Declare” line, was not stopped by customs officials and therefore did not have to wait to have my baggage inspected. I did not carry contraband but did transport a rich supply of medication (of the non-prescription and legal type) for some Moroccan friends, as well as a new computer to meet a special need for an American who works here. I made my way to the taxi stand and acquired transportation to the Rabat train station for the final three-hour journey to Fes. Regrettably, I had to wait 90 minutes for the next train to Fes, but on the plus side, it was a “Rapide” placing me at my final destination at 6:30 Friday evening. Thus, door to door, the entire trip from Bluff Park to Fes, required almost exactly 27 hours.
I am lodging with a Moroccan friend whose American wife is currently in the U.S. for medical treatment. Denise traveled here with a friend in January 2018 for their wedding. Their apartment is located in the “medina kadeema” or old city. The entire city of Fes has a population of approximately 1.1 million, but 25% or so reside in the very compressed geographic area of the old city. There is the occasional noise of a motor bike outside, but the narrow width of the serpentine streets precludes the use of automobiles within this vast expanse of residences and commercial establishments. The late part of the nights is very quiet and restful. The existence of this part of the city justifies the designation of Fes as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
I noticed along the railway path that the rainy season has been a good one so far this year. The fields of winter wheat located on the fertile plain for some seventy-five miles or so north of Rabat along the Atlantic Coast and in the foothills of the Middle Atlas Mountains, after the tracks shift direction to the northeast, are green and growing. The wadis* are full or at least flush with water. Already many of the trees of the verdant valleys are beginning to blossom. The more subdued green of the leaves on the olive trees in the multiple orchards provides a pleasant visual contrast. Prosperity of the country in general is directly related to the amount of precipitation received between November and March, and there is a lot of hope for this year’s prospects.
One of the few stops the train made was in Kenitra, our first “hometown” in Morocco in Traveling back in my mind’s eye to our life together at that time brings inevitable comparisons to what I see in terms of how the country has changed; both in the progress that has been made developmentally, and to what we have become in terms of who we now are and how we relate to this culture and its people.
The railway journey also provided a good opportunity to reflect on the natural beauty extant in this North African country, my usual excitement about being here once again, and the continuing effort to recognize and understand the attraction justifying our expenditure of time, energy and resources to continue our decades long quest. I trust that my efforts through these reports over the next couple of weeks will provide evidence that our time spent here over the years has been more than a lark, but less than an obsession.
Note from Denise:
Weather in Morocco is cold and rainy (temperature between 35 – 55 degrees today. The picture below (forthcoming) shows the typical way we travel while in the city of Fez—by small taxi. There has been a strike for 4 days (Friday through today) and that has impacted Fred’s ability to travel around. Also, he sounds as if he is getting a cold. Please pray for Fred.