Abdifitah Hassan Ali, is an alumnus of SIMAD University, social justice and human rights activist, in this article he is sharing his experience of his trip in Morocco. Enjoy to read it!
My trip to Morocco, the other side of the Continent.
Prior my departure from Mogadishu, I asked my Moroccan-Canadian colleague to give me an information about Morocco. Unfortunately, she didn’t know much about her country of origin since she was born and bred in Montreal, Canada. My trip was too short, only one week and it was not for vacation. It was for work purpose. However, I was excited and eagerly wanted to have a better sightseeing of one of the top tourist destinations in the continent.
My flight departed from Mogadishu around 9 am with Turkish Airlines (the only international carrier that’s currently offering flights to Mogadishu). It was the longest flight I have ever had. 15 hours plus 7 hours of transit at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. I rated the TK flight with 5 stars though! The service, the food, the lounge in Istanbul were excellent and beyond my expectation.
Around 17:30 Istanbul time, we landed at Ataturk International Airport. I enjoyed those transit hours at the airport as I walked around from gate to gate until I found myself in the bookstore. I bought a couple of books and to my surprise, the price was so cheap compared to other airports I have visited. Then I went to Starbucks, grabbed my to-go coffee and headed to the mosque where I spent few minutes for prayers. I met some fellow Somalis at the airport, some were headed to Mogadishu, others to different parts of the world. Two of them were waiting for their next flight after they missed their first flight to Stockholm. When I asked why they have missed the flight they told me “there is no flight announcement here”. They were right, at Ataturk you are likely to miss your flight unless you check your flight details on the screens. These sisters unfortunately never checked, they were waiting for the call.
At 12 midnight, I took another flight again with Turkish Airlines, this time though with bigger aircraft than the one I came with from Mogadishu. The flight was 6 and half hours to Casablanca. Again, I enjoyed the flight and watched a couple of movies. Around 6:30 am in the morning we touched down at Casablanca Mohamed V International Airport. The weather was 19 degree, perfect and enjoyable for someone like me who came from Mogadishu’s harsh weather.
Shortly after I was done with the immigration I changed my dollar into dirham (local Moroccan currency). One of my Moroccan co-traveler who was sitting next to me advised not take a taxi since I was heading to Rabat and the best way to reach there is to catch the train that leaves the airport after every hour. So I took the train. The price of a one-way ticket from the airport to Rabat was cheaper than I expected. It was 90 dirhams an equivalent of $9 for the first class seating and 70 dirhams for the regular class. I was told that the first class option secures you a seat where the regular class is on a first come, first serve basis. So I took the first class to avoid any inconvenience. During the two and half hours trip to Rabat, I met two Moroccan ladies who told me they were neighbors with Somali families in Canada. We had chatted a lot about our differences and similarities including culture, food, arts, and music. I booked a window seat because I knew it would pass along the Atlantic Ocean, I didn’t want to miss that view. Then we reached Rabat villa station where I got off the train. I took a taxi from there and went to my hotel which was conveniently located in the downtown of Rabat. Thanks to my host organization who made the reservation for me in this four-star hotel called ‘Le Diwan’ with its French pronunciation.
I was so exhausted from the long hours trip, so I had to reward myself with long hours of sleep. I woke up around 4 pm in the afternoon and went outside to see the serene and the beauty of the city. The surrounding areas of the hotel were are very charming filled with many modern buildings having spectacular Arabian architecture and the exceptional Atlantic Ocean view. At one moment I thought myself I was in the Middle East. I found local café, not far from the hotel and I sat there and started sipping the magnificent aromatic Moroccan coffee. But this version of coffee was new to me. It is made of fragrant spices I surely wanted to have it every day. At that very moment though, the flavor was intense and one of the pleasures of spice mixtures was adding and subtracting until I had a personal blend that was right for me. Then, I took a sip and closed my eyes. That taste was something else. And while I was sitting there sipping my coffee I couldn’t stop watching the passing crowds, admire the architecture, and the unique dressing style especially the Moroccan Jilabiya. I also walked to the side streets and saw a local theater with posters of the famed Egyptian singer Umu Kalthum. My days in Rabat was full of work and meetings so I didn’t have time to visit city’s iconic places. However, I visited Place L’Unite Africaine “African Union Square” located downtown Rabat. The square is the symbolic sign of Morocco’s pan-Africanism commitment. I was even told that Morocco was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity (now known as the African Union) but withdrew in 1984 after the organization accepted of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as a member state which Morocco consider its southern province.
During my stay in the city, I enjoyed the weather, interacting with locals and walking around local bazaars. One thing I liked the most was The Djellaba a long, loose-fitting unisex outer robe with full sleeves that is worn mainly in the Maghreb region of North Africa which is also very common in Morocco. I was told that the word literally means attractive, from jalaba. I got one for myself.
Another lesson I learned from Morocco was the level of religious tolerance which was beyond my immigration. The constitution of the country stipulates that Morocco is a sovereign Muslim state and Islam is the religion of the state. However, the constitution guarantees the freedom of thought and practice of one’s religious affairs. From what I observed, Moroccans enjoy religious tolerance and could be defined as the beacon of the Arab countries and the entire MENA region. For instance, you might hear a mellifluous call for prayers and see people going to the mosques in flocks while on the other side of the neighborhood you find a group of Christians going to the Church. It is worth mentioning that there are very few Jewish communities living in Morocco peacefully even though most of them have moved to Israeli.
Finally, after five days of amazing stay in Rabat, it was time to pack my bags and go home. The goody Moroccan fiends I met couldn’t let me go without giving me a big hug where I almost felt like I was already leaving my own country. If I am being perfectly honest, I rated Morocco as the best country out of the 9 countries I have been to. And I am looking forward to another epic and adventurous trip to Morocco.