Alia’s Disclaimer: Although certain people’s names are mentioned in this post, all the statements are mine alone and are not to be attributed to anyone else mentioned here. There are many ways this tale can be told. This is my version and is intended for entertainment and information purposes only.
On Wednesday, April 30th, thirty-one members of our community went to Tetouan, the largest city between here and Tangier, to register ourselves as a company called “Apagnosis.” This is a “bridge platform” that Heather put together using a tool (or several) from the former system (old paradigm) so that those of us staying long term in Morocco can have certain benefits and advantages (within this company structure) that would normally not be available to foreigners, at least not without paying exorbitant fees and filing voluminous piles of legal documents. We still had to do beaucoup paperwork and sign registers and several other documents and pay fees. However, because all 31 of us were within one legal entity, the paperwork was not too much more than would be needed for only a few people and the fees were nominal.
To transport 31 people (in taxis and private cars) to Tetouan to a destination that had no real address, and was not commonly known by the people one asked on the street, was an excellent adventure all in itself. Tomas and I squeezed into the back seat of a private car, acting as a taxi, with a driver, a front passenger and two other back seat passengers. Tomas and I had to sit on one hip each with his arm around me – apparently, in this case, our behavior was not considered a public display of affection between members of the opposite sex.
And then the fun began. We joked that this was the real reason that Tomas had brought the eye shade – to cover my eyes so I wouldn’t see all the near misses and passing on blind curves that Moroccan drivers consider normal. But it was actually kind of romantic to ride with Tomas’s arm around me and look at the sights along the Mediterranean, as we passed through little villages en route to our “important business meeting.”
I should add here that April 30th marked our third week in Morocco and we had not yet ventured out together since our arrival. So this was BIG for us.
Along the way, some passengers got out and others got in. At one point we had seven people including the driver with three riding in the front of a car with bucket seats. This apparently is also normal in Morocco.
SEAT BELTS – WHAT SEAT BELTS?
We had been told to go to the Spanish Consulate – Centre de Ville, center of town – and wait there for our group to gather. As Tomas and I were the first to get in a taxi, we got to our supposed destination early and sat ourselves down in an outdoor café to sip real café au lait and breakfast bread with butter and honey. The entire plaza was within our view and Tomas’s eyes were aware of all the comings and goings. No sight of our people for an hour!
I enjoyed watching the women and what they were wearing. I’m fascinated with Moroccan fashion and these women were dressed so beautifully, with many different styles of dress (including western without any head covering) to full length tunics with hoods, matching head scarves and coordinated handbags and heels. I was reluctant to take photos of anyone but sat there in my own American version of head covering and just enjoyed the fashion parade.
After an hour at the café, we began to wonder whether we had been given correct directions. We got up and walked around the plaza a couple of times to no avail. We have no cell phone currently and Tomas had only one phone number with him. Fortunately, it was the right one. We stumbled upon a public telephone/Western Union office and Tomas being the seasoned international traveler that he is, launched into a coin-exchange conversation (in French) with the man behind the desk and soon, we were in a booth dialing Brian’s number. He couldn’t tell us where they were or how to get there. Finally, we spoke to Heather who gave Tomas what seemed to be complete directions from where we were to where the rest of the group was and we began to head that way.
Soon we were just as confused as we had been at the phone booth. We kept walking and eventually came to the entrance to the Medina and then we KNEW we were lost. At that point, “Mohammed” showed up in our space, asking us if we wanted a guide for the Medina. Tomas said we were trying to find our friends. Mohammed spoke some English and said to Tomas “You look like us!” Tomas answered him back “I am like you.” He was further pleased to hear my name, because Alia is an Arabic name, so then we were all family.
Tomas told him we were trying to get to the Government building where “registrations are done.” Mohammed then asked if it was the place where you would register a house if you were buying one, or land if you were buying that and Tomas took a chance and said yes, that sounds right. So with Tomas and Mohammed in the lead, I did my best to keep up, avoiding the other shoppers and trying not to step on all the merchandise that was displayed along the sidewalk. We had gone only a couple of blocks when we began to see “our people” coming out of an internet café where they had gone to make some of the copies of our passports before heading to the Government Building. We thanked Mohammed for his guidance, gave him a small financial contribution and headed off with our newly found friends.
Tomorrow: Tetouan Adventure II — Herding Cats