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Eric: A day in Assilah

July 31, 2010

Here’s my last weekend in Morocco (I am flying out of Casablanca next Saturday). Gosh now it felt like the 5 weeks went by so fast, yet sometimes I feel that time couldn’t past fast enough. A couple of people studying at ALIF rented out an entire riad in the city of Assilah on the Atlantic coast for the weekend. As summer is only getting hotter here, so the idea of going to beaches and swimming in the ocean was very appealing.

The first part of the trip was pleasant. The train was air-conditioned, the cart we were in was pretty empty so we each got two seats. Through the journey more and more people got on the train, until it was full to the point that people had to stand in the area between carts. We reached the Mechra Bel Ksiri station, where we were supposed to change train, and were standing under the sun for almost 45 minutes before the train destined for Tangier (Assilah is one of the stops on the way to Tangier). We squeezed onto the packed train. Immediately we realized that we couldn’t find seats at all, so we ended up sitting on the floor by the door in a cart. At least the cart was air-conditioned.

As the train pulled closer to the Assilah station, the Atlantic Ocean all of the sudden just appeared. We got off the train, were met by another student from ALIF who was already in Assilah, and were taken to the rented riad, which was located in the old medina. We walked along the coast on the beaches, and saw flags of many countries flying on poles along the coast. I was somewhat disappointed to not have found a Taiwanese flag, even though I wasn’t that surprised. Walking into the medina, the walls of houses were painted white, different shades of blue, or different shades of green. For a few moments, I had the feeling of being in a Greek town.

Our riad was a three-story building that doesn’t really fit the definition of a riad, as it didn’t have an open space in the middle of the house. But this didn’t reduce any of its charm. The riad had everything: a kitchen, bedrooms, TV, bathrooms with showers and toilets, and a roof terrace area overlooking the Atlantic. All it lacked is Wi-Fi, but let’s face it, who needs Internet when you are going to be swimming in the sea, cooking, and enjoy the view anyway? We ate a very quick lunch, which, thanks to whoever rented the riad, consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cereal, and a lot of fruits.

Highlight of the day, or what I thought was going to be the highlight of the day, was the beach. I thought swimming in the Atlantic on a hot summer day would be a wonderful experience, but it turned out that the Atlantic was filled with seaweed and other things. So I didn’t really want to put my face under the water, fearing that I might come back up with seaweed. The cool water was pretty comfortable though. Walking out of the water to lay on my towel, I found something interesting: people here didn’t associate me with Japan. Instead, they all call me Chinese (in Arabic), which though really isn’t that much more correct in my book, it’s an interesting change. Were there just more Chinese people who have visited the town? Or maybe it just so happens that Japan doesn’t have much of a presence here in the beach town of Assilah? I don’t know, and I really couldn’t think much as I began to fall asleep on the beach.

Dinner was amazing. I’m not complaining about the Moroccan home-style cooking I get everyday, but one of the students in our group has worked in a restaurant before and together with everybody made pasta, salad, potato with garlic butter sauce, and onion and zucchini cooked in more butter and garlic. It was a wonderfully fulfilling meal (not that I don’t get enough food at home. Trust me, the single most common thing everyone who stays with a Moroccan host-family complains about is getting too much food.) I fell asleep on the couch as other people went on to the roof drinking.

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