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Rant #282
(published June 15, 2006)
Two American Latinas Seeking Adventure in Morocco; What They Found
by Irma Cedeño
11.05 PM

I woke up with my adventurous gene jumping up and down, screaming "I wanna be tough this weekend. Give me something to be tough about." So I decided to head to Morocco.

We are at the Méndez Álvaro metro stop, about 30 minutes from our happy, but vacant apartment in wondrous Salamanca. We bought a ticket online for about 100 euros. We just boarded the bus. The night is beautiful. It has rained throughout. I write in the semidarkness. I can't stop thinking about my newly-acquired Spanish lover.

Mom called right when I was about to leave. She cried when I told her I was heading to Morocco. It's just Ayleen and me. She thinks we are going to die.


2.07 AM

We have made a stop. A kid keeps crying. Family speaks Arab. This is surreal.


2.16 AM

I asked Ayleen if she wanted me to read poetry to her. I was joking. She said yes. So, there in the semidarkeness, I read "Canción Desesperada" from Neruda:

"Todo en ti fue naufragio".


8.15 AM
Algeciras, Spain

We have arrived to Algeciras, at the tip of southern Spain. We have transferred to another bus that will take us to the port, where we can then take the ferry. We had coffee at the cafeteria in the station, where I saw a lot of Moroccan men. They seem a bit obsessive. This one man tried to tell me something in Arabic. It sounded fresh.

It's still raining.


8.56 AM

We have boarded the ferry. Got a ticket for about 50 euros round trip. The sea looks peaceful. An officer stamped my passport. Good thing I brought it. I had thought of bringing a copy. Exchanged euros into dirhams back at the bus station –10.6 dirhams to one euro. The guy who worked there asked if we had already paid for our hotel. When I told him no he gave me a look that accused me of having evolutionized into insanity.

The men look at us way too much, more than in Madrid. We have put our euros in our shoes –an old trick I learned while trying to survive a week alone exploring Mexico City.

There's nothing valuable in my bag except my camera. I'll fight anyone who comes near.


10.28 AM
Tangiers, Morocco

We are in Morocco. We have arrived safe, sound, and with all our stuff. We met different guides at the port. They approached us and we spoke to them, with skepticism. One guide, Majid, recommended a hotel called Atlas, which is where we are staying. We saw another place, but this one is more spacious and better situated.

We are one hour behind. It's as if I'm younger, as if I have recuperated the last hour of my life and every hour after that becomes the last hour of my life, recuperated over and over again.

The room was 60 euros for both of us, two nights. It wasn't a bad deal at all. The women outside cover their hair and for a second I wished I had brought one of my wraps so I could be Arab like them. They might think I'm the Americanized, foreign version of them. The men are overly friendly. I distrust them all.

Ayleen is taking a nap. We want to hit the market.

Neruda, Poema 5: "Antes que tú, poblaron la soledad que ocupas".


8.54 PM

We took quite a long nap. We slept for about five hours, and then we went to this restaurant called Le Pecheur. It was incredible. It looked so foreign and exquisite. The food was amazing, with lots of appetizers that came with the entrees. We took pictures, and the waiter, a very handsome man asked if he could take a picture "avec vous" We got to practice the little French we know with him. Every man who passed by the restaurant would look on. They are not used to seeing women having lunch by themselves.

Later, when we went in search of the market, one boy held his mother's hand. He gave me the undescribable look. They get married young, I guess.

I held the Qu'ran in my hand. At the market, I saw it. Some guys were selling different things, the Qu'ran being one of them. I wasn't completely sure what it was at the beginning. I took it, quickly, opened it, studied the Arabic writing. The guys were scandalized. I, a woman, a foreigner, was looking onto their Holy Book.

The market was stunning, full of people. Fake bags were being sold everywhere, and although I am not the kind of person to buy one, I thought it would be fun to have a fake Channel wallet that I had gotten in Tangiers. Is this where Europeans come for their fake bags?

I was trying to get some kind of deal on the hookahs. Couldn't leave Morocco without one. I asked the owner of the store how much it was, first in Spanish and then in English. "You look Moroccan," he said, a bit perplexed. Later, after getting a good deal on three hookahs, he reminded me: "You have Arab blood. You are Arab." "Yes, I know," I said. Do I really? Have I walked these streets before? If I was Arab in another life, has some of the blood somehow resurrected in my new body? Interesting.

The restaurants and cafes are full of men. Rows of men, just looking forward. Many of them are handsome.


2.38 AM

Ayleen and I had coffee had at a place nearby. That was actually dinner, since everything was closed. We sat near the back, tried our little French on the waiter and smoked some cigarettes, We talked about gender roles and how free we felt in America.

Later, we went to a club called 555. The man at reception had given us a small note to give to the security. After trying to take pictures of the note, written in Arabic, Ayleen suggested it probably said to let us in. After all, even cabs tended to not stop for women. At reception, the man had asked, "You are going without men?" Of course we were.

They hailed us a cab and the security welcomed us to 555. In fact, the head of security introduced himself and asked us to let him know if we needed anything. There was an awesome pool inside, and we enjoyed the weather before going to the bar. Bachata was playing. Talk about globablization.

I was enjoying my rum, like a good Latina. If it wasn't for those really obnoxious guys from Senegal who wouldn't leave me alone, I would have had the best time. Once the disco opened, I noticed there weren't many women. The ones who were coming in wore very tight outfits, high boots, lots of makeup. Ayleen and I agreed that these women were very liberated. Good for them, I thought. I had decided that this was one party I had no intention of showing skin for.

I realized the women all seemed to know each other, and many of the men. They were hookers.


6.12 PM

This morning had its charm. We tried calling the tour guide, Majid; the number seemed to be for some kind of shop, and he wasn't around. Then some guy showed up in the lobby and said that Majid sent him. Then Majid called and said that the man in the lobby was an impostor, that he would kidnap us. I called reception and told the man we wouldn't need his services at the moment, but that I would call him if I changed my mind. Majid sent a man named Omar, someone we had also met yesterday. We told him we would be going to breakfast. "I'll take you," he said. I told him I needed to have breakfast alone.

Well, here's the funny part. We went to a cafe right around the corner. I was having chocolate and a croissant, about to pay the bill. And there he was –the man from reception –sitting right behind us. We paid for our stuff, and I turned, he just stared right back at me. He didn't order anything. He had simply decided to follow us there.

We had a rather expensive, but really good tour. We went to see the old city, rode camels, brought rings that were considered expensive under their prices. We went to this special pharmacy where a doctor talked to us about sacred herbs and spices. I got some aphrodisiac herbs, which are really good for memory . . . and other things (but mind you, I acquired them for the memory purposes). Ayleen said I should just hand them over to my Spanish lover.

By the end of the tour I hated Omar. I hated the fact that he picked out the restaurant for us to eat at. I hated him for asking if he could keep us, since he's allowed four wives . . .

Gosh, I realized, Everyone thinks I'm Moroccan.

Back at the hotel. Still reading Neruda. I think I must have all the poems three times over. Poema 8: "Soy el desesperado, la palabra sin ecos, el que lo perdió todo, y el que todo lo tuvo".


11.03 PM

We are back from our desperate search for a place that accepted credit cards. We found a French restaurant around the corner. Good food for about 15 euros, the whole deal. We were bothered so much by men. We couldn't walk anywhere without being harassed. I could've sworn we were being followed a couple of times. Then there was this sort of riot going on, some kind of fight. A woman was in middle of it all. I pictured Ayleen and me in the middle of it.

We have to wake up early for the ferry tomorrow. We are now broke after the tour and shopping. I left my debit card back in Madrid in case I would lose it or get mugged. We don't even have money for the cab. I found my lucky dollar. Gonna use it.

Poema 10: "¿Por qué se me vendrá todo el amor de golpe, cuando me siento triste y te siento lejana?"


~ 7 PM

I believe we are a few hours from Madrid. We found a great cab driver today. He took our 2€, plus the 7 dirhams, and I gave him my lucky dollar as a souvenir. He was so happy.

The men in the bus are obnoxious, loud. They speak Arabic. I wonder what they think. Spain? Morocco? Different worlds, one sun.

I said farewell to Morocco, for now. After all, I'm from there.

Poema 14: "Déjame recordarte como eras entonces, cuando aún no existías".

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