Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From Almeria to Casablanca

Almeria, 4th of February, the Locomotive of freedom is ready to leave Europe behind and head right toward Africa. The sun is shining, bringing happiness to the three adventurers who spend more time talking to the people and charging their batteries than hitchhiking. As a result, when the night comes, they are just 25 kilometers away from Almeria, in El Ejido. This city is called the garden of Europe and it is famous for its greenhouses that spread for kilometers and kilometers around. Nature is strongly exploited, in the greenhouses, fruits and vegetables are produced with pesticides and then sent to the supermarkets of Europe. Everyday, 2500 trucks leave the place. On top of everything, the majority of the workers are immigrants who work illegally in very poor conditions because of the pesticides and other chemical products. We condemn such a system, stating loud how much local food is better on an ecological and human scale.

In the morning, we got up early to find a nice ride to Algecira, the Spanish door of Africa. Thanks to Viorel, Marieta and Rafael, we reached the city in the night. There, the Locomotive sleeps for the first time on a roof, enjoying a starry sky to inspire their dreams…dreams of Morocco. As soon as we woke up, we went directly to the harbor looking for a private boat that could take us to the other side of the Detroit of Gibraltar. Unfortunately, few are the people who go in this direction, therefore Raphael, Nicola and Benjamin decide to take their chance with the ferry, less sustainable but more feasible at that point! After talking with some people, we realized that the only chance to cross without spending money is to find a driver that goes in Tanger at 18h00 with an empty car, leaving space for three people to jump in freely. The other possibilities is to see with the trucks… Indeed, the three adventurers learn quickly that a truck driver can invite another passenger, “a second driver” to cross with him. In this case, the second driver doesn’t pay anything extra and can even enjoy a free meal on board. After discussing with some people, René, Franck and Abdullah accept to take the locos with them! At night, the Locomotive embark on the ferry, all very excited to get to Morocco.

Once you get into a spiral of happiness, it never stops. René, a warm Swiss, invites us in his house to spend the night, offering a perfect stop to recharge the batteries and get ready for the discovery of a new world. As a matter of fact, once Nicola, Raphael and Benjamin had left the “European house”, a new world opened to them. Everything had changed, from the people to the architecture, passing by the atmosphere. We put their thumbs up and the first car stops, taking us into a journey in Tanger, a city that was before an international zone where French, Spanish, English, Italian and Dutch used to live and work. As a result, most of the people who inhabit the place speak at least three languages and are very open minded, interested in the foreigners and always looking for new stories. There, the three adventurers discover as well the big heart that lie under each Moroccan chests. They all give everything they have without asking. Therefore, we could easily find a place to spend the two nights in Tanger: the first one in a hotel, where the friendly receptionist accepted to let them in for free after listening their story and the other one in the house of Mohammet, a nice Moroccan guy who speak German and took the chance to enjoy an “European evening”.

Then, the locomotive continues its journey through Morocco with the discoveries of Asilah and Fes, two beautiful cities that are although very different. Asilah is a small typical city where restaurant are always ready to accept tourist, although we are in low season. We met people who spoke fluently English and French and the basics of German, Japanese, Dutch, Italian and many others. It seems like the Moroccans are real language talents with passion to learn more and while invited to many sugar sweetened tea sessions we made languages sessions as well. Further we got a deep inside in the Islamic world, in the Koran and how the Moroccan people apply and interpreted their most holy book. We listened carefully with one of the many convinced Muslims, and his open heart monologue remain probably one of the most interesting moments of our journey. It seemed to us that as more as you get to know about the Koran, which is the life guide book for the Islamic world, as more you want to understand Islam and to read the book with your own eyes. Our interest and desire to learn Arabic and to read the Koran raised even more.

The next day two different rides brought us to a typical gas station in Morocco, one and a half hours south from Asilah and close to the old Spanish-French colonial border, where a rich agriculture flourish. We entered the cafe-restaurant and looked for a place to sit while many male eyes crossed our still shy faces. After about one minute, Benjamin turned to our table with a peace of bread that somebody didn’t finished and suddenly a one of the person in the restaurant, approached us. Before we could realize what was happening, our table was full with bread, olive oil, soups, tea etc, it was hospitality from the heart, a beginning of another warm, interesting, inspiring and lovely encounter with people who treat us as old friends! With the time a crowd of locals were surrounded our table and we got more and more vegetarian food, we talked and talked, laughed and laughed and finally we got even offered to sleep on top of the restaurant on comfortable couches. In the morning after this heart moving encounter, we sit down at one of the tables to wait for a ride southwards while charging energy with our little solar power station and breakfast was served like it fell from heaven! The young owner of the place had arranged everything and we had hard times to keep our mouth close by so much good, honest and caring people we found here Morocco.

However Morocco, surprised us for its contrasts and offered us another vision of its people when we reached the beautiful city of Fes. This cultural center of Morocco hosts the biggest Medina (old center of Arabic cities) of the Arab world where many people hold their activities based on tourism, therefore we felt sometimes as an object for the Moroccans who try to sell they merchandises all day long for the small streets of the old city. Among all those bars and little markets we got to know three wonderful people who made our visit in Fes unforgettable: Abdellatif Hanafi, teacher in a primary school, Eric, interesting French Muslim and Mohammed, young Moroccan “hippie”. With the three we discovered the city in different ways: the reality of the students, the one of a very singular teacher and the one of a world citizen with the eyes opened for discover the deepest nature of life. The three made our stay absolutely interesting and offered us food and places to sleep, teaching to the Locomotivers many things about Arab language, Islam and the condition of young people. We left the city center full of life and went to street waiting for new ride, to discover a new place. After waiting for quite a long time an angel driving a truck stopped by us, offering a ride to Casablanca. At the first sight, this angel called Moussa was our brother already and we shared with him moment that nobody of us can never forget. Indeed, he offered us to sleep in his house in Casablanca for a couple of days and while we were exchanging information about our culture, his phone ringed and he couldn’t stop to smile while he was talking with somebody. Moussa became father in front of our eyes and we run together to the hospital. We witnessed the birth of a new human being, with a brother met just two days before and connected now with our heart for the eternity. Can this happen with a normal journey?

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