Monday, 13 January 2014

9th November, 2013. The Indian Train

I believe we have established that Moroccan grande taxis are absurd with their cramped unawareness of health and safety, erratic driving and secret hand-language. Anyone that visited Morocco and hasn't ridden one is missing out. Up until this point I thought they were the most bizarre form of transport but that's only because I hadn't ridden the 16:00 train from Casablanca to Rabat.

Alae, Reed and I shared a relaxing breakfast of Moroccan eggs I had learned to prepare and little traditional pizzas Alae got from the next-door bakery. We said our goodbyes and soon I was on a petit taxi on my way to the Casablanca train station. I tried getting my ticket in french but the broadly beamed officer replied in english. The platform was gradually filling up as the billboards announced a delay in the train. People paced impatiently. I sat on a curb in the sunshine and continued reading about the crazy adventures of 18th century scientists. As a traveler, it tends to get a bit difficult to not stand out so when the conductor of a transient train poked his head out the window to ask where I was from, it wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last. Minutes later I was wishing he had warned me of the insanity that was awaiting me.

The train arrived, I walked over to the doors and stood slightly to the side like you would do in the London underground or a southeastern carriage in Kent. Moroccans huddled around me and stood decidedly in front of the door. When it slid open a clashing crusade of the tides commenced. People trying to get in pressured and pulled on rails, people trying to get out elbowed and dug. Children nudged past the thicket of legs while their mothers tried to clutch onto their hands so they wouldn't disappear in the harem. By the time I tried to step away it was too late. Those behind me where steamrolling me into the heat of it all until I was finally crushed somewhere in the drab space between two carriages. I could hardly make out the concerned stare of the man in front of me. He tried telling me various times to turn my bag around to avoid pickpockets and I failed to understand him repeatedly through the rattle of the moving train. Shuffling in the cramped horde he helped me protect my belongings. I choked on a whiff of tobacco fume only to find a man next to me crouching between the clattering metal cracks of the two wagons, cigarette in hand puffing out steam onto the racing train tracks below him. Just fifty more minutes to go.

Fifty minutes later I was digging my heels in and elbowing the influx of passengers with complete barbarity. At the doorway a woman on my right was shoving his son into me while a man on my left was trying to squeeze in sideways. Jolts of adrenaline warned me I might never get out. Thankfully, after some brawling I was spat out of the mob and into my next hosts' warm welcome.

There was Anas, bearer of hipster glasses wrapped with sarcasm and wit who introduced himself to me as the James Dean of this era. And there was Karim, thriller film envoy extraordinaire with a homemade appetite for astronomy. The three of us clicked together in a way that only happens in kindergarten. Together we took a nightly walk through Rabat and had the best falafels ever at a Syrian restaurant, all the while talking about the many things we had in common - which was a Moroccan train-full of them. I met a few of their friends which included the gorgeous Murcian girl, Nawal. Those that have known me through university are well aware how spanish encounters in foreign lands occur: an extensive hug followed by banter like we were long lost family. She told me of her friend who was flying over from Spain tomorrow and suggested we should spend the day together. I've never been so excited to meet someone I'd never known in my life. Anas, Karim and I ended the night gazing up at the stars with Karim's telescope and the three of us laughed our way to sleep watching the best worst movie together.

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