Such a Long Journey: 3-flights to reach this West-African nation and tales of getting stranded at airports that are straight out from a Hollywood movie!
So how much do you know about Morocco? To be honest, we never paid much attention in Geography class; damn we don’t even know if the ways of the people of the small West African country was even part of the syllabus. That’s why when Swarathma’s tour of Morocco was confirmed, we were in a tizzy! Is it hot or cold? Do people drive on the left or the right? Do people there understand English? Though Google answered most of our questions, we weren’t prepared for the wonderful experience it turned out to be. These are stories culled from the week we spent in one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been to.
Such a Long Journey
For a country that’s on the same longitudinal axis as Paris, Morocco is surprisingly hard to get to. Frenetic web searches yielded results with a minimum flying time of 36 hours. Eep. To top it off our itinerary spanned the cities of New Delhi and Abu Dhabi en route to the city of Casablanca, our final flying destination. Yes, if you join the dots you get a pretty interesting design. To make matters interesting we had a changeover in New Delhi airport that involved us off-loading all our luggage (God knows there’s lots of it) and ferrying it via inter-terminal coach to the International Airport and go through the entire check-in process once more.
[Photo-1] Doodles on the way: Pavan, Sanjeev and Varun contributed rather liberally to this tissue. [Photo-2] There's a huge pillar with a honeycomb pattern on it bang in the middle of Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal. Quite disorienting! Pic: Pavan Kumar
Just to make it interesting my son Roimon decided to take his 4 day old illness to a new level and was admitted to hospital, in response to which I promptly cancelled by onward journey to Abu Dhabi and headed back to Bangalore by the earliest available flight. The travelling party was 35 people as the Indian contingent to the Festival Awtar had Rajasthan Roots (a killer ensemble you should check out) and dancers from GP Dancertainment (who would collaborate with us on some songs).
Meanwhile the boys, after a brief altercation with the immigration authorities who weren’t amused with a large boisterous gang such as us, made it safely to the capital of the UAE. A seven hour layover passes slower than you think it does. You could sleep, explore the terminal, gawk at the designer watches and clothes that will ask of you to pawn your family’s family if you wish to buy them. But the clock’s hands slow down and the hours just don’t pass.
But ask this of Aman, one of GPD’s dancer team who decided to take a snooze before the flight to Casablanca and in the melee of 35 people passing through security check was left behind at Abu Dhabi airport! Imagine my shock when I was shaken awake by the deliriously happy chap when I was passing through Abu Dhabi 48 hours later! He had been in the terminal for two whole days. In a series of events straight out of ‘Terminal’ the movie starring Tom Hanks, Aman found himself stranded in the Abu Dhabi airport terminal with no forex, no tickets, no credit cards and no hope. To top it off, this was his first ever international trip! In a providential stroke of fate, there was free internet access at the terminal and a friend online on Facebook managed to send word to his uncle who by another stroke of good fortune happened to live in Abu Dhabi. A transit visa out of the question, Aman requested a security guard to take delivery of the Dirhams his uncle brought for him so that he could buy food! He had managed to make a few friends at the terminal, like a Pakistani shop-keeper in the duty free area, who helped him out. He would sleep in the mosque inside the terminal, and roam around the vast concourses to pass the time. The Casablanca flight leaves once every two days, which is why he was on the plane that I took! Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
The first view of the Casablanca sky makes you believe your vision has been inverted. But fear not, it's just the signboard viewed from behind. Pic: Pavan Kumar
And then at long last, the boys tottered out at Casablanca Airport named after their erstwhile King Mohammed the Fifth. There was a huge-ass bus to pick them all up, which was just as well, for there was enough luggage to fill the cavernous innards of a medium-sized whale. Onto the adventures now!
Text: Jishnu Dasgupta