Thursday, January 1, 2009


It certainly looks to be a Happy New Year!

I’ve got the zwin bartma (nice apartment) that I was hoping for. The landlord needed to install a lavabo (sink) and a duwsh (shower) in the “hamam” (that’s a small tiled room w/a drain-not to be confused with the separate bit l-ma, or Turkish toilet in its own little room-hamdullah) before I would rent it. In exchange for this and a negotiated lower rent, I told him I’d start renting Jan 1st, even tho’ we’re required to stay w/our host families for 2 mos (meaning a Feb 1st move-in date). Hamdullah, Hamdullah, Hamdullah.

We’re talking about a grown woman who has not had roommates for about 25 years and has been in communal living-reporting where, when and with whom and what I am doing-for the last 4 months. ARGHHHHHH! I’m ready to take full responsibility for myself, thank you very much. Don’t get me wrong-my host family really has been great, but come on already! I plan on moving stuff in little by little over the month of January, and working from there as soon as I get internet (Inshallah) up and running.

Second piece of good news is that I’ve got my 2nd tutor lined up for lessons on Wed afternoons and Thurs mornings. He’s tutored PCVs before and has more grammar, structure and methodology to offer. I will keep my original tutor as well, but now have class 5 days/week. Hamdullah.

I thought I’d share some observations on transportation in Morocco. It’s pretty damned impressive, I must say. It is very uncommon for families to have a car, thus public transportation is the predominant means of getting about. They use a variety of vehicles.
Let’s start in the cities. There you have train service (only across the north, far west of Morocco and down the center from Fes to Marakkesh), CTM buses (nice, can reserve seat, only goes between major cities) and petit taxis (seat up to 3 passengers for around town-think VW Jetta). To get between towns, there are grand taxis. These are the big white Mercedes sedans where they fit 2 in the front passenger seat and 4 across the back. You assess the size of your transport-mates as you decide where you’ll get the most room-and then combine this w/the fact that Moroccan women don’t want to sit next to a man-makes for interesting logistics. You may have to take several grand taxis between towns to get to your final destination. Also between towns, and some villages, there are the “nukls”-vans to seat about 16, but commonly overloaded w/up to 25. From towns to villages and duars, there are transits-these are passenger vans w/removable benches across the front and sides of the back. Carries people, products, animals. There are also Mercedes wagons that go out to some duars.

What’s the schedule? Schedule? They go when they’re full. You can wait an hour for a grand taxi to fill w/6 people, or you may catch the nukl just as it’s pulling out. No way to anticipate the waiting time, much less when the next one will come in. You go to the place where they stop (in town that’s a designated place; along the road, you just put out your hand), and ask where they’re going. Hopefully it’s where you want to go and they have space. Hop on in. Of course, you can also hop out anywhere along the way-and they do-all the time-with no apparent destination in sight. Then of course there are the “illegal” transits-trucks w/benches in the back-who will also take passengers. Given that some transport is not very regular, all means are used.

So how about those Mercedes and Peugeot engines that power these loaded vehicles up unpaved hillside roads, rutted from the rain and mud, without breaking down? Says a lot for them-they’re amazing. (The only transport that outdoes them are the donkeys and mules that seem to carry 10x their own weight on their backs).

OK, the other amazing thing, which I’ve referred to previously, is how darn cheap this tranportation is-at least by US standards. I can get to El Menzel-about 12km and takes 20 minutes-for 5DH (that’ s about 70 cents). I can get to Sefrou-beyond El Menzel-total of 50km and takes about an hour-for 17DH (about $2). I can get to Fez-about 60km and takes 1 ¼ hours-for 25DH (about $3). Now you know why they cram so many bodies into a single vehicle-how can they afford to do it otherwise?

So the trick to getting around is mostly knowing which stop to stand in for which type of vehicle going to where you want to go (in Fes there are 4 grand taxi stands, all w/their own destinations), and knowing when the transits are running. For example, it’s hard to get a taxi anywhere on Mondays in Ribat El Kheir. That’s souk day, and all the taxis are ferrying people to/from souk w/all their purchases-not making long hauls. Friday mid-day anywhere-forget it. All the drivers are in the mosque, then at home tgda’ing (eating lunch). Taxis stop running direct from Fes to Ribat El Kheir after 3pm-not enough people going that way-instead, have to go to Sefrou, then Ribat El Kheir. Doesn’t add much cost, but adds over an hour to the return trip. So while you spend time sitting in traffic on the freeway in the US, taking forever to get home, here in Morocco we don’t have any traffic, but may wait an hour for the grand taxi to fill w/6 people, have to go thru Sefrou, and as it turns out, our commute time is bhal bhal (the same)-welakin nsafr dyali ktrmn muhim (but my trip is more interesting)!

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

muslimguy said...

HI Lynn

you are amazing, I remember myself when I first moved in to the States, I could not do anything on my own, I had to rely on others to do everything for me.

apparently your understanding of Darija is really good, few more years and you'll be speaking it better than I.

good luck.