We were out of Essaouira by 9:30 and I was feeling pretty gnarly. I think the damp-fishy-sewage smell that pervaded the city had finally taken its toll. My throat was raspy and I was completely nauseous, but by the time we were an hour outside of town back in the desert I was fine, so that was good news. Overall, on the entire trip, apart from the bad cold in Tanzania, I never got sick once. Not a single case of “traveller’s revenge” or the cold fed through the tour group, or any other physical indisposition. As one who usually gets sick at the drop of a hat, I was pretty astounded.
We drove to the Marrakesh airport to drop off two people, then stopped in Marrakesh for lunch, with everyone having strict orders they were not allowed to shop, wander or otherwise delay the group. Our biggest ‘delay-er’ had been one of the ones earlier dropped off, so we actually succeeded in this mission! A few people stayed behind in Marrakesh, and we made it to Casablanca (in our now nice-and-roomy van with the loss of so many bodies) by around 3pm. It was sad saying goodbye to so many people, but I think a lot of us were ready to move on. As this was the end of my whole African Adventure, I was particularly eager to get back to American normalcy. If I had had another country on my intinerary, I could have readily moved on to that and traveled on indefinitely, but once my mind had accepted I’d be going home soon, it was time to do so.
Those of us leaving the next day from Casablanca were almost all staying in the same grubby Ibis near the train station and that night we decided to see the one sight there is to see in Casablaca – Rick’s Cafe!
Before actually going, eating at Rick’s Cafe (for those of you who live under a cinematic rock, Rick’s Cafe is where the Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman movie Casablanca is set) felt a bit like going to see some cheesy Hollywood thing, like going to the Hard Rock Cafe or Graumann’s Theater. In fact, Rick’s Cafe is a really nice restaurant on its own and it does not at all feel demeaning and tawdry to go there. It opened a few years ago to capitalize on what little American tourist trade there is (or perhaps overall western tourist trade if the movie is equally popular elsewhere) and while I can’t say it looks exactly like the movie set, the waitstaff uniforms and the overall ‘ouvre’ certainly work well. They also have a lounge that silently plays Casablanca on an infinite loop, which must drive the waiters crazy. The food was quite excellent, and it was a little nice to be in a place where you could take a zillion photographs and not feel out of place.
The only negative was that I wanted to buy my dad (a huge movie buff) a t-shirt and for the one I wanted, the only one they had in his size was the one on display. I offered to buy that one but I repeated an exact experience that I had literally listened to on one of my books-on-CDs only a few days before. The scene of that one was in Peter Mayle’s “Encoure Provance” and described the maddening behavior of some of the locals and I could not believe when the exact same thing was happening to me:
Me: Can I buy the one you have on display since that’s the only one left in that size?
Him: No, then how would people know we sell it?
Me: Well, you could put a new one up once you got more inventory in, and actually DO have some to sell?
Him: No, I can’t do that.
Me: Well, could you put on display one of the many XXXL sizes in that shirt that you don’t seem to be selling at the moment?
Him: No, I can’t do that.
We went back and forth until I conceeded the floor and bought the only t-shirt they had available in his size. I also got a mug, so maybe it wasn’t so stupid on their part, as they got more money out of me in the end…