Back to Morocco

There is something oddly reassuring about coming back to places, however foreign they may have been upon the first visit. Stepping off the plane at Casablanca felt like slipping into old socks-fit just fine and felt comfortingly good. Pascaline having planned her visit to coincide with my return to Morocco, we flew together. Her presence made the 'return' even more familiar, as I became the 'resident', the keeper of local knowledge. From her perspective, I was coming home. A new home, mind you, but a home nonetheless.

Frightened by warnings of cold weather and stormy skies, we had packed our suitcases with the appropriate winter clothing. As we stepped out of the airport, the sun caught us by surprise, causing a hurried shedding of layers. Three days into our stay, we have yet to bundle up- sunny skies flirt with refreshing winds: the perfect temperature to visit Casa and Rabat.

My mission was simple: to find a place to live before Pascaline got bored with Rabat. She had the Medina, the Kasbah des Oudaias, the Tour Hassan, the Necropole and Sale on her list. I had a dozen apartments to visit. I figured she would run through her list in a few hours- I didn't know of anyone having found a place to live in that kind of time!

We started in the Kasbah des Oudaias- one of the oldest neighborhoods in Fes; a criss-cross of narrow, cobble-stone streets, stretching between great old fortified walls on one side, and the daunting Atlantic on the other. Small homes fit tightly in these swerving passages- each has its own terrace overlooking the raging sea.
My roommate Amy and I were determined to rent one of these homes, though we knew this would be a tough bargain (real-estate being scarce and the neighborhood picturesque enough to draw the attention of every foreigner in search for a home). We met at the Café Maure, and had our morning tea overlooking the ocean. As we sipped through the mint leaves, I suggested we begin our search by asking local shopkeepers about availabilities There aren't any rental agencies in that part of town, and most homes look like they don't even have a phone- so I didn't imagine we would have much luck with classifieds.
As it turned out, our "wandering and inquiring" method was exactly the way to go! As we paid for our refreshments, we asked the waiter if he knew of any rentals. He looked at us rather candidly, and pointed to the house at the entrance of the café: "that house is for rent, a little expensive though". We couldn't believe our luck, and ran out of his café, to read the small white note we now noticed on the door (I suppose big red "For rent" signposts would contrast dreadfully and rather un-aesthetically with the coolness of the blues and whites of the Kasbah).

To make a long story short, we are now the happy residents of the most charming little inhabitation you could ever imagine. At the risk of sounding dreadfully "Orientalist", it feels so "Moroccan"…Or should I say that it's the perfect recreation of what westerners expect Moroccan dwellings to be. Small, tiled, mosaics in the bathroom, carpets on the floor, tagine pots in the kitchen… a snapshot from your average coffee-table book about Morocco. Not surprising when you meet the landlord- a good old Frenchman, with an addiction to travel and distance, and a longtime resident of Morocco. Our house wears its terrace like a crown- a rooftop haven to sit on and enjoy your afternoon tea or your early morning reading, without mentioning the unbearable romance of the place. As for the price, we bargained him down- not much I admit, but enough to make it affordable for two to share- And expensive in Moroccan terms, is often not that expensive by our corrupted Silicon Valley standards.

Overall, it's a good place to call home. And I beat Pascaline in the 'list race'; she was still in Sale when we closed the deal!