“Play it again, Sam…”
Like Tom Cruise I’d been sent on a mission. Anxiety, however, made me fancy myself more like Frodo. I was to go to Casablanca on a workday to the Russian Consulate to pick up a dozen passports/visas. I opted to take a Sam—my friend, Kate–in search of Russia and another Sam at Rick’s cafe on the Moroccan coast.
The plan is I will go in March with the Model United Nations team to competition in St. Petersburg. We will leave on my birthday. I’d filled out pages of questions—even information on my parents and ex—to get clearance. I just hoped I’d navigate the trains to Casa and back, the 8-stop tram ride in between, and, most importantly, find the Russians and fetch the documents with no problems.
At 6 AM sharp Ismail, my go-to driver for can’t- miss plane, train, and bus departures, texted: “Good Morning, Cindy. I’m downstairs.” Kate was at the station, and we boarded the train at 6:45 and found our first class compartment with four other passengers.
I’d been to Casa once when my plane first landed in Africa last August. I was picked up by a driver and the trek to Marrakesh was barren and brown–dirt cracked open all the way. I hadn’t been out of the city since winter rains turned the landscape green. On the three- hour trip last Thursday, I looked out the window on what seemed to be England‘s green, rolling hills.
The tram stop was just across the street from the station and, as on the train, we were the only non-Moroccans who boarded. Though we walked a block too far and couldn’t find our Russian destination, a nice, older couple in a new BMW, seeing we were lost in their neighborhood, offered to drive us to the front gate. In front of a single garage-sized door, the guard asked for my ID and welcomed us in.
While I packed passports in my purse, Kate gave travel tips to a Flemish couple who live in the resort area of Marrakesh. They were getting visas to visit St. Petersburg for their twentieth wedding anniversary.
Mission accomplished, we left the Russian Embassy and headed across town to the iconic Rick’s Cafe, owned by a former US Embassy diplomat, Kathy Kriger. The service and setting–we sat by “Sam’s piano” as 40s music played sipping a martini and cocktail in old-world style-were legend-worthy.
We walked to the Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Africa and the 7th largest in the world. It’s minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 metres–60 stories high. Below school children on field trips ran and played on the plaza, some singing soccer songs and others asking us to pose with them in “selfies.” Non-Muslims can tour in groups unlike the mosques in Marrakesh, but we had a 4:45 train to catch. Still, in just six hours in the city, we made memories–ending our adventure admiring immense Moorish architecture on a windy wall and crashing sea.