On the Marrakesh Express

It’s impossible to go to Morocco without visiting Marrakesh! Recently I decided I had to go there. I put my bags into a taxi and went to the Rabat Ville train station. As I arrived a porter, a poor man, offered help with my bags. Once inside he helped me find the ticket window and then led me to the train. The wrong train!! Once at my destination I learned that the train  me that took me to Casablanca did not continue Marrakech! A couple of hours later, with the help of a Belgian who has become a Moroccan strawberry farmer, I was on the way, humming to myself  the tune of that old song, Marrakech Express!*

I traveled for two and a half hours across a landscape that changed every few miles.  It was beautiful much of the time. I would love to have taken photographs but the windows of the train were so dirty pictures would have been useless.  Instead I took notes, which I’ll share here with you.

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the ride was how often the landscape changed in the course of a two and a half hour ride. The first section of green beautiful farmland was very much like Pamlico County. (For readers who aren’t my eastern North Carolina neighbors, that’s a place that’s very flat and agricultural.)  Almost immediately I began to see old farm compounds on a couple of acres of land, always surrounded by walls. The enclosed houses had flat roofs and were often painted dark red. I continued to see those farm house enclosures (sometimes newer, sometimes larger) throughout the ride.

As we journeyed on, the land became softer, slightly rolling, often hosting small groves of trees that may have been almonds or fruit or olives. Once I saw an old almond tree in full bloom. One thing I’ve never seen before: cactus farms. In Rabat people were selling cactus fruit about the size of a tennis ball in the streets.

As the land varied from flat and green to rolling hills of small trees and back to dry and arid desert-like, I was reminded of rides I took long ago across west Texas and Nevada.  As the train moved farther south I saw plants that looked like tumble weed.

Here and there small villages appeared. These were always walled and often every building was painted pink. As the train headed south I began to see crops in the fields, showing six or eight inches of new growth. The nearer we came to Marrakech the more often pink towns appeared. Some were quite large. The train only stopped at one of them, a city named Benguerir. Google tells me this is a university town, quite a large place, and like all the other towns I saw, mostly painted rosy pink.

As we approached Marrakech the best views of all appeared: the High Atlas Mountains. Visitors to Marrakech often hike or ride through these mountains to find Berber settlements and the Sahara desert. When I saw them in January they were shining in their cover of snow as the sun sank lower. Gorgeous!

Libbie

The photo at the top was “borrowed” from a travel blog by Daniel Vogelein. I hope he won’t mind. For great photos of his experience in Morocco, including some of the rural countryside I’ve tried to describe here, please visit his blog at http://www.photosomnia.com/2015/392/morocco/

*Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1969   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzB5eRu6HOk
The first verse says this:
Looking at the world
Through the sunset in your eyes
Trying to make the train
Through clear Moroccan skies
Ducks and pigs and chickens call
Animal carpet wall to wall
American ladies five foot tall in blue – They described me!

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