Here’s Looking at You Kid… I Can Have Your Couch?

There’s no mistaking I’m on a tight budget. I worked for two years to afford this trip but still, over a year away from home is a long time to be without a steady income. So after reviewing my budget for Morocco my thoughts turned to couchsurfing.

I’d tried to get a couch to sleep on in Luxembourg but as I tend to leave a lot to the last minute, I’d left it too late to find someone. And with only six days until my arrival in Casablanca, I didn’t like my chances. Still, I contacted about six people (all girls) to see who had room for me for four nights.

Having received nothing definite a few days later I made a reservation at a hostel, no deposit required, and hoped I would end up having to cancel. And cancel I did, just in the nick of time! I was kinda nervous about living with a stranger but excited to have a local show me the city. This would be interesting!

My flight landed fairly late in the evening. My disorientation didn’t last long as everyone I encountered were really friendly, asking about where I’d come from and welcoming me in a mixture of English and French. I was waved through customs without the usual interrogation, no “where are you staying?” “what is your purpose?” “when is your exit flight?”. Just “Oh, New Zealand. Very pretty. Welcome to Morocco” They even waved me past the bag scanner.

The train station under the airport was as disorganised as I’ve since come to expect. Add to that I was suffering from a really sore stomach (something my sister and I are plagued with from time to time, though thankfully this was the first time I’d experienced it while travelling) so all I wanted to do was lie down and wait it out. At first there was no one at the ticket booth. Then we stood in line for 15 minutes as the first guy took forever to be served. Finally with my ticket in hand I checked the time. Eeesh, 9:30. I wouldn’t catch the train until 10 and wouldn’t arrive in the city for another half hour after that. Pay phone, that’s what I need.

My cell had no reception and all the payphones down at the station were broken so I had to trudge back up to the airport. Only to discover that I needed a card to use the phones: of course they didn’t accept coins! Luckily a man had just finished making a call. He didn’t speak English so I explained in French that I needed to call someone in Casablanca to tell her what time to get me and asked where I could get a calling card. Moroccans are so super helpful, he put his card in and dialled the number for me. I spoke to my host and she was all set to pick me up.

For my first couchsurfing experience, it all went incredibly smoothly. I stayed with a Moroccan girl my age (who was fluent in English), her mother (who spoke Arabic and French), and her mother’s maid (who only spoke Arabic). Every day the girl took me out to see something new. The mosque, the hammam, the souks, the beach, to meet with friends, to listen to live Moroccan music. But we were always home for lunch to eat Tajine or Couscous or what ever other delicious Moroccan cuisine had been prepared. Of course there were also mountains of fruit and nuts that we ate while watching Turkish soap operas.

The Hassan II Mosque...
The Hassan II Mosque…
...is so...
…is so…
...preety!
…preetty!

Warning: if you’re staying with a Moroccan family, the mother will never cease to pile more food on your plate or pour more tea/milk/coffee into your cup or tell you to take more. It’s customary for Moroccans to show their hospitality by fattening up their guests. But a smile and suffi shukran is usually enough to combat them, if you feel like there’s no way you can eat any more!

I also had my first taste of Moroccan tea which was delicious! Tea with menthol leaves and what can only be described as multiple logs of sugar. Yum!

By the end of my stay I was sad to leave. The mother told me that she wanted me to stay longer, that this was now my second home and to feel free to bring my family next time. She gave me a bottle of perfume from Mecca.

It was sad saying goodbye to the girl who had now become my friend. I had given her some European chocolates on my arrival and I gave her a New Zealand souvenir before getting into the taxi. We waved goodbye and I was taken to the train station.

I’m so glad I decided to couchsurf, it was the perfect introduction to Morocco. Now on to Marrakech!!

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