The aircraft cabin of flights to “developing” country always have that worn-down look to it.
The seat covers are stained and faded. The armrests are rickety. The displays of the personal entertainment devices are abraded. The storage doors rattle as you close them. Beneath all that cheerfulness and exuberance, even the stewards looked just a wee bit tired, even exasperated.
That is how the Iberia flight we boarded at the Madrid-Barajas airport to Morocco looked. I got to board before first class, a side advantage of travelling with kids. The flight was full and the passengers poured in quickly. The camera toting European tourist – mostly French and German – in their designer casuals and expensive luggage were the easiest to distinguish. The locals, both Arabs and Berbers, could be identified by the sheer body language of somebody going home if not for the coarse clothing and bulky tattered hand luggage. It wouldn’t be until later that I could make out the trimmer, shorter, light skinned Arab with bushy eyebrows from the gangly, long faced Berber dressed in colorful long grabs.
We had a stop over at Casablanca. That word invokes in me the sizzling chemistry between Bergman and Bogart in the motion picture by the same name. The airport is dingy, ill lit and plain dirty. Luckily, I have learned not to judge a city by its airport. As we pass through twisting passages to the waiting room, my impression of Casablanca remains what I have seen in the movie–– a slow, romantic African city.
The electronic signboards are blank. We approach the tall Arabic woman officer single handedly manning the busy information counter. Through her barely moving thin lips, the officer, who is more handsome than beautiful, firmly tells us that she does not know where our flight to Marrakech is, or when it would arrive or depart. Thankfully, she does not deny the existence of a city called Marrakech!
She dismisses us with a Zen like “You will know when we are ready.”
We settle down.
The Shindes and Askis at the Mohammed V International Airport, Casablanca
The children find other children to play with. The language barrier is easily broken, and in the absence of toys, games are invented. We buy lukewarm coffee and soggy sandwiches. We get our change in Dirhams.
“Expect chaos!” tourist books like to warn you. It’s barely a warning. After all, you come to Marrakech demanding chaos!