Cassablanca and The Mad Max Driving Academy!

If you have seen the movie, great. But did you know that the stunt drivers were from CASABLANCCA?
This post should be read either whilst humming “as time goes by” or singing aloud the Marseillaise. Relationships have many tests along the road and one often says that money, religion and politics can be the downfall of a relationship. Might I suggest one further trap, even after 26 years of marriage, and steering clear–ish of the waters of religion, money and politics the major test, that which pushes all other obstacles to one side is ………. Driving to and from the metropolis of Casablanca. ( we are in an apartment very much on the outskirts of Casablanca checking out the TESOL scene ). Moroccans have no road etiquette, no understanding of driving in lanes, and little awareness or care of other vehicles. My Knowledge of swear words in Arabic I suspect outweighs Harry’s Aussie expletives and is far more graphic, would you not prefer the fleas of a thousand camels to infest a certain area of the body to just the F word, but my driver needed to let off steam rather frequently. Driving in Casablanca is scary even though Harry says no-one drives fast enough for there to be any danger, but every bone in my body aches from the tension and from my vantage point it was hardly a walk in the park!! I navigate, a fairly difficult task as most roads apart from the boulevards have no names and those that do have names the names do not correspond to anything we can find on the GPS and the other vehicles and drivers are totally unpredictable so working out which lane WE should be in is fraught with difficulties. The main problem is lane swapping — whether from driving in two lanes to one, or squeezing five lanes into two or just hogging the road and encouraging other impatient drivers to veer either left or right wherever there is a teeny weeny bit of spare road, there is no such thing as staying in one’s lane. Or signalling left then turning right — I tell no lie either! So our first encounter was with a rubbish truck. Now the rubbish carts here are nothing like those we see in Perth! the rubbish collectors do much of it with rake and shovel and as they are open trucks they are also quite unhygienic and very smelly. All part of the charm that is Morocco. So we are driving along when the rubbish cart veers into my side of the car and moves the side mirror to its greatest extent, the mirror survives, I survive only just, I had visions of more than the mirror’s gymnastics and a very friendly man in another car stops to make sure we are ok. We are, albeit a tad shaken, not yet stirred! Our second encounter was not quite so calm and minor. Once more keeping carefully to our lane but stationery waiting for cars in front to move, a car suddenly comes from nowhere and crashes into our front left hand side, [ no he did not have right of way we did — for what that counted ] to compound the problem there is a give way to your right rule. He comes to a halt and squishes us so we can’t move, Harry tries to disengage from that car and gently reverses into the car behind– luckily no damage there. The driver of the first car reassures us that he is a lawyer , je suis avocat– and neither of us is in the mood to wonder why that should make any difference. We are both shaken AND stirred but not hurt. In 55 years of driving, with about a million miles under his belt Harry has never been involved in a head on. ( now reversing? That’s another story altogether). This little fracas brought pandemonium to the road as everyone ground to a halt, we certainly weren’t going anywhere having locked horns with this other vehicle. Police arrived on the scene very quickly to redirect traffic and once traffic flowed as no-one was hurt moved off. Our “avocat” gave us his name and tel number and now we hope he will pay the damages. His car had a few scrapes and bruises so not sure whether he considers driving carelessly worthy of his money. We on the other hand will have a hefty excess bill. Just in case after this you are considering driving yourselves in Morocco make sure you take out the EXTRA insurance that covers the excess, well worth it. In Casablanca itself we had several goals. We arrived in the city centre, what were Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergen doing in a city like this! we parked the car, duly noted the address of where we were and set out to find our first address. Well several lots of 6000 steps later, several directions that almost got us there, a really kind man took pity on us and actually walked us to the building. He was one of many people we have come across who have been unbelievably kind, none of whom have accepted any monetary reward. We then walked to a restaurant for our Andalusian evening meal, served in apparently Berber style in a Berber style environment with. 3 piece Berber style band! The maître d’hôtel even wore a Fez and long robes, but were his eyes blue? Berber people have blue eyes, a fact I will check on when we do our little trek from Marrakech. We enjoyed the meal, of course a Tagine and a pigeon pastilla and equally of course the obligatory sweet mint tea and all preceded by small dishes of a variety of salads. A lovely meal. Finding our car? Well no-one knew the street name we had so carefully written down and so the restaurant doorman also in Berber robes had to try and find out. The taxi driver didn’t know either and once again we were faced with a city dilemma. However some recollection of the market we had parked along, and other landmarks we actually were able to find the car very quickly, and it was almost spitting distance from the Sheraton, that is dromedary spitting! Tom Tom and the Moroccan cartographers need to get together as what few names do appear on local maps do not register with our well travelled GPS. Frustrating in the extreme and I have not been able to work out how I can transfer the coordinates from the “Where am I” screen to being a new “Home” or way point. Driving home in the dark was actually much easier and drama less and very speedy. Moral of our stories? Drive at night. Find out the names of main boulevards close to where you want to go, have nerves of steel , and get the extra insurance! But ” here’s looking at you kid”.
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