Tuesday, 13 June 2017

My Moroccan Work Week

Many moons ago, when my then boss knew I was the dogs danglies, I used to get sent to work at offices all over the world, and today I want to tell you the story of one of those journeys to and from the "office".

I live and work out of Nottingham, and this one time I had to go work out of Casablanca for a week.  Now, for those of you not aware of this, I do not mean I went to work in a black and white film... Casablanca is a real place, a city in fact, in the North African country of Morocco, exotic... Maybe, if you like that thing.

Anyway, I was in my early twenties and sent on this trip, I spoke broken GCSE French, and was handed a few thousand French Francs (yes it's that long ago, France still had a proper currency, with a history and everything).

The journey began at an indecently early hour, a driver to take myself and a pair of cow-orkers to Heathrow, no big deal, though the driver had a tin of sweets which he was really really over proud of; he was also sceptical I wasn't the son of the two other passengers, as I was so young.

Arriving Heathrow no big deal... The flight fine and dandy... I saw sail boats in the Straits of Gibraltar...

When we landed and were in arrivals we had our bags back, and there was a driver for me, or for my then company... Not the co-workers whom were a different company - merger in progress as it were - so we all went to get in this one Merc... Now, I immediately went to the wrong side of the car, going to the British passenger side, which was the Moroccan drivers side; this baffled the driver.

But getting into the car we immediately found there were no seatbelts... the clip was engaged, but there was no strap.  Asking the driver he said, "no-one uses seat belts here, so we cut them and put the pegs in to stop the car beeping as we drive".

He then proceeded to drive like a loon, on pitch black desert roads from King Mohammed V airport into the heart of Casablanca.  By the time we arrived at the hotel we were ready for a bit of food, maybe a drink, the bar looked at my french francs like I was mad... "Charge it to my room"... silence.

This was meant to be a dry country remember, but the bar was there serving alcohol... Anyway, bed early, a morning start... My suit had just about survived being packed into a back-pack, but someone had taken the batteries out of the side pocket, which had my alarm clock... Sorting out a wake-up call was a bit of a nightmare, but I got there in the end.

Fun fact, order English Breakfast tea, they bring it to you with hot milk... URGH.  I sent it back first time around... I am such a noob.

The fun began mid-week, when I had an afternoon early ending, and got to spend sometime at the hotel, the Hyatt near the Port.  I went for a walk about, and was soon approached by a pair of Moroccan lads who invited me to "come to the bazaar, great cafĂ©, show you hasheesh"... I declined their kind offer, seeing it as a mix of either illegal, or simply an attempt at kidnap.  he surprised me however by pulling his wallet from his pocket and showing me he'd spent time in Manchester...

The hard week of work ended, and I found myself back at the airport...

But there was no plane... Royal Air Moroc had no plane... There was myself, the two co-workers back from their site, and then one German chap, waiting for a whole 737... Royal Air Moroc however hadn't planned for this.

An hour late they "borrowed" a plane from Air Egypt, and the four of us boarded, this empty plane.

I have no idea why, but the staff insisted that the three of us sit together on one row... a little cramped, whilst the German chap was sat up front waving back at us all alone for the duration.  They really didn't want us to move seats.

The pilot (or it may have been the co-pilot) came back after take off and introduced himself to us, ah the days before they locked the flight deck.  I remember he had a white cotton scarf around his neck, my memory tells me this was on a wire so it stood up like biggles... But I may just be mentally elaborating...

The meal came around about this time... The offer was "Chicken or Goat", seriously... I had the goat, it was nice.

They then wanted to sell us drinks, and I panicked... Trying to ask for a "1664".. In French... instead of just asking for "un bier"... This brain fart haunts me to this day, but I was young, I was an idiot, I wanted to speak French, to a very pretty Moroccan Air hostess... Or maybe she was Egyptian....

I remember that the air hostesses didn't cover their air, a mark perhaps of days gone by?  I don't know, maybe someone can tell me.

The trip was rounded off when I got back to the chauffeur car, to come back from London to Nottingham, and he looked at me and said... "You're not on my list to come back with me".

My co-workers didn't say "lets take him", or anything as I had done in Morocco with the car sent under my company name, oh no, they just got in the car, with me standing there looking (I'm sure) a little green he added "but I'll take you as well".

We set off back to Nottingham.

Other images of Casablanca I remember are of going through the bazaar and a chat in a white tiles store asking me "You want my daughter, she cook, she clean, very clean girl".  She was 12, he didn't mean sexually either, he wanted her to be my house keeper and my take her to the UK.  I politely declined.

I was also accosted from the street, whilst I walked in the Hotel Perimeter garden, a voice from a man carrying a battered looking AK47 and a dead cockerel shouted to me... "Are you American?"  With a distinct twang on the last word.

"No I'm English" I replied...

"English?"  He beamed with his one remaining tooth "I support Manchester United".  I wondered if he was the granddad of the lad who'd accosted me mid-week, I really did.

Good times, quite sad that I sit in an office all the time now.

No comments:

Post a Comment