The road to Tangier from the border ascended into the Rif Mountains, soon reaching a point from which we could see across the Strait of Gibraltar, with the Costa del Sol and Sierra Nevada in the distance. The Rock of Gibraltar towered to our north, matched by Jebel Musa, its twin peak on the Moroccan side. Having that scene in our rearview mirror was a fitting goodbye to Europe and, as we turned around the bend, all of Africa loomed ahead.
The road wove around the coast of northern Morocco, past the sparkling new port outside Tangier, and soon we were again driving on a tolled highway, as modern as any we drove on in Europe. After a stop for food at yet another gas station (this time for schwarma and salad), we cut inland at Casablanca with the goal of reaching Marrakesh soon after nightfall. We did and, such was our excitement to get out of the Cruiser and have a proper sit down meal, we headed straight for the famous food stalls that are set up in the evening in Marrakesh’s main square, Jemaa el-Fna. Having caught sight of the lights and smoke of the stalls a few blocks away, Lee decided to take a back street to the square. What appeared to be a street soon narrowed to an alley headed into the medina. A quick reverse turn soon became farcical as Lee backed straight into a lamppost and, not missing an opportunity to earn a bit of baksheesh, a few of the guys in the alley let out a hoot and raced excitedly over to investigate.
It was a just minor collision that removed a bit of the lamppost’s plaster (and left barely a scratch on the Crusier), but a small crowd had gathered and Justin got out to talk with some of the guys in the street. A series of sighs, tongue clicks and mummers indicated that baksheesh was indeed on the mind, and soon enough one of them was talking on his mobile phone about the incident and attempting to take photos of the Cruiser’s license plate. Justin, attempting to reason with them, couldn’t quite get an explanation for why anyone should be paid anything—none of them owned the lamppost, which was already in pretty rough shape. In the end, while they were busy discussing what to do next, we simply drove away.
After the lamppost incident, we decided to find a hotel and park the Cruiser before heading to the square. Finally, at about 1:00 a.m., we grabbed a petit taxi for the short ride to dinner. Normally a teeming, vibrant place, filled with fresh-pressed orange juice stands, tamed-snake charmers, mutton brain stalls, roaming post card sellers and all other manner of deals, dramas and hustles, we arrived too late. Grease from the night’s culinary delights caked the ground and just one small stall remained open. We sat down, ordered lentil stew, lamb kefta and Moroccan bread, and promptly devoured our dinner alongside the workers who were taking a break from cleaning up the square.
Soon after, we headed back to the hotel. It was about 3:00 a.m.—yet another late finish to a long day on the road.