Luckily for us, the off duty police officer who decided to pick us up while hitchhiking from Essaouira to Casablanca was very friendly. He didn’t speak much English but understood bits and pieces as we explained our trip to his big smiles exclaiming his happiness at tourists loving his country. He had his policeman hat on the dashboard at all times, so whenever we went through the endless checkpoints between each town, he waved to the officers and we were allowed to pass with no problems whatsoever. When we reached the small town that had a road all the way to Casablanca through it, he bid his farewell, and shook our hands before we walked to hold up our sign for another ride.
Soon enough, we realized that the road we were trying to get a ride on had very little traffic running through. However, instead of letting this dampen our spirits, we relaxed under the shade of a tree as we held up our sign and waited patiently. About thirty minutes in, a truck driver probably around our age drove by, waving at us to come jump inside. He spoke absolutely no English, and we spoke no Arabic or French. But six hours later, not only had we stopped for food and bathroom breaks, but he made sure that a taxi driver brought us directly to the right square to meet our next couchsurfing host.
After a whole day of transit, we arrived close to the medina, and met a bunch of our host’s friends. They were extremely intelligent, open, and fun people, and we immediately felt at ease being around them. About ten friends all sat within the confines of a loft space in an unmarked building off an unmarked street, illuminated by the glow of a candle playing card games. Once we had our introductions and hung out for a while, we went to see what the underground electronic music scene was like in Casablanca, finding out about a show within a hotel going on nearby.
Oddly enough, the music was great, but the vibes were very weird. It seemed like the mix of business executives dressed in suits after their meetings presumably in another room of the hotel were also intrigued by the show going on. These business-clad individuals, juxtaposed with the westernized youth coming to dance the night away, the crowd was very out-there. At times, Mal and I were two of the only people dancing, garnering stares at our much underdressed clothes and goofy personalities, but we didn’t let it stop us from having a fantastic night.
Our host had mentioned how public transportation stopped running after ten, so we needed to take a series of shared taxis back to his apartment. This was where we began to question his motives. When we had gotten into the taxi, he offered to pay for all of us, and told us later that the reason was because if the driver knew we were foreigners, he would charge us a higher price. We later found out from our next couchsurfing host Zico how this wasn’t true at all, and when we told him the price that our previous host had charged us, he was outraged and immediately told us we’d been ripped off, to our sneaking suspicions.
I’ve travelled enough places at this point to know what the average price of public transportation should cost, and to Mal and my confusion, our host told us a way higher price than it should have been, to Mal and my confusion. Not wanting to start any issues considering we were staying at his house and besides this, he selflessly cooked us delicious meals, and we shared incredibly similar music taste, we both decided that if he really needed the money to rip off guests that badly, he could take our extra money.
Then, on our last day that we planned to spend with him, we were also put in an awkward situation, when we woke up in the morning. Taking public transportation an hour into the city to do some sightseeing before heading to Rabat, we received a message shortly after saying that we needed to come get our things from his apartment as he had work. Now, if you agreed to host someone for an arranged set of days, wouldn’t you let your guests know the possibility of you working, or tell them beforehand that they needed another host for that day? This would have been the logical thing to do, however our host decided to send us a text instead, so not only did we have to go back an hour to grab our things, but the day was wasted trying to find another host instead of seeing the city. Stressed and annoyed at the encounter, Mal and I were able to find another host who came to pick us up, was selfless and empathetic, and even watched a movie with us! It was a tranquil end to a frustrating day, and in the afternoon we took a train (to take a break from hitchhiking) to Rabat to stay with another couchsurfing host named Zico and his Siberian Husky Yorga.
In the next few days, we explored an abandoned military hospital by the sea, a modern art museum, and drank delicious avocado smoothies. Zico was always around through WhatsApp if we had questions or needed suggestions, and when he was home from work, we spent time chatting about all of our collective travels, watched Netflix movies, and played with his dog. One night we went out to a great restaurant all together, and got to meet a friend of his named Tifawt who was also really charming.
As our time with Zico ran down, we decided to hitch east to Fez, where we were picked up in less than five minutes by an older truck driver on the highway. Out of the blue, we received a message from our friend Iga who we’d couchsurfed with in Ourika Valley saying that she was headed to Fez as well, so we were able to spend two more days together. Having been talking on and off with two different work exchanges in Morocco and with plans to accept one of them to continue my time within the country, I excitedly awaited which exchange would send me a message back first. However, little did I know, all my plans were to quickly evaporate and I would have to start from scratch with a new plan while in Fez….