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Datum: 17-01-2017    Salť and Rabat, Marocco Part 3
 Our trip and special encounters
Our way of travel, by sailing boat, differs completely from going to a country by plane. You then often have a delimited period in which you want to see as much as possible. We never know exactly when we arrive and how long we are going to stay. That depends on so many things: is the weather fine, the area beautiful and is there plenty to do? When is there going to be a good wind to leave? That is why this way of travel suits us so well! We did not just started this journey around the world because we both love sailing, but also because we want to see as much as possible of the world. We also visit the hinterland (not in the touristic way, with an organised trip), just to discover the country for ourselves. That is how you often meet the people of the land in an unaffected way. That is what we want: discover a lot of different countries, sniff out the culture and meet other people. On our trip we meet sailors and landlubbers and it is that diversity that makes it so fascinating!

We have arrived in a different continent and almost immediately experience the differences between Europe and Morocco, the country where we are now. A lot of people on the way ask us (just like some did before we left Holland) why we would want to go to a country like Morocco. What, in heaven’s name (nice wordplay) are you doing in an Islamic country? Oh, how negative this sounds. The Dutch (of course not everybody, let’s be very clear about that) are pretty quick with their judgement of other people and different cultures, especially concerning Dutch-Moroccan fellow men. You of course cannot base your opinion about a whole country on a small group of people, living in the Netherlands, of which a number of them don’t know how to behave properly. Not all Moroccans are the same and the abovementioned group is no reflection of the Moroccans here in Morocco. You can discuss endlessly about this, but in our opinion you can’t really form an image, when you haven’t experience the differences yourself. This is the reason why we go with an ‘open mind’ to these countries, to experience it ourselves
Prior to our journey and also during it, we try to prepare as well as possible. We gather the regular info about the countries we are visiting, but also as much practical info as we can. On the way but also on the spot we make readily use of internet to read what to find where. But not always is that sufficient. In Morocco the languages spoken are Arabic and French; pity for us they speak very little English. Fred doesn’t speak French at all and I try to muster what school-French I have. But partly due to the language barrier we can’t always find the info we need. At moments like these it feels good that you can call on someone who knows the area better and that brings me to the next topic.

On Facebook (isn’t social media great…?) I found the group “World Women” (“wereldvrouwen”) with women from the Netherlands who live all over the world. In this group they share their experiences and stories about the countries they live in. On a world map they can mark where they live and here I find a Dutch woman, living in Salé. A young Dutch woman, Anouk (Aicha) who has been converted to Islam some years ago and now lives in Morocco with her husband Ayoub and her son Adam. They have about the same age as our own children. After reading her personal websites en I have become curious about the woman behind these sites. I make contact through a message and ask her if she could help us out with information about divergent things like where we can fill our gas tanks, which hospital or clinic is the best, where we can find someone to mend the grill of the stove etc. Very quickly an appointment is made and it will take place on our boat.
As I mentioned before, this marina and its surroundings are rather well guarded. When somebody tries to walk up the pier, which is closed with a rope, they are immediately whistled back. Same goes when Aicha and Ayoub and their son Adam arrive at our pier. They are waiting for me to take them to the boat. Aicha and I greet each other the Dutch way with 3 kisses and Ayoub only shakes hands with Fred, because he is not ‘allowed’ to touch alien women. The guard wants to know the ins and outs, because walking on the pier just like that, no way! I explain to the guard that these are our friends and that they have come to visit us. Aicha is clearly a foreigner, but wears a scarf, has Moroccan husband and a blond and white Dutch child. It’s certainly different here and my hairs stand on end already. They have to identify themselves and even have to go the police office (on the other side of the marina) Fred runs along with Ayoub to the office and Aicha and I wait on the pier with Adam. Typically Moroccan, says Aicha. In the office, Ayoub has to answer all kinds of questions, where do they live, where do they work and what is the meaning of this etc. That’s no way to treat people!
Finally we can have our tea with something sweet to go with it, brought along by Aicha and Ayoub. Ayoub speaks English, besides Arabic, and our conversation switches between Dutch and English. It clicks immediately and even though we only just met, the conversation pretty soon moves to the country, the language, the culture, faith, views, experiences, family etc. Aicha explains why she converted to Islam and Ayoub tells us about his ways of performing his faith. These were really in-depth conversations with a couple of very nice young people. The age difference of over 30 years and our different views on faith or other subjects, wasn’t relevant at all. You don’t have to agree, as long as you are open to other people's opinions. We talk about their work and about their plans for the future, to emigrate to Sweden, to give Adam, their son, a better future. In short, it really was a very nice encounter and that is what it is about for us!

We met frequently, not only on our boat, but also at their home and even at Ayoub’s parent’s house. On Friday it is customary for the whole family to come together and have Tajine with couscous and chicken. This we could witness a number of times, at Ayoub’s parents, where we are warmly welcomed, but also at Aicha and Ayoub’s own home.
At the parental house we also meet Ayoub’s younger brother, who is just learning English at school and is very curious. Fred is presented by Ayoub’s father with a real Moroccan cap, knitted from sheep’s wool. He almost looks like a real Moroccan! On one of the occasions we eat at the house of Aicha and Ayoub, there are also an aunt, the grandmother and his brother present. We are again heartily welcomed by them. The people here are very friendly and very hospitable. You immediately feel part of the family!

A Tajine is an earthenware stewing bowl, with which you can make a diversity of dishes.
The Tajine that they use is supersized and has a middle section of about 60 cm. The dish is prepared well ahead, in the morning, so the meat is deliciously cooked. The tradition is that the Tajine is placed right in the middle of the table and that you eat from it jointly, be it with your hand (your right hand) or with a spoon, depending on the dish. It adds something special to this meal, a feeling of solidarity. I have wanted a Tajine (the pottery) for years, but it has never happened. Ayoub advises me to buy a simple Tajine, not a glazed one (that one is for the tourists, he says). In the Medina we find a small Tajine, just big enough for two and it also fits on our stove. Ayoub explains we have to put this in a bowl of water for 24 hours before using it. After it has dried, provide it with a large layer of olive oil and put on the gas for about 10 minutes. Then it is ready for use. We used the Tajine at christmas for the first time, I’ll tell you more about it later. We drank two types of tea: Moroccan tea with fresh mint (and a lot of sugar) and Shiba (absinthe-wormwood, a well-known winter tea in Morocco). The tea is steeped well, it gets poured out and poured back in the pot at least 3 timers, before you can drink it. We do have to tell you that when Aicha and Ayoub are on board with us, he makes the real Moroccan tea with my new teapot (which you can put on the gas). They always had fresh mint leaves with them. ‘Msemmen’ (Moroccan pancakes) are often eaten as an accompaniment. Something they also brought with them, because they heard that I like them so much! You can eat them ‘pure’ (just tear off a piece) or, as some people do, put chocolate paste or cheese spread on it. I enjoy them the most just ‘pure’! In reciprocation I made them ‘hutspot’ (Dutch stew with potatoes, carrots and onions) once, served with Dutch beef meatballs, which went down well.

We even did our washing at their home a couple of times. Went out for dinner together in the Medina and made a stroll to the sea with Ayoub’s family. Their son Adam is a sweet kid, almost the same age as my granddaughter Bobby. Because I really miss my granddaughter, I can enjoy the feeling of being a granny for now!
For Ayoub it is very special to be on our boat and he would very much like to sail with us for a day. We tried a number of times to do this, but unfortunately the weather and the waves offshore had different ideas. Also, the fact that they would sail with us for a day, just a few hours at sea and then back, cost a good deal of trouble. The police had to give special permission for this. This on itself is a different story. At least, they could enjoy the beautiful sunny weather on our boat. Their own house does not have a courtyard, balcony or garden. Cosily together enjoying each other’s company and the fresh air in the cockpit. Before we will leave, we will say our elaborate goodbyes, no doubt. Somehow we have the feeling we will meet again, who knows! We will certainly keep in touch!
19-01-2017, reactie van Carel
Fred, die foto met dat gebreide mutsje: die bewaar ik!
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