It’s a quarter past five in the afternoon and the train isn’t here yet. From the loudspeakers of Casa Voyageurs train station there come updates about the delay first in Arabic and then in French. The result will be 47 minutes waiting under the merciless sun of Morocco’s hot springtime.
When we are finally on the train we regret the comfort we had on the platform: school holidays are on and the trains from Casablanca to Marrakech are packed with families and young travellers. Luckily our sad look moves a happy quartet of women to compassion and once the other travellers move to get down they keep two seats for us.
When I suggested to my friend to spend a weekend in Marrakech I expected a walk among the town’s landmarks and a nice lunch in a restaurant crowded by Western tourists. ‘No – she said – to Marrakech you have to go for the evening. It’s Morocco’s party town.’ So here we are, in Morocco’s fourth biggest town – after Casablanca, Fes and Rabat – ready to enjoy a long night of music and dancing.
But our first goal is still to fill the stomach. We take a taxi and arrive to Jeema el-Fnaa, one of the country’s most popular squares. A wide empty space surrounded by the medina‘s walls and colonial cafés. Any kind of food stand crowd in the middle, together with the simple tables of the open restaurants serving crowded visitors sharing the same bench in a spirit of sympathetic stress.
At night the smoke rising from the open air kitchens, filtered by the warm light coming from the street lights, prepare an unreal scene where snake charmers, monkeys, acrobats, fortune tellers and pickpockets make their appearance.
At midnight it’s time to move and we arrive with another taxi to the Theatro, one of Marrakech’s most celebrated clubs. The place is already full, and it suffices us to show my friend’s malicious smile and my Italian passport to get through a desperate line of Moroccan guys.
I immediately realize I’m out of my habitat. Young dancers go wild on the dance floor shaking at the tunes of the most commercial electronic music, while waiters in white shirt and bow tie serve rum and champagne to the tables. The prices are even higher than in Europe, but I have they have a somehow admirable persistent attitude for the show: around the DJs show up at different times beautiful dancers, clowns, acrobats and the night ends with a pyrotechnic performance.
For sure this wasn’t the Morocco I expected, but thinking that back in Casablanca I can’t even hug my girlfriend in the street this wild lust for transgression doesn’t fail to amuse me.
At five in morning we are kindly invited to leave the floor. Avoiding a few fired up teens looking for clashes, we look for a taxi and get back to Jeema el-Fnaa. At dawn, the first shops to open are the orange juice sellers. ‘The best oranges in the world’, tells me my friend.
The sun rises shyly over Marrakech. We walk along the medina‘s walls towards the train station, crossing sunday joggers, kids headed to the football field and a few dromedaries ready to take in charge the tourists for the famed tours in the desert.
The town awakes for a new day while the sun rays wash away darkness and our last energies as well. My flat in Casablanca, the couch, the stillness take shape into an irresistible mirage. Between it and us there still are four terrible hours in a packed train…