Sunday, February 27, 2011

Final report from Marrekech

Marrekech has long been discovered by the rich and famous. 
Churchill spent much time here before and after WW II.  It
became a glitzy destination starting in the 1960s and except
for brief periods of political unrest, has remained a destination
of choice.  Part of its allure is its close proximity to Europe.
At the airport, you see rows of European planes.  And you would
certainly not have a hotel like the La Mamounia unless well
heeled travelers were frequenting the place.

Now for the geography.  It would probably be just another
North African city except for the nearby Atlas Mountain range.
The mountains are visible from the entire city and provide
adequate water to what would otherwise be an arid region.  The
early settlers were able to bring water from the mountains via
underground aquaducts.  This water combined with fertile soil to
create a very desirable place to live.

I must give the local government great credit for retaining
the charm of the Berbian and Arabic cultures in the Medina (old
city) and at the same time creating the modern conveniences that
make this a desirable place to visit.  Merrekech is a city of
distinct sections.  There is a "French" section that was built
during the French colonization of the country.  There is also a
"new town" that includes the new hotels, restuarants, and villas.
There have to be strict architectural controls because there are no
high rises and all the buildings are a uniform reddish color.
Foreign investment is high and our guide suggested that real estate
prices have sharply escalated.

The primary language in Morocco is of course Arabic.  But
French is also universally taught in the schools.  This was
only the second place in the world that I have been able to
use my smattering of French.  One of our guides said that
English was becoming more important to learn.

Yesterday, we witnessed a spectacle that has to be common.
There are scooters or motorcycles everywhere.  As we were
walking across the square  headed for the souk, two motorcycles
collided at a high speed not more than fifteen feet from us.
One of the drivers appeared to have head and chest injuries.
Of course, there is no helmet law.  Here I was observing the
aftermath of the collision along with an ER doctor from CA.
And neither one of us had a license to practice in that

Morocco is a monarchy. The king was in residence in Merrekech
while we were there.  Flags were flying throughout the city to
announce his presence.  And we went by his palace and saw guards
in colorful uniforms.

I believe that our 757 has the range to make a non-stop
flight to Orlando.  But we are making a 'technical stop" in the
Azores because the Merreckech airport is not TSA approved.
That means that we will have to disembark in the Azores
complete with our baggage and go through security.  Then, we
will be allowed to land in Orlando. At the beginning of this
trip, I was not sure whether there were strict security rules
for charter flights.  I have seen no difference in our procedures
versus the procedures for regular commercial flights.  There is
one difference in foreign security screening.  You rarely have
to take off your shoes when you go through security.

Our flight to the Azores is almost three hours.  Then we have a
seven hour flight to Orlando.  And there is a five time zone change
from Marrekech (Greenwich Mean Time) to Orlando.  That means we
will be ready for bed when we arrive in Orlando.  We are spending
the night there and will take the flight to RDU on Monday morning
at seven.

As for the 757, it is headed to Seattle where it will start another
around the world trip.  The current crew will fly back to England
and a new crew will be in Orlando to take the plane to Seattle.  The
one exception is the chef who is doing back to back around the world

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