I was in bed reading last night, and the book changed scenes from London to Casablanca. Without thinking, my mind cast back to when I was there.
What surprised me most is how little detail I remembered of it. My experience of Casablanca was nothing like the romance of old movies, and there was no mystery to it, that much I remember. It has such a name that I felt I had to touch down there, but it’s a dull place – certainly in comparison to the rest of Morocco.
I remember the hotel, but not my room. I can recall visiting the vast and impressive mosque there, but none other of my tourist activities while there. I can’t even remember eating out, though normally that’s a highlight.
As I lay there reading my mind worked away at my memory: where did I go after? Was it Marrakech or Essaouira? And how did I travel – was it by bus or train?
I remember catching the train at least twice. The first time it felt like a suburban train travelling between cities and so crowded that I couldn’t find a seat. I stood near a door with my bags gathered around me, shoulder to shoulder with the locals. I think that was the train to Marrakech. And yes, it was, I remember now, recalling the taxi that picked me up and took me to the riad I would stay in. It was on the outskirts of the Marrakech souk – so big, so labrynthine, that it was easy to be lost within it. But delightful.
And so I remember the French woman who owned the riad – what was her name? We connected later through social media. She was attractive and elegant, very French. We flirted in a sophisticated way. Was it Catherine?
The other train was to Fes, which was my last stop in Morrocco. I had a compartment on that train and shared it for most of the journey with a couple of young Americans spending a year abroad working for the Peace Corps, I kid you not. They were very pleasant and innocent in that very particular way of good-hearted Americans. They were very earnest about doing good and open-hearted in discussing it.
Marrakech I loved, and I thought that Essaouira was great also, though very different. And Fes was interesting.
But then the book referenced Izmir and that’s another place I’ve been, though the memory was muddled in my mind. Was that the place where storks roost upon the tops of old Roman columns? I recalled sitting outdoors at a bar there, drinking an Efes, or perhaps a Raki, and looking upon the grand storks sitting in their nests. But is that Izmir, or have I mixed it up with some other Turkish city?
It’s funny how your memories are scattered. Some things are vivid, many more vaguely recalled, and much else – no doubt – almost completely forgotten. When I travel I always think to myself I should take a photo of my hotel room, though mostly they’re pretty ordinary. It’s a way of anchoring my memory in place though, I think afterwards. It’s funny how few hotel rooms I can remember – only the very good, and the very bad.
I’ll never get back to most of those places. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it feels a strange thought. And I wonder – what places will I get back to?