Backpacking in Morocco: The Last Train to Tangier

 

We’ve all heard the horror stories of travellers being thieved, conned and swindled whilst on the road. It makes it difficult to know when to trust and when to be wary.

I’m pondering this as I watch a handsome man hastily weave away from me through the crowd with my trusty backpack held high above his head.

“Here, let me help you” he had said with a friendly smile, and in less than a second he was twenty meters away…and I was suddenly thirty kilos lighter.

 

After three fabulous weeks of backpacking in Morocco, I found myself at the train station of the town Sidi Kacem.

 

Never heard of it? Neither had I until I discovered our ‘through-train’ from Marrakech to Tangier actually only travelled as far as Sidi Kacem.

 

Marrakesh Alleyway

 

It was the weekend of the Islamic Eid festival and the entire population of Morocco, it seemed, had decided to take the one and only train from Sidi Kacem to Tangier to spend the holiday with their family.

 

Hours later, the crowd heaved forward with a ferocity that had people teetering at the edges of the platform: the train was finally screeching its way into the station. And it seemed awfully small.

 

My weighty pack was safely at my feet and as I stood amidst the literal crush of my fellow passengers when it occurred to me that there was no way I had enough space to hoist it onto my back. Not to mention haul myself and it up the steps into the train.

 

I was heading home to Australia after a year abroad and so, being on the home stretch, I had bought a ridiculous number of (heavy) ceramic souvenirs. Backpacking in Morocco has never weighed so much! I was now thinking it wasn’t such a great idea.

 

 

Train Morocco

Photo credit: Omar Simkha

 

The passengers began to squish themselves into the train and in the chaos we were slowly nudged further away from the doorway. It became clear that all these passengers were not going to fit on this train, and it was each to their own and a battle of elbows and shoulders ensued!

 

My friend and I began a panicked conversation weighing up our options and with no plan whatsoever, it all boiled down to this: we had to get on that train!

 

I had noticed a rather good looking man standing to my left. Yes, tired and cranky beyond belief and slowly being crushed to death, but still I notice the good looking man.

 

He edged closer, offered to help us and well, you know what happened next…

 

*  *  *

Clearly my bag was gone forever and not being able to move, I settled for muttering and cursing for not being more vigilant when the same handsome face appeared in the doorway ahead of us.

 

“Come”, he yelled beckoning insistently and ordering people to move so we could get through. We didn’t need to be told twice. We hoisted the other backpack up into his arms. He threw it behind him, then grabbed my hand and dragged me into the train.

 

Essaouira

 

 

He led us to some seats and explained, in perfect English, that there was no room for the bags here but not to worry, he would find somewhere for them in the next cabin.

 

“I am Hasan. Is there anything else you need?” he asked.

“Er, no I don’t think so.”

“Okay, have a pleasant journey”, and he turned to go.

“Thank you,” I called out, still a little bewildered, “Thank you very much for your help.”

“Very welcome”, he said and with a quick nod and a smile he was gone.

 

I was still convinced we may never see those bags again. But on the flip side….we were on the train.

 

The journey was slow and tedious, sweaty and noisy and impossibly cramped. (All those people really did fit. Sort of.)

After giving up our seats to a woman and her children, I spent most of the trip standing in the corridor trying to get some fresh air from a tiny gap in an open window and feeling decidedly nauseous.

 

Essaouira

 

We finally clattered into Tangier station sometime after midnight and the previous chaos at Sidi Kacem seemed remarkably understated in comparison. Our bags were, surprisingly, present and intact. All we needed was to find a taxi to take us to the port and hopefully a hotel before our trip back to Gibraltar in Spain tomorrow.

Simple, right?

 

We tried and we tried but each taxi already had at least three families spilling out of them. And then a familiar face appeared as the front window of a taxi was rolled down.

“You can share my taxi” Hasan said and gestured to the empty back seats in his cab.

 

With all the hundreds of people milling about, this seemed like way too much of a coincidence, and my friend and I exchanged wary glances. Hasan could see our very obvious hesitation. Horns started honking and he glanced behind the car at the traffic jam of taxis.

“You will be waiting for hours”, he said, shrugging.

 

I looked around at the dark, dusty parking lot and imagined spending the night here. Nope. No way.

 

“We are so going to regret this”, I grumbled as we heaved our packs into the tiny trunk of the beat-up wreck of a taxi.

 

We chattered a little on the way to the port. Hasan said he was a university student and was going home to visit his family.

 

Sail Away

 

 

While I admit I was a little distracted by his good looks, I was still considering the strong possibility that he was a pimp, or a people trafficker so I just politely commented in the appropriate places.

 

After we’d paid for the taxi and began to part ways I was still skeptical and fully prepared for the inevitable: an itemised bill for services rendered perhaps; to be kidnapped and held for ransom; or led to a hotel that turned out to be a brothel. Ever the realist…

 

None of this happened.

 

We shook hands, thanked Hasan profusely for all his help and checked into our seedy port hotel. And lived to tell the tale.

 

* * * *

 

So although travellers are occasionally easy targets for unsavoury characters and need to be a little wary, it is nice to be reminded that there are always those people who are willing to offer unconditional kindness, even in most unlikely situations.

 

 

It’s telling the difference that can be a bit tricky.

 

But…if it wasn’t for a gorgeous looking man called Hasan, I swear I would still be standing on that platform at Sidi Kasem.

 

 

 

This article was originally published courtesy of Caz and Craig at yTravel Blog

 

Are you visiting Quiet Wanderings for the first time?

Check out what it’s all about, sign up for email updates, subscribe to the RSS feed or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

 


About the Author
Author

Quiet Wanderings

Comments (21)
  • Avatar

    D.J. - The World of Deej Aug 6 2012 - 8:42 pm Reply

    Great story…I kept thinking it was going to take a bad turn at any moment, but it never did! Nice to see this amongst all the stories of “I was robbed here…”
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Hotel Confidential – How To Avoid Being "Walked"My Profile

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Aug 12 2012 - 1:01 pm Reply

      Haha, you’re not the only one. I wasn’t sure myself that it was going to end happily-ever-after. It’s always nice to be surprised by people.

  • Avatar

    Darlene Foster Aug 7 2012 - 2:53 am Reply

    I firmly believe there are many more good people on this earth than bad. Thanks for sharing this story to prove this point.

  • Avatar

    jan Aug 7 2012 - 6:17 am Reply

    A wonderful piece of story telling, and what a wonderful young man!
    jan recently posted..Coffee, Art, Food – The SweatshopMy Profile

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Aug 12 2012 - 1:04 pm Reply

      Thanks, Jan. Yes, I’m not kidding that I’d probably still be in Morocco now if it weren’t for him 😉

  • Avatar

    Terry Lee Aug 7 2012 - 7:04 am Reply

    Great story Cherina. It highlights the dilemma we all face about who and when to trust and when not to. Glad it turn out ok and it is a heartwarming story. Honestly don’t know what I would have done in your position.

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Aug 12 2012 - 1:07 pm Reply

      To be fair, we didn’t have a great deal of other options so it was a bit of a go-with-the-flow kind of decision. I guess my gut feeling was to trust, but the skeptic in me kept saying it was all too easy. He was just a genuinely kind person though – which is always refreshing :)

  • Avatar

    Tony Aug 8 2012 - 6:35 pm Reply

    I think everyone is more paranoid when traveling then they need to be… that being said, I am always super paranoid with stuff like this! My general rule is that if you ask for help, you can trust the person. But if they randomly offer it up… you might be in trouble.

    So glad this worked out for you though! When one person is nice it always makes you feel better about people in general :)
    Tony recently posted..Berlin’s Startup Scene – Great For The Traveling EntrepreneurMy Profile

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Aug 12 2012 - 1:12 pm Reply

      I agree, Tony. We regularly hear all the horror stories but it’s nice to be able to tell the ‘other’ stories too. Of which there are many. The goodness of people always does wonders for restoring a little faith in humanity :) I’m usually pretty paranoid too though, especially when I’m travelling alone.

  • Avatar

    A Cook Not Mad (Nat) Aug 11 2012 - 7:48 pm Reply

    Great story, thanks for sharing.

  • Avatar

    Stephanie - The Travel Chica Aug 18 2012 - 9:30 am Reply

    Always a tricky issue. I try to be open and trusting, but as a solo traveler, it is also important to be aware and trust your gut about people.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..8 Favorite Animal Photos from Tupiza to UyuniMy Profile

  • Avatar

    Turtle Sep 2 2012 - 6:53 pm Reply

    It’s such a pity that we’re so quick to judge people who offer help – but unfortunately we’ve all had those bad experiences and you just don’t know who to trust. I think you start to develop a traveller’s sixth sense after a whole, though – it’s as if you can automatically tell whether someone is good or not.
    Turtle recently posted..Restoring the faithMy Profile

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Sep 26 2012 - 4:53 pm Reply

      So true, Michael. I always try go with my gut instinct especially when it comes to safety when travelling, and yes I think this tends to get more in-tune the more you travel. I like to believe that MOST people do not have bad intentions, it’s just the odd few you need to keep an eye out for. Love it when someone surprises you with such kindness as this though :)

  • Avatar

    Sherry Sep 10 2012 - 10:26 am Reply

    I can truly relate to what you are saying here. I really wish I felt more safe when I landed in Morocco. But because I did not, I left just as fast as I came. It was an expensive roundtrip ticket that I think was well spent (just to get out of there). Its such a pity. Maybe if I go again, I’ll go with someone.
    Sherry recently posted..For Love and Wine in MontepulcianoMy Profile

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Sep 26 2012 - 4:44 pm Reply

      What a shame you didn’t feel safe there! I assume you were there on your own? I think the feeling of safety (or lack of) can really vary from town to town. Tangier felt a little dicey for me, but otherwise I felt pretty safe the whole time. I felt especially safe in Essaouira and Chaouen and even Fez. I hope you get to return one day. Maybe you run into Hassan – hehe :)

  • Avatar

    fouad Jan 30 2013 - 12:17 pm Reply

    i’m very happy to hear such good words about my country i was searching in some subjects when i find myself in this website , generaly ( and not beccause is my country ) the morocan are kind ,welcoming people , but a tourist i my opinion should always be aware because ther’s always bad persons also me myself i help tourists because we’re not a very developped country sometimes there’s no enough signs to show things for strangers evertime you find people wondring not knowing what to do or where t go . Again be careful and WELCOME ALL in MOROCCO 😀

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Feb 7 2013 - 10:01 am Reply

      Thank you for stopping by, Faoud. I loved travelling in Morocco and found most people to be very warm, welcoming and hospitable. I look forward to returning one day.

  • Avatar

    fouad Jan 30 2013 - 12:22 pm Reply

    sorry for the mistakes generaly we talk arabian , french , spanish english comes 4 as a foreign language

  • Avatar

    Olivia Sep 23 2016 - 11:33 pm Reply

    Such a beautiful story !
    Olivia recently posted..Une semaine au nord du MarocMy Profile

Leave a reply

Name (required)

Website

CommentLuv badge