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Taking Me to Marrakesh

Joe Ambrose on the Marrakesh Express

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by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: November, 2005
I take the overnight train to Marrakesh, leaving Tangier late in the evening and arriving in Marrakesh at 8am

"You have website?" asks Karim, proprietor of the Hotel Astoria, Tangier, where I've stayed on and off for over ten years. Karim is a young Casablanca man, always drives a recent model Merc, and is pleased with the online computer which he has just installed behind the Astoria's reception desk.

When he hears that I do indeed have a site he goes straight to joeambrose.net where he soon pounces upon a buxom looking Lydia Lunch on a gig flyer, and wants to know who she is.

"She is a writer and singer," I say. "Jewish."

"Ah!" says Karim. "I have heard about these Jewish women."

Lydia proves a great hit with various guys I meet in Morocco who want to see my site.

"Why you not write about Hotel Astoria, Tangier, on Internet?" Karim asks me.

"I can." I say.

So I do.


I take the overnight train to Marrakesh, leaving Tangier late in the evening and arriving in Marrakesh at 8am.

I'm in first class which means it never gets too crowded but I'm hardly in my seat when I'm joined by a Jewish American couple masquerading as Islamic fundamentalists. He, in his mid 30s, is all decked out in Rich Kid Islamic chic, much like Osama or Cat Stevens. She is covered from head to toe in swathes of black cloth, two paranoid eyes peering out of a hedjab. This one is no Lydia Lunch, however, so the hedjab may be a blessing all round.

She stars whispering in a Pittsburg acccent that she doesn't want to sit in this carraige because there is a Christian (me) in it. Cat Stevens heads out into the corridor lookuing for a conductor while she kind of broods over me for a minute before joining him. When they set about arranginig alternative seating it emerges that neither of them has a word of Arabic - very strange for hedjab-style Muslims.

They're hardly gone out the door when I'm joined by Zuber, a charismatic young Moroccan living in Malaga, Spain. He proves a boon companion all the way through the Moroccan night until we reach Casablanca, where he goes to the airport to pick up his mother returning from Mecca after Ramadan.

Exuberant Zuber works as a translator in the hospital in Malaga, dealing with the many Moroccan illegal immigrants who wash up on the south coast of Spain. He likes System of a Down and Metallica, wants to be a drummer, and had an air of freedom about him which reminds me of my earliest encounters with Moroccans.

When he goes I'm on my own all the way to Marrakesh. I listen to Dan Sartain, 2 Pac, and the Stones' Bigger Splash as the sun rises over the desert landscape. Impressed that Sartain is so first class, that the Stones can still cut it, that 2 Pac was so far ahead of his time, I brace myself for the Marrakesh early morning taxi drivers then waiting to ream me at the train station.

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Joe Ambrose
Literary Editor

Joe Ambrose has written 14 books, including Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. Joe is currently working on his next book, Look at Us Now - The Life and Death of Muammar Ghadaffi, which is an expanded version of a story first published in the anthology CUT UP! Visit Joe's website for all the latest info: JoeAmbrose.co.uk.

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