Another night in a hotel without a toilet. (See Creel in November posts.)
The two made the crossing from Algeciras, Spain, just by Gibraltar, onto the African continent, landing in Spain’s remaining enclave of Ceuta. After long delays, at the Bab-Sebta border crossing – in those days, long-haired men were often turned back at the border, as were women traveling alone -- they set out on our way only to be stopped by a second contingent of customs officials who searched the bus (though their colleagues had searched it minutes before) by the roadside.
In Tetouan they were hardly down from the bus when they were approached by Aziz, one of the myriad young male hustlers so common in Morocco, claiming to be a student wishing only to practice English. He offered to get them a bed for six dirham (the dirham was then 20¢), but the proprietor asked eight. They accepted anyway, after bringing a kerosene lamp into the room and seeing a charming old pitcher and basin for washing. Though they managed to shake Aziz (who surely received a commission on their room), they were soon accosted by Mohammed, likewise eager to “practice English.” After repeating to the point of rudeness and slightly beyond that they did not want a guide and hearing his insistence that he was only “a friend,” they gave way before his stubbornness, and he did indeed proceed to take them through the town, negotiating the narrow and winding ways past bearded men on horseback and tattooed women selling on the street, though the medina with its Andalusian, Jewish, and Berber sections (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Stopping in at shops working leather, metal, and cloth, they shared a few puffs of kief with the tradesmen as they paused in greeting. Feeling powerfully affected as they had been for the most part abstinent for several months, the travelers invited Mohammed to dinner, a fitting and “friendly” recompense for his trouble, they thought.
After the grounding of a satisfying meal of legumes and lamb with round whole wheat loaves, they set out strolling again, here and there, in the end passing through a door under the house number 7, they mounted a flight of stairs to find a café full of robed figures drinking mint tea and smoking kief. Above a television set played what seemed to be mad, shifting images, moving from what a newsman to a cartoon to a musician in the course of a minute. The café was over a lane, in construction that connected buildings on either side of the street, and the window looked directly over the crowded passage, even at this late hour full of people bargaining, laughing, moving fast.
After a few contemplative hours, Mohammed made his move. He wanted his new friends to take some stuff into Europe for him, with big profits for all. When they demurred, his stubbornness reasserted itself and he became slightly vehement. When he eventually realized that they were not in fact going to be persuaded, he threw up his hands in frustration and stormed out like a madman.
It was after midnight. They had no idea where they were, but, after a few inquiries, they made our way back to the central square and found their hotel. When they emerged from their room the next morning, they encountered Mohammed again. In the brief interval between when he had left them and when they had located their lodging, he had somehow managed to forge such a relationship with the two young Scandinavian women who had taken the room next to them that he had, in fact, spent the night there.