December 27, 2004 GMT

21 Oct 2004 Rabat.

Oh maaaan. I'm being wafted through Morocco on a breeze of Islamic goodwill, set in motion by a thousand cheery waves fom chirpy schoolkids and gnarled old men. They must be thinking "What's that pasty fool doing here during Ramadan? Doesn't he know the bars are shut and you can't smoke fags until the sun sets?"

Well yes, I am starving by 4pm (after a cheeky hotel breakfast) but I'll live. It's good for the shock absorbers anyway. I cracked at 5pm today and bought a bag of quite nasty cakes and a packet of crisps, and snaffled them in my hotel room, crimson with shame - until I noticed that a Moroccan bag of crisps contains an insulting 15g of product. I call that half a packet.

rabat crisps.jpg

In retaliation I have decided to get a taxi to the Sofitel tonight and pay whatever they ask in order to drink icy Flag lager.

Meknes yesterday didn't really happen for me. I arrived late afternoon, sweaty and hungry and collapsed into a hotel, which later on appeared to be miles from anything. Rabat is good. There are women walking the streets without veils, bold as brass. I had a wander around the medina this afternoon. Quite a lot of beggars with body parts missing, but everyone else was consistently cheerful even though they're all starving and have been for days.

*SLURRRRP* *adopts Scooby voice* Oh boyoboyoboy! That is sooo cold and sooo good. And sooo criminally expensive. I think it works out at 4.80 a pint. It might take a moment to come up with a justification for paying that much. Bear with me... OK. Fags are only a quid. That'll have to do. And there isn't anywhere else and I don't have a TV in my room. So fuck it. Only 22 days of Ramadan left.

22 Oct 2004. Rabat.

rabat hotel.jpg

What's your mental image of a Moroccan policeman? Itchy trigger finger? Aggressive demands for paperwork every 2 miles? No sir. Try huge grins, waves and high-fives, one of which I received from a moto-cop on a BMW. The one time I do get stopped in Morocco (for speeding) I am let off with a very slight frown.
Went out in search of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. A fruitless search as it's moved to Casablanca. But dammit! Those cops are great guys...

Three minutes after the air-raid siren that says "you can eat now", the streets of Rabat are empty. Not in an eerie way because you know everyone's tucking into grub and fags. I stop at a red light and a young fella comes up to me and proffers a fig (or a date) without a word. When was the last time someone slipped you some food in London because they thought you might be hungry? (I wasn't because I'd pigged out on supermarket cheese sandwiches earlier).
And if you're trying to think of a joke involving a young Moroccan boy offering me a date next to a red light, relax - I'm way ahead of you.

Casablanca tomorrow! Oh PLEEEZE let there be a bar that doesn't charge a million quid for a pint. I made a vow to get drunker'n'Humpty and I intend to stick to it.

Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at December 27, 2004 05:27 PM GMT
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