Day 8: Bartering for Mont Blanc Pens + RAK-MAD on Royal Air Maroc - 04 Jan 2010
I'll spare you the details of my morning and afternoon in the Medina bartering for Mont Blanc pens, Rolex watches, and Ray-Ban sunglasses except to say that I'm getting pretty darn good at it. I've had a lot of practice the last few years and I finally feel comfortable negotiating. I better be comfortable with it if I plan on succeeding in law school and as a lawyer! Prices are more reasonable in Morocco than in Istanbul, East Jerusalem, and even Cairo. I think the real deals will be in China, though--a trip I hope to take later in the year.
Forget cars. A traffic jam in Morocco.
It took me four cabs, but I finally found one willing to accept my ~$4 price to take me from the Medina to the airport. The fourth cab driver initially said no, but he picked up a French couple going to the airport down the street then honked at me to hop in the front seat. The couple in the back had a confused look on their face as he displayed a toothy grin and told them in French that he was taking me to the airport too.
The airport looked modern and was clean inside. I had a few hours to kill so after checking in I sat down at a cafe in the airport lobby. Tourist prices were levied: a bottle of water cost me EU4 and internet was EU8/hour. At least the electricity was free...
I wasn't sure how long I was going to spend in Morocco and whether I would have time to hit Casablanca or Rabat as well as Marrakech. Airfare was astronomically high to fly to Europe, even on the LLCs into London, so I thought I'd probably be taking another overnight train to Tangier and a boat back to Spain. The night before I left Spain for Morocco, I performed my usual itasoftware.com search from RAK;CMN to MAD;LIS;LON;FRA and found the perfect flight, an evening non-stop on Royal Air Maroc from Marrakech to Madrid (the city I actually wanted to get to next) for just over $100. I booked it immediately and am happy I did--I must have grabbed the last ticket in the cheap fare bucket because the fare had tripled when I checked it again after booking.
About an hour before my flight was scheduled to depart, I cleared security (a quick and easy process--shoes stay on), was stamped out of Morocco, and took a seat in the gate area. The internatinonal departures area was crowded, but there was ample seating available. I took a peak in the Royal Air Maroc lounge (surprisingly for an airport that had so many employees just standing around, there was no attendant at the desk) but it was filled to capacity and the food offerings were weak--cookies and various other sweets only.
I pulled out my good camera from my bag to snap some pictures of our plane to Madrid, but must have pulled out my electric adapter as well, because I couldn't find it when I got Madrid.
The flight boarded 15 minutes late by both rear and front airstairs.
The 737-300 was vintage inside--but I like vintage. I was assigned my favorite Economy seat on the 737, the first row window which featured a generous amount of legroom.
Most announcements were made in Arabic only, though there was a French-speaking staff member onboard. No English announcements and no Spanish announcements on a flight to Spain...
I was not expecting a meal, but a small tasty cold dinner was served soon after takeoff. The chunks of chicken on the right were flavorful and the black stuff on the left was a delicious olive tapenade.
No IFE, save for the safety card, but I had a book with me. We arrived in Madrid about 20 minutes late and I quickly cleared passport control and hopped on the Metro to my hostel near city center.
I highly recommend Royal Air Maroc. The staff was friendly, the meal and legroom were decent, and the price was fair.