Sunday, November 10, 2013

In Transit through Casablanca

Humphrey Boagart's "friends" had a considerably more interesting time transiting Casablanca than I; no Rick's Bar in the airport transit lounge, and certainly no pianist tickling the ivories to help us pass the time. There was music of a sort, though; it sounded at first like the soundtrack from a rather unimportant military parade, and then morphed into a pretty poor attempt at Gilbert O'Sullivan's lovely number, Alone Again; which is pretty much how most of us felt, I think.

I had thought that the evolution of airport-decoration had passed beyond austere marble floors, a very large copper pip-looking object hanging from the ceiling, forty-eight chairs to accommodate the requirements of five gates, all illuminated by an incredible collection of 40, or possibly 45 watt bulbs of varying age and provenance. But no; public spaces at Casablanca’s international airport are really rather grim. They are all under the watchful eye of the monarch and, I would suspect his son, but I am not sure, who you can bet have never flown domestically in economy in their gilded lives.

There is a coffee “shop”, but with nowhere to exchange money for Moroccan Dirhams, and an unwillingness to accept other currencies even at an exorbitant rate, even a coffee (or heaven forbid a glass of wine) is out of the question.

I am here, of course, to catch a plane. Grumpy because my flight was cancelled, presumably because of a lack of passengers, and the new one is three hours away; Marrakech remains tantalisingly close.

It was a wrench to leave the Languedoc this afternoon; I had only been there for a couple of days, just long enough to see old friends, once more be astonished at the startling and variable beauty of this part of France, and generally start to settle in. However, it was not to be, and duty called, this time in the form of a conference in Marrakech called the “PURE Life Experience”, or something like that.

It is a meeting of many of the world’s top operators, and agents whose clientele demands the extraordinary. For some reason or another, I was invited to apply to attend as a buyer, and having been vetted and accepted, here I almost am. I am partly looking forward to it, and partly not.

Expensive, or as they say in the trade “Up Market” travel really comes in a variety of guises. There are those experiences that are truly extraordinary, and are extremely expensive to assemble; these, ranging from space travel (yes, they have a booth here) to Adventure touring in the High Caucasus are fascinating, and very much out stock-in-trade. Secondly there are some quite extraordinary and luxurious properties, ranging from ranches to spectacular hotels; these are of some interest as our clients will quite often punctuate their trips with a few nights judiciously booked in one of these hotels.

Then there are the frankly, over-priced and rather dull  hotels that spring up all over the world with ever more “features” (and inexplicably expensive internet), on beaches the world over that are becoming indistinguishable. These are of little interest to me at all.

It will be interesting to see how many fall into each category.

There are now considerably more than forty-eight folks waiting for their planes and many are wandering around looking a touch testy. I don’t think I will get up for a walk. Transit lounges are an unavoidable feature of travelling life; they don’t however, get much duller that the Mohammed V airport in Casablanca.

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