So the wait was up, a gruelling seven and a half hours of sunbathing and using free WiFi,wasn’t so hard… I’d been waiting for this journey for a while, I like the feeling of being on trains. I think somewhere down the line I’d actually found it as some form of meditation for me, being on the move at speed is reassuringly satisfying, the views that come with the experience are just a bonus, albeit kind of a different experience to the usual 5am train to London from Manchester!
So I boarded into my cabin, the train was set to arrive in Asilah around 5am, oh shit that’s like more than I’d already waited around outside the station for! That meant that it would be 10 hour journey, it didn’t daunt me at first, as my naive mind got the better of me, thinking that I could be documenting, filming and taking pictures throughout the trip – well I got that wrong!
I spent the first 30 minutes watching the mountains coming out of Marrakech as we headed for Casablanca, the first big stop on route. They were stunning, the sunset cast hues of purple and red vibrantly onto the glass of the carriage and there is stood taking pictures while my cabin buddies watched and asked to look.
Then as I sat back down to look through what I captured, the lady opposite me had broke her fast and began tucking into some fresh fruit and pastries, offering them all to our cabin. I looked up and the sky was darker than I’ve ever seen it, and I realised, this was going to be nine and a half hours of listening to music and finding it hard to sleep, not much of a story to tell..
Abruptly I shot up with an uneasy feeling of falling, that awkward point between sleeping and waking where you feel weightless. I’d woken to an empty carriage in darkness with the train coming to a stop. Confused and anxious I’d not kept an eye on my stuff I got up, had a quick sweep around, everything was intact, and left the carriage to find out what was going on. I’d not slept through all the way to Tanger, right? I was pretty confident that I hadn’t as it was only 3am, but why the train had come to standstill I’d no idea, but the station it looked like the end of the line, in a ‘Silent Hill’ kind of way, with a cold dark mist settling low to the ground. It’s fine, it’s probably routine, there’s no reason that the ticket guy wouldn’t of pulled me up on being on the wrong train, or better yet why wouldn’t I have been kicked off yet?!At last at the far side of the next carriage I’d seen someone, fast asleep on the seats, this was intentional, I’d better get back to my cabin!
As we pulled into Asilah the sun broke through thick cloud which gave off a ‘muggy morning’ feel, either that or the 10 hours of train travel doesn’t clear my mind like the short distances I’m used to back home.I jumped down on to the platform, backpack on my back and camera bag on my front, I looked like a military veteran or something, and crossed the tracks through to the station. Dead. You could hear a pin drop, that feeling once again looming that I’m somewhere I shouldn’t be. A forgotten town. Out of nowhere a guys comes up to me and let’s me know I can wait for a taxi or walk 25 minutes to town. In need of a stretch and some fresh air I walked on to Asilah.
Asilah is an old fort town dating back to the 1500 BC. It’s old walls encapsulate the medina from the outer town areas, and at first glance it’s amazing. Blue and white walls meandering through alleyways, tunnels and open market spaces. Truly amazing. The medina was renovated 10 years ago and helps give it more charm, probably just attracts more tourists.
Between the station and the old medina I saw one car drive past and one person fishing. Ramadan really does slow the day down, and I’ve noticed how tolerant and respectful people are of it. It’s kind of nice to witness how communities come together during the fast.
I’m not going to say that it wasn’t eerie though. Quiet, almost too quiet. It gave me an underwhelming impression of the culture in Asilah, which granted now as I write this has changed drastically.