By Nora P. Goodman
By Nora P. Goodman
Portland, Oregon – In July of 2009, I traveled to Morocco with my son Austin on a month’s vacation. It was not only my son’s first plane ride but his first trip out of the USA.
We arrived in Rabat Morocco and stayed at our friend Said’s family home. Our Moroccan friends were Berbers and spoke Berber, British English, French and Arabic. They greeted us with a lot of hospitality and gave us a bedroom on the lower level of their home. The first morning when we awoke, breakfast was already prepared for us in the sitting area. Breakfast consist of fruit, bread, butter, jam, laughing cow cheese, orange juice, coffee and milk. It was served on a round wooden table with clean linens, lovely plates and coffee cups.
Said’s father, Brik was the family cook. He was a retired cook from the local sports stadium and continued his passion in cooking for his family while he and his wife prepared the family meals together. They were a lovely couple who had been married for over fifty years. I admired their faithfulness and commitment to their family and each other. After Brik prepared breakfast, he was off to the Mosque and a local café where he met with his lifelong friends to discuss life as usual in Morocco and Said’s mom, Saida began her routine cleaning house. My son and I relaxed for a few days from the long flight then Said and I took Austin to the local sites such as, King Mohammed V’s tomb and the Old Medina. Austin soon fell in love with Morocco as much as I did.
Said decided to take us to the beaches in Agadir and stay at his sister’s home since they were traveling to the north, we traveled by an air conditioned train to Marrakesh to catch a bus to Agadir, as soon as we stepped off the train we gasped for air. The temperature was 51.7°C (125.1°F) and being a fair complexion girl from Portland Oregon, USA, where the sun only shines for three months out of the year, the only example I could give was that it felt like I had stepped into hell. My son and I had never experienced anything like that before.
Everyone was panicking and some foreigners were actually crying. We could hardly catch our breath and there was hardly any shade and no building to find appropriate shelter. Everyone was exhausted from the long ride and people were crowding in the shaded corners of the depot. There was nowhere to escape the heat while we were waiting for our bus. Austin bought a soda to quench his thirst but to his surprise it was hot. I wondered why that bus depot did not have appropriate air conditioned shelter along with cold drinks since it was used by many people daily. We waited for about forty minutes for the bus, but it felt like hours. The bus ride to Agadir took about five hours. We thought for sure the weather by the beach would be better but it was just as hot.
When we arrived at the home of Said’s sister we found no air conditioning, no fan and all the hotels with air-conditioning were very expensive. Our first night in Agadir was unbearable. My feet swelled up and I spent most of my night in the shower under cold running water. My son fell asleep by 2:00 AM but tossed and turned most of the night. The next day I suggested we stay in the air conditioned mall to escape the heat. But even the air conditioning did not seem to work very well as the temperatures continued to rise. We were clearly caught in heat wave. That night we stayed at the beach with hundreds of others trying to escape the same torment. Then our taxi driver suggested we go to Essaouria, a small fishing village located on the Atlantic Ocean where the temperatures were much nicer. So the next day we purchased bus tickets to Essaouria and traveled another five hours north. When we stepped off the bus the weather was at least 40 degrees less. It was so refreshing. Austin and I felt so relieved and excited to see the fishing village our taxi driver had bragged about.
While we were unloading our bags and searching for a place to stay, I noticed a small baby kitten sitting in the corner outside the bus station. The kitten was only about three to four weeks old. He was very dirty. I walked slowly to him a picked him up. He barely moved. He was weak and I wondered where his mother was. I looked around but I didn’t see her. I gave him to Austin and helped Said carry our luggage. In the meantime, a few local Moroccan men offered to help us find an apartment and transport our luggage for us also. Morocco has very good hospitality. In less than thirty minutes, we found a nice two bedroom apartment.
As we walked through the16th century old city to our apartment, we didn’t feel the heat but only the breeze of the ocean on our faces. We were so relieved. After we unpacked our luggage, I focused on the kitten. He was so fragile dirty and his eyes were only barely open. Austin and I gave him a bath and cleaned his eyes. Said warned us of diseases and said the wild cats were considered unclean. It didn’t stop us from caring for him and to our surprise, the little fella even changed colors after his bath, he had beautiful white fur and a few black spots. We decided to name him Moses. Moses didn’t know how to eat food on his own or maybe he was too weak. I went to a local market and bought laughing cow cheese, a baby bottle and milk. I put some cheese on the tip of my finger, but he was too weak to eat. I then smeared a little on his mouth and once he got a taste of it he was soon licking it up. Later, he began drinking from the bottle of milk and within days he was running around the apartment playing with Austin.
The city of Essaouria is known by its Portuguese name of Mogador. The Berber name means the wall, a reference to the fortress walls that originally enclosed the city. Austin and I agreed that the city should be nicked named “the city of cats” because everywhere we went there were cats. There were cats under the tables at the restaurants waiting for scraps of food from the tourist and there were cats in all the shops being cared for by the shop owners. And as we walked along the walls of the city cats were lined up and patiently waiting as the fishermen were cleaning the fish and tossing the left overs to them. It was clear the people of the city loved cats.
The day came when we had to leave to go back to Rabat and then back to USA. No matter how much we begged, Said didn’t want to adopt Moses and bring him to Rabat, so Austin and I began looking for a suitable good home for him. We grew attached to Moses and hated to leave him behind. We even thought of carrying him in our suitcases and bringing him back to USA with us, but we knew it wouldn’t be allowed at the airport and Moses would be caught at the check point. So the only suitable person we could think of to adopt him was a very nice waiter at a local restaurant name Khalid. We shared with him about how we found and rescued Moses and how we thought his name was appropriate. Khalid assured us that he would keep the name and take good care of him.
It’s been three years since we left Essaouria and as far as we know, Moses is still living at the restaurant and being cared for by Khalid and feasting off Tagine and scraps of food from the tourist.