Return of the Moors: Marrakech -> Madrid ->Casablanca


Return of the Moors: Marrakech -> Madrid ->Casablanca

A well worn cliche: Life is a journey not a destination, is a truth I have discovered time and again through my months on this earth. Having lived through the past 24 hours, though, I wonder if the point of departure deserves a little more airtime.

It is saturday morning 6:18am and we are methodically stuffing our belongings into our bags. I haphazardly toss my toothbrush into my duffle bag. I press my knee into the neat piles of clean, dirty, and semi-dirty laundry--that are begging to spill onto the floor-- to get the zipper closed. I'm not rushing. But we do have only minutes before our scheduled airport taxi drives off.

Akrem, Taj, and I make it through the cobblestone walkways of Marrakech, into the taxi, to the airport, and through security. Our plane takes off the runway in Morocco and lands safely in Madrid, Spain. Today's itinerary: Marrakech, Madrid, and back to Casablanca all before dinner. Somos Viajeros. International travelers. Very cool. Mashaallah :).

We spend the 6 hrs of our layover in downtown Madrid catching up with an old friend of Taj's and thrift shopping!

It's Saturday 4pm, we hop into the Spanish Uber coast through traffic so we can arrive on time for our 6:50pm flight. We spend about 20 minutes navigating the highways and avenues to the airport. Security isn't much of a headache. We're chillin'. The line to check our bags is longer than anticiped--long enough to eat through a lot of the cushion time. The wait is pleasantly rewarded though, because the kind older woman behind the desk wearing blue mascara gives us the hook up with our seating; now our bags are checked all the way to NYC and we've got window seats on both connection flights. The walk to the gate is inconveniently long, impressing the point of how led Madrid's airport is(an important note). After the walk, we board our plane, take our seats and the plane taxies away from the gate.

This is where misadventure begins.

We taxi on the tarmac slowly, going in circles, and we coast on what seems to be a run way long enough for me to fall asleep. I wake up some time later to discover we have arrived at a gate. It wouldn't be the first time I've slept through an entire flight, however, that was not the case this time. From the frustration of the passengers and the bits of English in the overhead speaker announcements I put together that we are in fact still in Madrid due to technical issues with the plane. The captain and crew promise to resolve the problem, and insist that we remain trapped in the plan until then. We all sit in hushed discomfort for the next 2 hours--mind you the flight time to hour destination is on 1.5 hours. After 2 hours of work of restlessness and murmuring amongst the passengers, the climax comes back on the mic and informs us that we will now be taking off. We collectively sigh in relief and prepare ourselves for the thrusters to kick in. They don't. The captain informs us that the oroiginial Isaí ur remains unresolved and we must de board the plane. All of us--young, middle aged, elderly, and children alike --pour back into Madrid-Barajas terminal s4 annoyed and unclear on how to proceed. We know this is likely the last flight to Casablanca out of Madrid for the night because it's 11pm now, but we hold out hope and wait by the desk for clarification.

This is where is gets worse.

The staff person at the gate makes an announcement that sounds reassuring and that feels like guidance but it proves to be only name dropping of locations in the airport and a passing of responsibility. On this Spain to Morocco flight in a world with English-language hegemony, the instructions were relayed poorly in 3 different languages. He mentions something about food and something else about baggage claim. The mob of disgruntled travelers moves in a amoebae-like fashion to the food court. We the pre-package sandwiches and sit down long enough for any airline representatives to slip away.

An hour of munching goes by when our momentary pacification wares of and the mob, leaderless, seeks out direction. Akrem over hears a Spanish woman mention aloud the thought of returning to the gate. She isn't sure what she's doing but her 5 or 6 steps towards the abandoned gate are the closest thing to leadership the group has, so they latch on until 300 people are moving full stride to the gate a quarter mile walk away. Mid-stride the Spanish woman realizes her misstep and does an about face to walk towards the baggage claim area that was vaguely mentioned before. When the group arrives to a gate s10, it is as empty as the rest of the airport, and the reality that help will not be arriving becomes apparent. The few who realize this hesitate to heads towards baggage claim, perhaps because they wish not to leave the safety of the crowd, or they are praying the airline wouldn't unnecessarily send us the full mile and half to baggage claim on a whim, or maybe because the uncertainty of being without guidance in a situation where every comunication is muddled in translation is to great to feel confident about anything. I'll admit that I'm more so in that 3rd camp than anything. Luckily Akrem reads the situation and steps up.

Akrem walks to the head of the crowd, raises his arms to gather attention, and commands the group in fluid Spanish: "No hay nadie aquí, necesitamos ir a lugar de equipaje!." He is bold. He is clear. He is the leadership the group is so desperately wanting. And just as the last few syllables leave his mouth, Akrem realizes he has exhausted the information he has to offer and is not trynna field questions in 2 foreign languages. He does a quick turn. And strides towards baggage claim just out of reach of the uncertain mob.

Akrem's few seconds of command are enough for the crowd to find their way through customs, back into Spain-proper, and in the football field sized room that is baggage claim.

The fatigued and frustrated crowd neatly files into queue at the information desk. Taj, Akrem, myself, Anwar, and few fellow passengers(now friends born of shared misery) find ourselves at the front of the information queue line for Iberia air. Our flight was Royal Air Moroc, and there are absolutely no representatives for the company present. My friends and I get to our turn to hear that hotels cannot be provided and no information will be available until 8am tomorrow! Now we're pissed. We have enough sense to hold our frustration and move away from the mass of wronged passengers in time to see the news propagate through the crowd. Now people are screaming--voicing the frustration we all feel--and chanting demands for an airplane.

Police arrive on the scene. Now there are angry passengers who face the prospect of spending the night in an airport of a foreign country, airline workers who have almost no association with the airline that has caused our predicament, and Spanish airport police. Things are sideways and turmoil is far from over....
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