It is exactly one week I arrived Morocco alongside my fellow journalists for coverage of the ongoing African Nations Championship.
I am here for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, to report and give the team exclusive coverage all through the duration of the Championship, hopefully, they remain till the finals billed for February 4, 2018, in Casablanca.
I arrived Casablanca on Sunday 14 January aboard Air Maroc. The flight took off at about 6:45 am and touch down around 11 am. On stepping out of the plane, we were greeted by the very cold breeze like I have never experienced in my entire life. The airport shuttle was waiting to convey passengers to the airport proper from the tarmac. A sense of relief from the cold as soon as I entered the airport to secure my Visa on arrival and proceed to retrieve my luggage. It really looked different. It reminded me of my previous trip in less than three months ago to Mumbai. The organization is topnotch, no one is harassing anyone. It almost seemed like no one cares what goes on but trust me the security and checking processes are on the ground to attend to waiting passengers.
Rotimi Akindele (A sports journalist with Beat 99.9FM) in Lagos approached me while I was taking shots with my Camera. “I have been trying to locate you inside the plane,” he said. “Same here too,” I responded. We both proceeded to the immigration to get our passports stamped with the Visa. It was written in Arabic, hence we did not have any idea what was written. For me, all I cared about was to enter the city and continue my journey to the City where the Eagles are based, Tangier.
We needed to change some Dollars to local currency, Dirhams. Rotimi and I thought to pick our luggage first, get a phone line in order to be able to reach two of our colleagues who were on ground in Tangier. Locating our luggage was bread and butter as our bags followed in the “luggage roller” (if there is any word as such) like they knew we would be together.
One Dirham is equivalent to a Dollar, the Bureau de Change attendant informed us. Rotimi and I stared at each other. We had to get some local currency regardless of the rates. We had sufficient funds for the trip, ‘so make you no worry say we go dey stranded’. (laughs).
The Train Experience
The next stop was to catch a train to Tangier, and we began to look for someone who could advise us in English. We didn’t have to ‘mumu’ for too long ‘sha…’ The signs and direction to the train station were vividly posted around to guide visitors or ‘JJCs like us. JJC will always behave like one! Unknown to us, the terminal was inside the airport yet we were looking for were to board a bus or cab to convey us to the train station. Okay, we finally located where to buy our tickets which went to 175 Dirhams (around 19USD, Over NGN6000).
The train will not come until 12:32 pm, about an hour 30 minutes from when we arrived. We sat to take a drink and snack until then. Lest I forget, Free Wi-Fi was available inside the airport and around until we arrived at the train terminal. Okay! Time for our over 5hours journey has come, as the train approached, we were on board. It was a train to Casa Voyager to change and connect to our final destination, Tangier. Journey to Tangier from Casablanca is like travelling to Ilorin from Lagos by road.
They say what you already know doesn’t kill you. We braced up for the journey and enjoy the long ride. There was a food vendor pushing his cart inside the train. He had tea, coffee, soft drinks, biscuits and chips. After about 3 hours, all I needed was coffee to stay awake as I had had enough sleep and wanted to catch some air and see through the window.
Arsenal was playing! There was no way I would have watched as there was no TV inside the train neither do I have access to data. We needed match updates and to keep up with our colleagues in Tangier. Rafa was right beside Rotimi. He was fair and youthful, with his earphones on, probably listening to music. I stylishly asked Rafa if he could check what arsenal did to Bournemouth, but we realised it was the other way round as the Gunners lost 2-1 away in the league encounter. Anyway, that was not the main idea, we also needed Rafa to share Data Hotspot just so we can be alive again.
Rafa liked Nigerian music, precisely something from P-Square. Some Moroccan artistes had remixed Shekini by the now separated group so he had an idea.
Rafa’s hotspot was indeed a lifeline to help enjoy the rest of the journey. Another young man was seated by my side who confessed his love for Barcelona FC, also excited about Philipe Coutinho’s move to the Camp Nou. We talked football all the way and it was fun.
At about 6 pm, we arrived Tangier, Morocco. The weather was around 8 degrees, very cold. We hurried to the City mall just some meters away from the train station to buy a SIM card and get a bite at KFC. Rafa was very helpful as we proceeded to the Grand Stade Ibn Batouta where the Eagles were having their last training before the match on Monday. ‘Oga nla’ and Emmanuel Etim welcomed us like we had not seen in years, you know the feeling.
Welcome to Tangier Morocco.
To be continued…