This morning I hopped on a bus to have a look at the Frontera de Farhana, the border between Melilla and the village of Farhana. I went to that particular place because it is easily reachable by bus from the city center… For some reason I didn’t expect there to be an open border crossing, and I also didn’t expect the border’s neighborhood to be densely populated.
On the road leading to the border there was a long queue of Moroccan men, each with a bicycle or some kind of moped, packed to the brim with all kinds of wares for export. Every now and then ten or so of them were allowed to enter the border post. That made for a bit of a funny sight, as many of the vehicles had been modified to allow for more luggage. The drivers either had no seat anymore or sat on top of their cargo and had to be pushed by others.
I crossed into Morocco at Melilla’s southern end, at the Frontera Benienzar – into the village of Beni Ensar. With the help of a police officer I quickly found a bank and got a wad of cash out of the ATM, then hopped on a local bus to the city of Nador for a fee that was disproportionate to said wad of cash.
Nador didn’t look particularly interesting and I wasn’t unhappy about having not much more than an hour (which was spent in the company of a mint tea) before the train for Taourirt left. I sat in a compartment with two guys, one quite quiet, the other quite chatty. The latter’s chattiness was directed at me but he didn’t speak a single word of Spanish, French or English, and my Arabic is still very non-existent either, so the conversation was very one-sided.
The train terminated in Taourirt and I still hadn’t made up my mind whether to continue east to Oujda or west to Taza or Fes. Taourirt, for some reason, didn’t look very inviting itself (though it also didn’t look particularly unpleasant or uninviting, if that makes any sense…) so I decided to take the next train, which happened to go to Fez (and onwards to Casablanca).
Of course I had read all the travel guide warnings about being approached by people who know a good hotel, or the best shop, or who can offer a good smoke. But surely the old man who walked just ahead of me when I stepped out of the Fez railway station wasn’t one of them! And he spoke English! And knew a good hotel, and cheap it was! And worked at a (different) hotel himself! And close by! And in the medina (any city’s old city)! He must be genuinely generous to show me the way! Can’t be fake!?
He was fake. Not only was the place a shithole and too expensive, it was not even in the medina!!! However, by the time we got there it was dark and raining heavily and so I didn’t feel like looking for an alternative. And that it wasn’t in the medina… I will only find out tomorrow.