the overnight train to tangier

"Take the overnight train.", I thought. "See the scenery of Morocco, save some money on a hostel, and wake up in Tangier. What could possibly go wrong?". Famous last words.

Have you ever been in a sauna for 11 hours straight? My affinity for the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho led me to want to explore Tangier, one of the northernmost cities in Morocco. After flying into and exploring Marrakech for a few days, I decided to take a sleeper train to Tangier to save some time and money.

I arrived at the station around 6:00p. We were scheduled to leave at 7:00p for a 6:15a arrival at our destination. It wasn't until about 6:55p that I realized the $21 USD (about 210 Moroccan dirham) that I'd spent on my ticket did not get me a sleeper train, but instead a regular seat. No way could I manage that for 11 hours! I ran to the currency exchange station to get an extra 150 dirham and proceeded to beg the ticketing cashier to re-open their window so that I could upgrade my ticket. With mere seconds to spare, I made it. Whew.

There were two bunk beds in each car and I was sharing my room with two older Muslim women. They switched me from my original room assignment into this one to the dismay of the young white heterosexual couple that was there before me. Completely making it about them, they assumed personal reasons for the change and took offense. Little did they understand that my roommates would be unable to comfortably remove their hijabs with the male present- a necessary move as I'll explain. We became quick friends. Sweating together transcends language barriers.

For some reason I thought there would be wifi on this train. I had visions of myself in a comfortable car FaceTiming with my love or writing for my blog. What I found instead was a stuffy top bunk with no A/C and windows that teased us with whatever air could blow through the allotted 1-inch cracks. I was stuck to my sheet before Marrakech faded from eyesight. Trying to find balance between cultural decency and nudity, I attempted to find a position that would maximize comfort. 11 hours to go. What the hell did I get myself into? With no other options, I chose to surrender to the circumstances.

It wasn't until we stopped an hour later at the next station that I realized most of the train passengers were hovering by the hallway windows and removing articles of clothing more and more with each second. Somehow we got inspired to see if we could stand outside until the train started again. Blessed air! So grateful was I for the gifts of the universe that I often take for granted. Air on each break was blissful. It was just enough for the group to keep morale up and clothes on.

It wasn't all bad. Shared experiences breed connections with those around us. I met some awesome folks from England, Australia, Peru, and various parts of the U.S. I was also able to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed- with magnificent hues of red that my camera could not do justice to. One of my roommates shared an egg sandwich on pita bread with me, which was really nice, and led to us bonding more despite the language barriers.

Past sundown, there was nothing left to entertain me. As the sky darkened, the land and air chilled a bit and it provided me with some reprieve. I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes and fell asleep. Despite a few lights in my eyes and bumps along the way, all was well and I woke up safely in Tangier. How temporary discomforts are. If only we remembered that perhaps we could find a little more peace in the world. Would I take the train again? No. But I am grateful for the experience and lessons learned. I stepped off of the train and breathed in a sigh of relief- with an increased appreciation for the fresh air, of course!

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