Morocco was different. As soon as our feet touched the quayside we were surrounded by children speaking in tongues and begging. They were bright and sharp and maybe desperate. Within seconds they’d have your nationality and be bombarding you with any icon that might establish a bond. ‘Bobby Moore. I like Bobby Moore. Great footballer, the best.’
‘Elvis is King, right?'
'My sister likes Elvis’
'Charles De Gaulle, great man, the best.’
‘Australia. Kangaroos.’ Our loose coin went quickly, until eventually we walked through them, as though they were holograms. Money was tight and we didn’t have their talent if it ever ran out.
Some weeks later my money did eventually run out. It was in Quarzazate. The sky was a dark pink and I was wondering through the ruins of an ancient fort. A small boy appeared from nowhere, hand outstretched and smiling. I shrugged and pulled out empty pockets. Immediately the boy’s smile grew even wider. He pulled out his own pockets, also empty and patted me on the back.
There is a generosity of spirit in Morocco. That first day in Tangier we wandered through the winding maze of the old market. It was hot enough to dry spit. I made the mistake of pausing outside a small building, and at once a man materialised; he dragged the two of us inside. It was more oven than café with just enough room for a small table and four chairs. We were squeezed in and immediately craved the relatively coolness of the spit-dry street.
There was no menu, just meat, boiling away in a largest of large cauldrons positioned adjacent to the table. But it was cheap, and the two men manning the cauldrons beamed ecstatically, as though they were feeding angels.
This generosity manifested itself throughout the country and began to raise uncomfortable truths about my own capacity for meanness. Terry was heading for the coast and Agedir. I drifted inland.