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Half a Century of Morocco

March 4, 2019

Warning: this post may be of a lot more interest to me and our family than it is to you. I’m hoping, though, that friends will be interested in the history of Carol and my wanderlust, because even longtime, close friends may not know how it all came about.

Some folks who I’ve told that we were going to Morocco have asked, “is this your first trip?“ My reply is, “no, we were there before – over 51 years ago.“ Just think about that—51 years ago, and with the very same wife. Pretty amazing, eh?

Our first trip to Morocco was among our early travel experiences, but not the earliest. Our first international trip together was in the summer of 1965, after we were married on June 20 of that year. We took a honeymoon of 11 1/2 weeks traveling around Europe by car (an English Ford Cortina, which I’d surprised Carol by buying from the US, delivered to us at Orly, the Paris airport), and flying to Greece and Israel. There is no question but what our interest in travel was forged by that amazing honeymoon trip of which we still have many fond memories and stories that we might be persuaded to tell you, if you beg us.

Two years later, after I graduated from law school, Carol and I left for a year in London. The ostensible reason for going was so that I could get an advanced degree in law at the London School of Economics. In fact, though, I had no real interest in improving my mind (and I succeeded in not doing that), but wanted to be able to take “a year off,” likely the last opportunity for us to do something like that for a long time. Carol, who had nothing arranged at the time we left, wound up having a terrific professional experience in London, because the Anna Freud Clinic agreed to set up a year’s program geared specifically to her interests. I received an LLM from LSE.

We absolutely loved London and took advantage of all it had to offer, especially theater, concerts, opera and ballet. Through dumb luck we had brought funds over and not converted them to British Pounds, so that when the Pound was devalued, the value of the dollars we’d brought over increased markedly.

My program at LSE included long vacation periods. Since Carol‘s program was geared specifically to her interests, she had great flexibility and was able to take off at the times that I had vacation. As a result, we wound up taking a number of long trips during that year. Among the first of those trips was one to Spain and Morocco over Christmas and New Year’s of 1967-68. We traveled much less expensively and much lighter then than we do these days. Typically, we would take a student flight to the general area that we wanted to explore and then travel around either by hitchhiking or by train or bus. The photo below shows us with our entire combined luggage for the four weeks we spent in Spain and Morocco.

Though the photos have faded, my memories of that trip are very vivid. We made two sets of new friends on the trip. One was a couple about our age, Mike and Diane Dichter, with whom we wound up traveling around Spain, and remained in touch for quite a number of years after that.

One of the side benefits of travel is that it may encourage you to reconnect. Coming across the above photo caused me to try to track Diane down on the internet. I was successful, and last week we had a terrific dinner with Diane, laughing and reliving some very old memories.

The other couple we connected with on our 1968 trip to Morocco was a more unusual friendship because they were much older than we were. We met Guy and Ruth Armstrong on our flight from Spain to Morocco. They had a rental car and, since we had no specific plans or reservations, when they invited us to travel along with them, we happily agreed. Ruth and Guy lived in California. They were probably approximately the age we are now – which seemed to us to be VERY old indeed. They had met later in life and married. Guy had an undertaking business and Ruth was a grade school principal.

Ruth told us a story that we have repeated countless times over the years. The school that she was the principal of was in a heavily Jewish area in Los Angeles. One of the non-Jewish mothers told Ruth that, at the beginning of the semester, after only a couple days of school, her kindergartner son, Johnny, came home and told her that there was no school tomorrow. The mother, surprised, asked why. Johnny said there was no school because it was a holiday, New Year’s. “Oh,” the mother said, “but that’s not our holiday, so you will be going to school.” Johnny said, no, he wasn’t going, it was a holiday. His mother insisted, though, that, since it was not HIS holiday, he needed to go. Johnny became very upset and said, loudly, “I am NOT going to school tomorrow. If I go, there will only be me and one other reptile there.”

Despite our big age difference, we got along well with Ruth and Guy, who pretty-much adopted us. We’d drive into a city, they’d go to the first class hotel they’d booked and Carol and I would find a spot for about $5. Here is a photo of Carol and me in the gardens of the hotel that the Armstrongs stayed in in Marrakech.

A year or so after the trip, we visited Ruth and Guy in their home in California. That evening we learned that the highlight of Guy’s life, or at least of his business career, was the fact that after Robert Kennedy‘s assassination in California in June of 1968, Guy’s funeral home was selected to receive and embalm the body. He talked about this with considerable relish. Though it certainly seemed morbid to us, he was so genuinely enthused by the professional experience and accolade that we listened intently.

At the time of our trip in January, 1968, Morocco, and particularly Marrakech, was far and away the most exotic place that Carol and I had ever traveled to. Here are a couple badly faded and mediocre at best photographs of the market (souk) in Marrakech.

Having traveled very widely since then, it will be extremely interesting to see how exotic Morocco seems to us now and whether the souk at Marrakech still seems exotic, or whether it seems, “ho-hum, just another market.”

Here are a couple more photos from the 1968 trip.

We rarely return to places we’ve been, preferring instead to explore new territory. In fact, we hadn’t intended to go back to Morocco this March, either, and were exploring several other destination options with another couple. In the midst of our exploration, we ran into a former neighbor, Judy Gaynor at a Chicago Humanities Festival progam, who said that one of her sons, Rick Gaynor, had been working in Morocco for a couple years. After talking to Judy, I said to Carol, “let’s go back to Morocco, we haven’t been there for fifty years.” After some discussion, Carol agreed and so we’re off in a couple days on what we both think will be an exciting trip, back in time. Had we not run into Judy, I’m sure we would not be taking this trip. Stuff like that happens all the time when you travel.

As it turned out that the friends we were intending to travel with could not make it after all, Carol and I will be going on our own, and that suits us just fine. Happy to have you along with us, though.

12 comments to Half a Century of Morocco

  • Wendy Snell

    I loved this post, Dadz! Looking forward to going back in time with you…
    L,
    W.

  • Jeanzunkel@gmail.com

    Arnie and Carol,
    I loved the story and the photos. Isn’t it fun to be able to look back on such a fun time for both of you. We hope you have a wonderful trip. I will be following you from Nepal and Bhutan.
    Jean & Ahdina

  • Paul W

    Great post! Learned a lot about you, and the photos were grand. Looking forward to your travel narratives from Morocco!

  • Lauri Pollack

    Loved this blog. Thank you and have a great time.

  • Kay Osborne

    Loved the post. Such memories. Have a great time and keep us in the loop.

  • Eve Levine

    Loved the blog! Safe and fun travels!

  • leslie paul

    cute story.. interested to hear your thoughts . .was there last Oct.. LOVED it all.. I described it as ARAB light.will keep reading .. ENJOY!!!!!!Les

  • Ahdina

    I absolutely love the old photos and stories!!! I think your next book should combine the old Morocco trip with the new. I can’t wait to follow your journey!!

  • Tom

    Ah, I remember well that spot in the souk at Marrakech because I took a photo there, too. I will be very interested in seeing your photos from your trip this time. I will also be interested in any Moroccan laundry bags you happen to steal, I mean encounter.
    Have a great trip!

  • Phoebe

    I LOVED reading this post–hearing all of your memories and seeing the old photos–and will LOVE hearing how you like Morocco now over 50 years after that first trip!

    -PRskie

  • Aaron Freeman

    It’s a Wonderful Life!

  • D.J. (Jan) Baker

    Arnie – this was a wonderful reminiscence of your first trip to Morocco 50 years ago. The photos, though faded, were very evocative. And, I completely with Johnny. – who, indeed , would want to be the only reptile to show up for school?

    Best wishes for healthy and fascinating travels during your return visit.

    Jan

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