Donn Does Dakhla

Yes, a guest post by Donn, in several parts.

Repetition can have a soothing effect, like swaying palms, the gentle pressure of massage, or Enya (for some people). Repetition can also drive you crazy, like the legendary dripping of water, Ground Hog Day (the movie), or Enya (for some people). The road to Mauritania and back was full of recurring events, small details, and the light sensation of déjà vu, forming the monotonous rhythm of my journey. It began as I kissed the family and headed out the door to find a taxi. That afternoon, on the corner near our house, every taxi was full. Taxi after taxi came into sight, its particular details slowly resolving as it drew near, consistently revealing a passenger in one of the seats. The waiting began.

The plan was that I would take a taxi to the train, the train to the airport, and a plane to Dakhla.  From there I would find a bush-taxi to the border, approximately a five hour journey. I knew I had little control over the events that would follow so I had determined to  take them as they unfolded.

While train and plane had their share of boredom, I won’t try to prove it; you’ll have to trust me. Monotony began with only slight backdrop changes along the way. Images flitted past windows and venues changed, like flipping through a stack of unedited photos until you arrive at the last one and for that reason only, look at it a little longer. My first day ended in Dakhla with a few hours of light left. I wandered the streets looking for things that would add familiarity or significance to my two days in Dakhla. Dakhla is a small, open city, the southern-most outpost of civilization in Morocco. It is cleaner, and seemingly more relaxed than most Mauritanian towns I’ve been in, though ultimately it reminds one of other Saharan desert towns–if one has had Saharan desert towns etched in their mind.

My first glimpse came as I emerged from the stark rooms that record each traveler, into the beige and tan streets under a faint blue sky that mark North African towns like team colors.  I immediately asked a policeman where I could catch a taxi to the Sahara Regency. He laughed and pointed at the end of the street that exited the airport. There at the end was the Sahara Regency.

front of SR

I’d been told that the SR was the only hotel in Dakhla. I’d also been told it was a modern city. Hmmm…who to believe.  There are other hotels in Dakhla but the SR is by far the nicest and the only one resembling a Western-style hotel. It’s not entirely Western, though. For example, the hotel operated with no fear of lawsuits. Definitely not American…. I digress, but when one of our kids was three, despite being potty-trained, he/she pooped in a pool at a condo in Hawaii. It was easily removed and the hotel admitted that they could chemically “shock” the water and deal with any impurity but that if any of their clients heard about it and got sick for any reason, they’d be sued. So they emptied the entire pool (on a week-end) and had it scrubbed and re-filled. Then they sent me a bill. I reminded them that by their own admission, they could have chemically treated the pool and that their fear of lawsuits was not my problem. Then I gave the bill back to them.

At the SR, there was a small but fun pool on the roof. The SR is possibly the tallest buildings in Dakhla and the pool goes right up to the edge giving one a great view of the city towards the sea but also the sensation that if the pool sprung a leak, one would flop out and down like a fish on a waterfall. But that’s not the lawsuit-waiting-to-happen that I have in mind. The pool is lined with fun Moroccan lights daisy-chained along the edge–that 2 foot frame around the pool that always gets soaking wet as people swim, splash, and exit the pool. I could only suppose that the patches of electrical tape on the wires covered bare spots. As I moved towards the pool, the waiter hurried over to unplug the lights…

SR pool

…to be continued

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