Train travel as opposed to flying is a romantic journey, looking out of an aircraft window can offer great views, but from a train it is possible to feel a part of the landscape. Whilst the true romance of the ‘golden age of steam’ is not quite possible on electric or diesel locomotives it remains a far more intimate and involving form of transportation.
“The destination is the climax of an adventurous journey”
It is usually a much more sociable experience too, enabling the traveller to become immersed in the journey, to converse with fellow passengers and share the joys of the journey.
Marrakech to Fes and back
Taking the eight-hour plus journey from Marrakech to Fes was an easy decision, although driving over a few days was another option, in the end simplicity of rail travel seemed preferable.
Riding the rails in Morocco is relatively cheap and for this reason is also very popular; the early train was still full. A compartment feels even more intimate enabling a greater connection with travelling companions in this case a young pregnant woman, three mature women and a similarly aged man.
It is far too easy to just wear headphones, listen to music and sink into a private world, but despite my companions speaking a language beyond my comprehension I decided against this. It somehow seemed ignorant to do so and this was obviously appreciated as they all attempted to include me in their conversation, using some gesturing and signing we were able to converse. We also happily shared the contents of our various food ‘bags’, sandwiches, fruit and dried nuts.
The World through a window
Gazing the through the window, it was interesting to see the changing landscape. It was actually quite green, flat arable farmland interspersed with olive groves and fruit orchards, cattle, sheep and goats grazing at the very edge of the tracks.
Following the coastline for sometime provided pleasant horizon views, passing through towns and cities including the industrial port of Casa de Voyages and several other large cities. Children were playing in fields and locals working or just chilling under the shade of the olive trees and shrubs.
In contrast to the well-kept streets of the tourist areas of Marrakech, around the outskirts of these towns are extremely unkempt. Litter and household rubbish is strewn all over, many of the areas almost resembling open tips.
Stations and towns pass by without really being recognised or acknowledged, seemingly nondescript and blending into each other however this does not seem relevant; they are a part of the journey.
There are countless canvas tents along the route, not in the grand ‘Bedouin’ style from the sets of movies but tents barely large enough for two people. They are however home to people; there are even whole villages, some over a hundred tents in size.
My companions left one at a time, for a short period I was alone until a gentleman named Hassan joined me. He spoke excellent English and we conversed awhile, both being ex-military we had something in common. Providing some great tips about everything from taxi fares to eating in the medina it was a very useful encounter.
Returning sardine class
There was not a compartment available on the train for the return journey as it was even busier. Settling down in a seat in a normal carriage had advantages however. There was hardly a free seat in the house. People returning from visiting relatives, shopping trips to the major cities, excited children travelling with their parents or bored, blasé teenagers wishing they were there already.
It would’ve been great to have been able to take some photographs on the train, however as the locals are a little inconsistent regarding this unless money changes hands, it was not possible.
The cities at either end of this journey are amazing experiences; the train stations are even extremely impressive but in the end just making the journey is special.
What are your experiences of train travel, do you prefer it to flying or are you a road trip kind of traveller? What about the difficulties of taking photographs from a moving train, composition, avoiding reflections getting a sharp image, any tips to share?