An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Day: September 8, 2005


Didn’t get to see much today, just too tired. However, Hakim Boukert, one of my contacts at the Embassy, took me for a walk in the newer section of Rabat, the “ville nouvelle,” (“medina” is the name of the older section of towns in Morocco) and it was interesting. We stopped at Grill 23, a charming sidewalk cafe canopied by two huge trees on the main drag of Rabat. I had a schawarma (or chwarma), a pita bread type dough stuffed with succulent chicken and red and green peppers and topped with a mildly hot red sauce. About 6:30 or 7, depending on the weather, people from all over the city come out for the evening stroll. This is true of most big cities in Morocco, according to my guide books, so outdoor cafes are great people-watching places. Rabat, the capital of Morocco, and, so, an administrative city, has more people dressed in western style clothing, with a few traditonally-garbed folks out and about. The medina would be the place to go to see “old” Morocco. So, we had a nice dinner and walked back toward the hotel, but we got lost. Taxis are cheap, so we took one to Le Tour Hassan Hotel, where I am staying until Friday, when I go to Meknes.

Now to sleep. More later.

Journey to Morocco

Usually I don’t feel the need to comment on airline flights because they are almost always uneventful. This trip was too, sort of. I guess I’ve become spoiled by the fantastic service offered by the Asian airlines that I’ve flown–Singapore Airlines, Thai Orchid, and Korean Air Lines. Now, I can contrast them with the U.S. airlines, Delta and United, that I’ve taken recently. In a nutshell (airline peanuts, of course), the U.S. carriers come nowhere near to matching the service given by the Asians. On Delta, for instance, on this Moroccan trip, the second leg, between Salt Lake City and Cincinnati, passengers were offered the use of headphones to watch the movie–for $2. What???? I didn’t buy, but several people did. Then I noticed that 3 of the 5 screens I could see were flickering and rolling, making the movie unviewable. One guy asked for his money back and got it. No meal was served on the 3-hour flight, just a bag of peanuts and a beverage. As on every single one of the U.S. flights I’ve taken in the last few weeks, alcoholic beverages, for those who wanted them, were $5 a bottle. On every single one of the Asian airlines I’ve taken, alcoholic beverages were complimentary. The dinner I was served on Delta today consisted of a wilted salad, a small portion of chicken and corn, a cookie of some type and some bread I had to saw in half with my plastic knife, it was so hard. United offers various snack platters–at a price. Compare this with the sumptuous, full-course meals of the Asians. And add in the little extras the Asians provide, like steaming hot towels before the meal, every meal, to wipe your hands and face. Ahhhhh, luxury! Then there is the friendliness of the attendants. The Delta attendants were competent, but they lacked any charm whatsoever, merely fulfilling their roles as workers. The only time I saw them really smile was when we were debarking, as if they were glad to get rid of us. Asians are extraordinarily friendly to their passengers, treating them like guests rather than customers. Not that these were flights from hell; they weren’t. But the service should and could be kicked up a couple of notches.

So, why are U.S. airlines so awful and so cheap? Maybe they have their reasons, maybe the Asians pay their workers lower wages, maybe they’re government subsidized, perhaps the competition is so stiff they have to work harder. Whatever the reason, I’ll always make it a point of avoiding U.S. airlines whenever I have the options of doing so. In this survey (NOTE: No longer available) from CNN Money, all 3 of the Asians make the top 10 list, but none of the Americans. To be fair, however, read the whole article, which tries to explain why U.S. carriers fall short. Enough said on that. (Edit on April 18, 2011–These surveys here and here are more recent, plus the older link is no longer available. But, the results show the same trend–Asian airlines are tops!)

But I’m not only picking on American entities today, I’m also griping about the French. Stay away from Terminal 1 of Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris. What a horrendous disaster!! Someone told me they were fixing the place up, but it looks more like they’re tearing it down. It’s a catastrophe. Shuttle buses everywhere, dirt, unfriendly attendants, etc. read this for the full story and do a search of Google for “World’s worst airports” and see how many lists DeGaulle makes.

At any rate, the trip was overall ok, except for the violent turbulence outside of Paris, which caused Air France to suspend dinner service (medallion of beef, salmon salad, cherry cobbler, and two fair sized blocks of cheese, one brie I think) and caused me to hold onto my tray so it wouldn’t slide into my lap. Thinking this might be my time, I gobbled the cobbler–no sense wasting a good dessert in a calamitous airline crash! But I made it ok, a long flight finished.

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