A taste of better times

It was our second night in a motorway service station. We had just escaped the clutches of a pervert with wandering hands disguised as a friendly truck driver, and now we faced another long wait, fidgeting on hard greasy tables or floors, trying to get comfortable to the soundtrack of Aerosmith on loop.

“Sarah, wake up!” I hardly dared believe it. “Those men – the ones who bought us food – they've spoken to their friend and he's taking us to Seville!” Sceptical, I followed Chris to the next table to meet our saviour. He was a large, bald man with a steely expression. I shrugged.

“Muchos gracias!” I exclaimed.

I awoke later to the sounds of wheels on tarmac and stilted speech. My companions were conversing in what seemed to be a mixture of pigeon-Spanish, French and GCSE German. Abdulkhbir, the driver who had picked us up from God-knows-where to aid our hitch-hike south from Manchester to Morocco, was a middle-aged Moroccan bachelor who lived in Seville.

As we arrived, the sweet, fresh scents of flowers and oranges greeted us, as did the beautiful cobblestoned streets with graceful arches, caressed gently by the warm sun. I felt myself relax properly for the first time on our trip.

Abdulkhbir turned out to be a hitchhiker's dream. Despite our having to switch between three languages in which none of us was fluent, he introduced us to his friends, made us Moroccan mint tea, took us to a bellydancing bar, let us stay at his house and cooked us delicious tagines.

Oh, those tagines. Rich, thick and fragrant with exotic spices and nutty argan oil. Shared with flat Moroccan bread which we used for scooping the magical stew from one communal dish with our hands, sitting on a carpet laid out specially for mealtimes. The lazy hours afterwards spent chatting as Abdulkhbir or one of his friends poured the mint tea, over and over again from greater and greater heights to get the froth just right. Slurping glass after glass of the syrupy, minty, bubbly elixor. Those were the moments, before we had to get back on the road.

SL Allen

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