Night from hell. No, not the bright red light on the TV opposite me keeping me awake. No, not the street noise, that has quietened right down. It’s the GHAAARFFF EUGLEGH WUCHLAO of me coughing not mater what position I lie in: flat, propped up, face down, on left side, on right side. I get out of bed around 12.30am but what good does that do? It prompts a new coughing fit, and I have to lean over the sink in case I throw up. The room next to me must be empty or someone would have banged on the wall for me to shut up. I wonder if I cough myself to death in this hotel room, at what point someone will find my body?
Cometh the morning, cometh some more coughing but I get up in time for my breakfast meeting in the hotel restaurant. I don’t really want to eat but I’m travelling with a colleague who usually only eats breakfast when he’s traveling so I know the importance of eating while I can because our morning meetings will run into the afternoon for sure.
Our first meeting is to discuss tomorrow’s awards event. Our marketing expert has it all under control but we run through the protocol, who is shaking hands with whom, and who is handing out which awards. After an hour, we leave her to continue working and go for a more practical meeting at the consultant’s office just down the road. We’re staying in a different part of Casablanca to the usual and there is a boulevard nearby with trees down it. This is a rarity in Casa and I really like it. I think this city needs more trees.
At the consultant office, it’s busy as the team are either working on ceremony business or on project implementation. We cram 12 people into a meeting room that only comfortably seats eight and settle in for a long project meeting. The discussion goes on for about 3 hours through to 1.30pm. Those of us who need to eat more regularly than once a day are feeling giddy and I can hear rumbling tummies. Or is that me? We’ve all got some work to do back in our hotel rooms but first we need to have lunch.
We stop at a café on the corner. They do simple food: paninis, pastas. My two colleagues who are new to Casa hover nervously outside, not sure. “You said you wanted something simple like a sandwich,” I say. “There are paninis here.” They make some hum-ha noises and I realise this place doesn’t meet their European perception of what a nice café is and they don’t actually want to eat there.
So we eat at the hotel. This is something I hate to do, because hotel food is always the most boring European food around and although this is business travel, I like to get out and see something of the city and eat in other places, just to observe local people and breathe some non-air-conditioned air. But not today. Today we are eating pasta in the hotel restaurant.
Back in my room I try to sit on my little balcony and work but (1) I am still coughing and I don’t want to drop my laptop onto the concrete floor, and (2) it’s really very bright and I can’t actually see the screen. So back into the room I go, air con off, balcony door wide open. Yes it’s noisy but I’m hoping the dry air will do my lungs some good.
I’m looking at emails but not really doing any work when I get a call from my boss about a question we were asked earlier today. I snap out of my little dream and do some proper work.
We all meet again at 4.30pm to see how the hotel ballroom is looking in its conversion to an awards venue. It’s looking good, but there’s really nothing for us to do here, it’s down to the project team, the hotel staff and the technical guys to build and install things. We go check out the lunch venue which is by the hotel pool (heated by energy efficient measures, don’t you know). I have another coughing fit and am sent back to my room to rest. Which I do, gladly.
I meet my two corner-café-avoiding colleagues for dinner and we book a taxi to take us to a recommended restaurant down by the port, Sqala.
This restaurant is located in the old fort. It has some outdoor tree-shaded space and some glassed-in inside areas. We opt to eat inside as it’s not very warm outside, but the tree-covered area looks like it would be lovely in summer. We order mint tea, mixed starters, tagine, and a fabulous dessert called jawhara. Jawhara was a fabulous discovery. If you can imagine honey nut cornflakes, but the cornflakes are the size of a side plate, and the honey and nuts are poured fresh over them with some kind of condensed milk. Surprisingly it wasn’t as sweet as we expected, and it was delicious in a sweet-sticky-crunchy way.
Once back at the hotel around 10pm we go back to the awards room which is looking even more impressive now. The project team bring in cake with candles – it’s our marketing expert’s birthday! She’s been working so hard on this event for the past two months and she can’t even take time off to celebrate her birthday.
Back in my room, I dig out my laptop and load up my presentation for the Steering Committee. I go through my slides one-by-one, working out what I’m going to say. I anticipate the questions, and I research potential answers, cross-checking several systems. It’s just about midnight when I switch off my light to try and sleep.