Business travel diary – Day 5 (&6)

My last full hotel day. I will miss this hotel and the little touches of care I find from the cleaners every day, whether it’s tidying my shoes, folding my pyjamas, sorting my toiletries into neat arrangements, arranging my slippers and towels in a decorative way, or even leaving me a flower!

I end up only going to one meeting today, and that’s planning an evaluation visit due in a couple of months. It’s only 100 metres or so between the consultant office and the hotel, but I end up gasping and coughing after both walks. My engineer colleague is really concerned about my health and how this short walk has left me out of breath. Again, I explain I will got to the doctor as soon as I get home, because what can I do here in Casablanca?

I work in the hotel lounge with a pot of mint tea for a little while in the afternoon, to give the cleaners some time to work their magic in my room. Ah, mint tea! So soothing for my rough cough.

My colleague excuses me from the afternoon meeting – it’s a 20 minute walk away. I say I can make it but will need five minutes to recover my breath and get the coughing out of the way before we go in. He expresses concern about this and decides it’s better I don’t go and stay at the hotel and do work there instead. Fine by me. I carry on working in my room until regular knocking off time, around 5.30pm.

I decide to go look for the Art Nouveau hotel somewhere nearby, which was recommended as something to see. Even if I’m sick, it’s good to get out of the hotel and see a little bit of the city.

On the way out, I pop by the hammam in the hotel to make an appointment. I figure that after this horrible week with poor sleep and body wrecked by coughing and all other physical stresses, why not treat myself to a relaxing steam and massage in the hammam?

I walk around outside for about 20 minutes. I follow the route that Google maps indicated but don’t find the hotel. I walk down various side streets in the neighbourhood but still don’t see it. I decide to give up and go back for my hammam.

This is only my second hammam experience, but I know the routine.

Step 1: steam to relax and sweat and loosen up. At first I enjoy the steam room, sitting on the white pooished marble, sweating out a week of stress, all that warm moist air soothing my dry crotchety lungs. I don’t cough at all. This is great! But after a little while, the steam starts to get to me, it’s very hot in there, I am feeling dizzy. I worry about passing out. I stick my nose near the door to try and get some cooler air. I’m starting to feel like I might pass out when someone comes to fetch me out. “Zauf!” she says when she sees me. (Or at least something that sounds like zauf. )

Step 2: exfoliation. Now that all the junk in your skin is sweated out, time to scrub that grubby outer layer away. I am scrubbed at with something more aggressive than a loofah. I feel the rough outer layer of skin being scrubbed away. Despite this not being very comfortable, it is still strangely relaxing.

Step 3: Massage. I am taken into a third room for the massage. It’s one of the most thorough massages of my life. Not only does she release the knots in my shoulders (after a sick and stressful week, my shoulders have the feel of cobblestones), she massages my fingers, my toes, my scalp, even my belly (not entirely relaxing that, she used her elbows to massage sore pressure points).

After all this pampering, I go back to my room, feeling completely relaxed and refreshed, ready for a good night of sleep before my 4am wake up call.

I order room service dinner. The food is delicious. I drink a lot of water to replace what I’ve sweated out and wash away anything loosened by the massage. I am going to sleep well.

Except I don’t.

My sleep is interrupted three times by coughing fits so bad I throw up part of dinner. Several times. Sometime around 3am I decide not to bother pretending to sleep anymore, so I get up, shower and finish packing. Allowing some extra time for coughing, I am down in reception at 4.10am, paying my bill. My colleague arrives at 4.25am, surprised to see me already there.

Transfer to the airport, very fast at that time of morning. I get an update on the meeting I missed yesterday but I am not taking much in. My thoughts are directed towards getting a doctor’s appointment as soon as I get home.

Casablanca airport has its own cat. He wasn’t wearing a collar or staff ID tag but I assume he works there on mouse control duties. If you’re at the airport early enough you may see him sleeping on the job.

And then it’s time to board. Time to enjoy my special privileges and special menu one more time, although I am so tired and sick I just want to go home and sleep. Business travel is not always glamourous, especially when you’re sick.

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