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Fridays with Firdosh

Dear Colleagues and friends, May 07, 2021

Day after day, on cable TV and the radio the pandemic sound-bites are almost at a point where unless one is personally affected by family tragedy, one begins to try and shut them out, or at best, mention them as a side-note in daily conversations. I have to believe that the staggering 153 million cases and 3.2 million deaths globally also represent a dreaded sense of fatigue that has numbed the world's population.

Personally, the tragedy hit home last month when my 52-year old cousin succumbed to the virus, begging unsuccessfully for a hospital bed and a ventilator. Sadly, she’s become a statistic, joining thousands upon thousands in India, where the country not only has run out of life-saving oxygen but also the wood necessary for funeral pyres. Someday, history will clarify where mistakes were made and why.

Closer to home, there have been a couple of heart-wrenching phone calls from our dear friends informing about the tragedies in their families. My deepest condolences go out to them and to ALL families that have lost loved ones who did not deserve to die the way they did. But, rest assured, there will come a day when we can, with great relief, claim to have beaten Covid-19!

Meanwhile, due to uncertainty, the government-initiated, month-by-month extensions on travel bans continue. On the other hand, several countries in Europe, the Middle-east, Asia and South America have announced ‘opening dates’ in May, June and July 2021’ to Fully-Vaccinated international visitors. I too, have been busy with definite requests from travel agencies whose clients want to ‘go places’ - Croatia, Kenya, Tanzania, Portugal, Italy, South Africa, and Thailand, to name a few. Not this year, but all for travel in 2022 and on into 2023. Let’s hope and pray that all this optimism comes to fruition! But, life has to go on. lighten the mood, let me share with you one of our ‘remember forever‘ travel moments.

During my 40-year career as a Tour Operator, I have forged partnerships with the best suppliers in those destinations where I operate my tours, and these have blossomed into life-long friendships. Morocco is no exception. Having travelled there several times on business, in 1997 my wife and I decided on a Moroccan holiday. Thanks to the wonderful hospitality of our supplier, we were hosted at the country's best hotels and resorts. Morocco also has some great golf courses and knowing my love for the game, our supplier hosted us in Marrakech, at a 5-star palace resort attached to Palmeraie Golf Course, listed amongst the top courses in Africa. On our arrival, we discovered that we were booked into the Royal Suite - a stand-alone building, away from the main resort, in a beautifully landscaped garden. One needed a golf cart to get from the main reception area and from the resort restaurants to this suite which, we were informed, was exclusively used for the King of Morocco's VVIP guests and by high ranking government officials. Since His Majesty was not in Marrakech at that time and the suite unoccupied, my supplier friend pulled a few strings and made it available for us. The bedroom had opulent furnishings, silk linens, granite floors with rich carpets and ceilings covered in decorative tile work and intricate calligraphy. The suite opened onto a terrace with panoramic views of the Palmeraie Golf Course and could easily entertain at least 100 guests! The bathroom was larger than three-quarters of the entire ground floor of our house in Canada and of course, fitted with Italian marble tubs and sinks and gold-plated taps and showers. Pinch me, please! Were we living in a dream?

After unpacking, my wife went to explore the vast bathroom, only to return to report that neither the taps nor the toilet flush had any water flow. I called housekeeping and learnt that when the suite remained unoccupied, they always cut off the water. Since there were no alerts of any VVIP arrival, the water remained turned off. Profusely apologizing, they turned it on, but the issues continued as it kept being cut off even when the sprinklers came on the golf course's fairways! We managed well in-between these shortages however it was the other oddity that became a bit of a problem for my wife. The night-watchman during his nightly security duty did walkabouts, his baton tapping loudly on doors, windows and floors. I don’t believe he ever received the memo about our stay. And so the taps came around at 12:30am and again at 3:30am. Now, I can sleep through a severe thunderstorm but my wife is such a light sleeper that a butterfly flutter wakes her up.

While sympathizing with my wife, I also felt sorry for the reception and housekeeping staff whom we regularly disturbed at odd hours of the day and night. To this day, I have to believe that we were given the Royal Suite, but it was to remain a hush-hush affair! And to this day, we are ever so grateful to my dear friend Aziz for the wonderful memories. If there’s one lesson from all this, I strongly believe that such little oddities, if taken in stride with a positive frame of mind, will entrench memorable moments that we cherish forever.

Until next time.

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