Earlier this month I had a real wonderful chance to go to a country I have so far heard about in the news or saw in the world atlas. It was a last minute decision,it seemed like normal now for the MoE,last minute decision that is. I was not told that I can go until the morning of the trip. I can only broke the news to the family that morning. The journey to Rabat in Morocco or Maroc in French or Maghribi in Arabic took me to Paris Charles de Gaul (CDG) for a 12 – hour transit. The morning was really cold. I decided to wait it out at the terminal as I do not bring any winter clothing with me. I was checking the world weather a few days before and it showed that the temperature in Rabat was around 14-15C, something that I believe I can tolerate. Hence the decision not to bring any jumper or winter coat. Not knowing there’s going to be a 12 hour transit in CDG airport is another thing. Then again Paris is an expensive city, I have been there before, and I do not have much money to spend, so 12-hour it was, me and another colleague roaming the Terminal 2L CGD, Paris. Inside the terminal was warm and cosy and surprisingly terminal 2L has a prayer room for solat – real bonus. Just like any other airport, it is haven for shoppers. Even inside the 2L terminal you would be spoilt for choices. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, the 300 odd USD that I have must be conserved for the on coming, Rabat, Marakesh and Guelmim visit.
The plane to rabat, Air France took me on another two hour journey, everything were in Arabic and French. We arrived in Rabat Sale Aeroport (as they called here, instead of airport) is a smallish airport, probably of the size K Terengganu or Kota Bharu Airport. It has only two gates ( from my observation). By the time we got through the immigration, the luggage carousel has stopped and our luggage were missing. This is the second time I eperienced missing luggage, the last was almost 30 years ago on my wedding day!. We were told to wait at the hotel, they will trace the luggage to Paris. So for the opening ceremony the next day, I was wearing the same clothes that I wore almost 30 hours before! Fortunately the weather was cold and there was hardly any sweating. We were saved from being smelly, but due to the low temperature I was shivering. I had the thick jacket inside the cargo bag. Fortunately in the opening ceremony it was announced by the host that our luggage have been delivered to the hotel.
We were in Maghribi at the invitaion of the Hassan II Academie des Sciences to work on the collaboration between Morocco and Malaysia. The journey was sponsored together by Malaysia Academy of Science and Ministry of Education and Training, Maghribi. MoE of Malaysia chipped in with the cost of airfare for the MoE officers, including yours truly.
They were two groups involved, one was the group on renewable energy and the other on education. The whole delegation was led by Tan Sri Zaidi Laidin, former VC of UITM, now a senior fellow in ASM. The education group was led by Dato Dr Sharifah Maimunah, former BPK director. I was supposed to speak on malysian schools e-learning experience. It was quite a challenge to communicate as most of the Moroccan team cannot converse in english, despite understanding our presentation. But, most of them can converse in fench and Arabic, constantly switching between codes. I noticed that the more educated ones speak mainly Fench, while the man on the street speak Arabic or Amezer (their second language).