Hey George –
Just passed through customs and found a computer terminal where people can send any last minute messages while they wait to be transported.
Here are the notes I promised you. You should be able to work them into the Preface.
The line for pre-screening snakes back and forth almost to the entrance. Pre-screening was just one of those annoying things you had to put up with. Which doesn’t mean I liked it. But, they can’t exactly screen when you get there can they?
Waiting at customs pre-screening gets worse every year. . . Look at the lineup – North Africa has never been so popular. . . . I wonder if that documentary on Ibn Battuta had anything to do with it? . . . I hope not, I like Tangiers but too many tourists can be a problem. They really have to start limiting the number of tourists that visit the most popular places.
Christ there are only two screeners. . . . I’ll be here for hours – should have hired a placeholder.
‘Placeholders’ were introduced last year. For a fee, you could hire a ‘placeholder’, then wait in a lounge until your ‘placeholder’ reached the front of the line. The fee varies with the length of the line. It will be very high today – still, the lounge looked full.
The line inches forward. I start checking out other people in the line looking for first timers. They are easy to spot, fidgeting and pulling at their clothing. I see a woman bound for Egypt. She looks like Liz Taylor in Cleopatra.
‘She’ll get rejected. Showing up dressed like that she’ll start a riot. . . . Doesn’t anyone read the travel information on proper attire? . . . It's there for a reason folks!’
The fellow beside me going the other way is obviously military. Unless you are an anthropologist, I can’t see any reason to visit an ancient battlefield.
‘He has all the right kit. Maybe El Alamein – nope, Australian insignia. So probably Tobruk. . . . Too dangerous.’
To pass the time I start a conversation with the man behind me.
I used my traveling name “Mahdi”
“Where you headed?”
“Albulae, I’m fascinated by Roman history.”
“Well you certainly look the part.”
He laughs. “Did a little research; gotta fit in. . . . How about you?”
“Tangiers. I travel for the food. In my opinion, you can’t beat Tangiers. There are so many varieties of cuisine, from Berber to sub-Saharan. Some of the dishes go back to the Carthagenians.”
The line moves again and the military man is replaced by a couple.
'Not sure where they think they are going, but I know they will be rejected – at least he will. . . . A little scent is OK but whatever he is going they don't wear Old Spice.'
I have become so used to the body odor of my fellow travelers that the smell of his deodorant makes me gag.
I tap the side of my nose. Marcus smiles – he knows what I mean.
Looks like they have added two more screeners, the line is moving a little faster.
There is a commotion near the money exchange machine near the building entrance. Sounds like they have run out of one of the local currencies. Getting the currency right is always a problem. You can get one of the major currencies and then go through a local money changer – but they charge way too much.
Marcus asks “Do you need a lot of money for your trip?”
“I don’t carry much currency. Far better to take something that is cheap here but they will pay dearly for. It works the other way too. There are things I can buy there that are things I can buy there that I can sell for a profit.”
“No – you need to have proof that you purchased the item from the original owner.” I laughed “ Good luck getting that” I didn’t say what I was importing, no sense in encouraging competition.
The line takes a large move forward. A tour has been taken out of the line for separate screening. The tour guide would have been certified to do prescreening. They would just be checking his paperwork.
I am at the customs counter a lot sooner than I expected. I went into the scanner room and removed my clothing. I went into the body scanner while my clothes went through a combination scanner and sterilizer. It bombarded them with enough X-rays to fry any electronics and kill any bacteria or virus. Customs are pretty strict. There have been too many incidents of people smuggling items through customs.
The customs officer scans the ID chip embedded in my arm.
“Where you headed?”
“How long are you staying?”
“Hopefully, about three years.”
That is a LOT longer than most people can afford to stay.
“How are you going to support yourself for three years?”
I lift up my travel bag - “Peppercorns!”
He laughs - “That will do it.”
“What will you be doing while you are there?”
“I am going to try and join Ibn Battuta’s caravan to Timbuktu and Gao.” I didn’t mention that on the return trip the caravan was transporting female slaves. I didn’t want him calling the ethics officer.
‘Really looking forward to the food in Gao. There should be food from all over the Mali Empire. Things that don’t make it as far north as Tangiers’
He looks at me as if to say ‘Why couldn’t you make this simple.’ He scans for any other tourists booked for Tangiers in 1351. There are restrictions on the number of tourists who can associate with a historical figure in any time period. He found one other entry but he went for Eid al-Azha, which, fortunately for me, fell in April that year. Time travel is strange – the other person went last year. I couldn’t help but wonder if, in fifty years, there would be any major events that weren’t full of time tourists.
“I can let you go any time after May 1st.”
“August 15th will be fine.” That will give me enough time to make contact with Ibn Battatu.
“Bringing anything back?”
“Saffron.” I showed him my import license. I brought back some saffron on my last trip. It needed to be sterilized before import – but that hadn’t changed the taste. I made a nice profit.
I signed the waiver absolving the transport company from any liability should I die or be seriously injured on my trip. Even a small scratch can be fatal, so they gave me one final shot of antibiotics and I went to wait for transport.
Time travel can be a bit unnerving. It is very important to pick a landing site where you won’t be noticed. Can’t have someone popping into existence in the middle of a crowd. I like to arrive at night about ten miles outside Tangiers on the road to Fez.
They are calling me for transport – I will send you my notes for the book once I get back.
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Oh, this is quite unique. I like the ethical questions it raises: what does it mean when you travel back in time and become complicit in atrocities? I could see much more written on this theme.
Thank you for the comment. Everything in science has an ethical component. Would a time traveller be complicit? I am not sure. Like most things - it depends. ;-)