Nobody Expects The Chinese Inquisition!

Recently we met a descendant of the last Chinese emperor. He was camping. How strange it was to meet this ridiculously high born man in such a lowly place. It was an exceptional encounter which we thought would bear retelling, in view of this weeks announcement by the British Government to remove all Huawie products and services from all telecom businesses operating in the UK.

Our new best friend.

We were visiting Morocco, motorcycle touring with no plan, and had come to the lagoon town of Moulay Bousselham. On our first afternoon in the stunning campsite a fellow English man turned up in a tatty pickup truck, and we fell into comfortable conversation. In no time at all we had agreed to share an evening meal and the three of us took a sunset stroll to the little market to see what we could find to eat.

Moulay Bousselham market

Well provisioned, we headed back to the campsite to prepare a feast. Now this guy had it all, a tent on top of his pickup truck, and in the bed of the pickup, under the base of the tent, was stored all his ‘essentials’, accessed by dropping the tailgate. Where we had a simple trangia to cook on, a plate and a fork each and a couple of penknives for food prep, he had the works. Out came a home made, three part bar-b-q, plates and cutlery galore and cooking pans of all descriptions. What his vehicle lacked in style, it more than made up for in substance.

Three part, homemade BBQ

The three of us chatted as we ate a delicious and very simple meal. We agreed that what had caught our eye here on site, was another pick-up truck; pristine, bright, cherry red, with a tent on top, and sporting a blemish free, bright daffodil yellow, sea kayak. This was pure bling. It had Chinese number plates and everything looked brand new. Who on earth owned something like this? What were they doing here?

Camping in Moulay Bousselham, Morocco.

We went to bed that night full to bursting. The next morning our new friend was gone; we had said our goodbyes the night before, as he had planned a dawn getaway. The super-duper pick-up truck was still on site. We admired it before heading out to explore the lagoon. When we wandered back, there was the cherry red pickup truck, parked outside the campsite cafe. We decided it was time to have a drink and strike up yet another conversation. We stepped out of the sunshine and into the cool, dull gloom of the cafe.

This way to the interrogation centre

Sitting at a table, facing the door, was a robust Chinese man. As we entered, I said, in my very best, ‘help the foreigner understand’ simple English, “Hello. You have kayak?” Point at the boat on the pickup truck. “We have kayak. We kayak sea,” Point at myself then, wavy hand gesture. “You kayak sea?” We waited, as, saying nothing, he fixed us with a condescending stare. Then on I blundered, “Where you from? We from England.” He pointedly looked us up and down. I began to feel a bit of a Wally as I stood at his table with his contempt washing over me .

He drew a languorous breath, swished a regal hand and asked, “Would you care to join me? You’d be most welcome. Please, sit down.”

His English was flawless, well pronounced and more complex than my first few sentences to him. And so began a long conversation, or interrogation, lasting several hours.

We had stumbled into a trap which has left us pondering the Chinese State ever since. He told us his name; we forgot it, he said that he is a non teaching professor who is married to a professor, who teaches in a German university; we cannot remember which university and finally, he is a direct descendent of the last Chinese emperor; that much we remember about him. He was a drifter, who could come and go from China as he wished, sponsored by the Chinese government. It soon became clear that, what at first seemed to be a flattering degree of interest in us and our lives, was really a quest to garner the zeitgeist of us and the non-Chinese peoples and how we perceived China, it’s people and it’s politics.

It was interesting to hear how the Chinese people had to be governed by a totalitarian state, as they were happy with this and would find it impossible to cope with a full range of choices, should they ever be afforded the chance. The State oversaw all businesses, so no business was fully private. As all business exists for the good of the nation, it is only to be expected that the nation is involved in all businesses. He had difficulty understanding why we found that preposterous. He felt all peoples would be happier if controlled by a paternalistic state. Of course he was looking for a visceral, honest response, rather than a polite, British understatement. The conversation was wide ranging and frank. He was phenomenally well read and intelligent, able to call up any and all facts, figures, international historical details and dates as well as financial and political information, as needed to illustrate his arguments. Academically, he left us standing, and we have our foot on at least one rung of the clever ladder.

The Emperor’s descendant’s rig.

So we now knew who owned the red pickup truck and what he was doing here. The emperor’s descendent was wandering the world to find out how the people of other nations, any other nations, would respond to being ruled by a Chinese Government. How hard might it be to subjugate an entire nation? Would it be worth the trouble? Would we, the non Chinese, submit to totalitarianism and, if not, would we at least be happy to keep buying their goods?

We enjoyed the conversation that evening. It is not that often that we have to work hard to answer deep and searching questions whilst parrying with our inquisitor. He was leaving early the next day and he asked that we meet him before he left as he wanted to exchange details. He hoped that we might get together again in the future. He offered to drive with us across Europe and into China. Sadly, by the time we crawled out of our tent, he was gone.

We were relieved. I think we got off lightly.

Weird as it may seem, this is a true tale. If you’ve an unusual encounters tale to tell, please share it with us; we love hearing from you. Simply use any of the options below. The Wallys xx


Don’t miss the short video at the bottom of this page.

We’d not long arrived in Moulay Bousslham after a day sitting on our bikes and we needed a walk. We headed for the lagoon, which is beside the campsite, followed by a breathtaking walk. After no more than an hour, we found ourselves on the end of a sand spit, with the wild Atlantic on one side and the serene lagoon on the other. A fast flowing channel joined the two.

As we meandered about, picking up shells and watching the little fishing boats ride the surf and then the narrows to return to safe harbour, a man caught my attention. It was Omar, who had spent the day line fishing and wanted me to take a picture of him with his meagre catch. He spoke as much French and Spanish as me; so, not much!

We exchanged phone numbers, so that we could send the photos to his smart phone, which he kept at home. That evening, after a great meal in one of dozens of fantastic and cheap restaurants here in town, we sent off his photos.

Our evening meal, overlooking the sea.

The next day dawned misty and cold and we headed off to a small town an hour away for a huge local Sunday market. Two hours later we arrived, but that’s another story. When we got back we checked our messages to find Omar had invited us to his home the following day. After a couple of WhatsApp video chats, everything was set. He would pick us up at 9.00am, we would buy food, eat at his home, look at his village, go to Larache, a beautifully elegant seaside town, and then be returned to our campsite. It was a risky opportunity and we accepted graciously. We were now ‘Omars Amigos’.

The campsite service vehicle, emptying the bins.

The next day went to plan. We were picked up, we shopped in Omar’s local town for fish, vegetables and fruit and then whizzed off to chez Omar, deep in the Moroccan hinterland.

Shopping in Omar’s nearest town

His little village; cart wide mud tracks, no tarmac, well water, jury rigged house electricity, small junior school and a small mosque, buildings limewashed in pinks, sand and blues. The whole place feels like a warren of tunnels. Behind the ubiquitous 2m high, walls and double steel gates, was the milk seller, behind others, their father, brother, cousin (mi prima/o), uncle. Suddenly the lanes dissolve into a clearing and there is a tiny shop, bustling with buyers, and someone repairing a vehicle, horses and carts ply their trade; and then we squeeze back into the maze. It all flashed by so fast.

Omar’s uncle’s house.

Here the horse and cart rule. For Omar to own and run a car is a status symbol and a source of income. He ferries people to and fro within the dirt track system that he calls home. It is a place no ‘Petit Taxi’ dares to enter, for fear of the damage that would be done to the cars suspension.

The more usual transport here, horse and cart.

We had to wait for the food to be cooked by the women of the family. The men and I chatted and drank tea and water, in a pristine sitting room, as Omars mother presided. Mum and I wandered in and out of the man space and gave a hand with the food preparations. It was a chance to meet every one else.

Dancing in the kitchen with the women and children.

After our meal, eaten with no cutlery, in a different, equally beautiful room, whilst sitting on softly upholstered, ground level seats, at low level tables, I was dragged away by mum. The women and children had cleared the kitchen and it now it became a disco. And we danced.

Locally grown strawberries.

Soon Omar turned up and dragged me away from the party; I seem to be popular in these parts. It was time to head off to Larache and then afterwards back to the campsite.

We recommend Larache. The influence of the French is evident. This place has it all, sandy beaches, fishing port and market, ancient Spanish fort and a fading charm that is hard to resist.


We were returned to the campsite to find the Chinese Emperor and the German couple gone. We now have a new neighbour. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.