The Mystical and Magical Morocco - United Hub

The mystical and magical Morocco

By The Hub team

Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.

By SFO Customer Service Representative Madhura Chitale

I've always wanted to see the Sahara Desert, explore old medinas and eat the delicious food of Morocco, a place I imagined to be very exotic and full of colorful palaces. Recently, I finally got to experience all that when I decided to take a trip there with some co-workers and friends.

Madhura Chitale and friends in Morocco

We decided to go to Marrakech first. Once we arrived we headed straight to our bed and breakfast we had booked in the historic district. After having mint tea and a good lunch, we visited the medina and explored some beautiful architecture. A medina quarter is a distinct city section found in many North African cities that is typically walled, with many narrow and maze-like streets.

After exploring the medina, we went to the famous Jemaa-el-Fnaa Square, where you can find hundreds of people at night eating and shopping. Later that night we decided to go to a travel agency to find transportation for our trip to the Sahara Desert. We decided on a tour guide who took us to the desert in a Land Cruiser the next morning and brought us back the following day. It was a very long trip, but worth the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Early the next morning, our travel began with a drive across the high Atlas Mountains. We passed many beautiful villages and made a stop in Ait Benhaddou -- a walled city along the former caravan route between the Sahara Desert and Marrakech, as well as the famous Kasbah, which has been used in various films as a backdrop.

We stopped in Ouarzazate to have lunch and then crossed a more than 120 mile long Draa Valley to arrive in Merzouga, the gateway to the dunes of the Moroccan Sahara Desert. We arrived at night and rode camels to our Berber camp. It was so dark that we could see the Milky Way very clearly. Once at the campsite, we had a wonderful homemade dinner, while watching Berber people playing music. As all the lights went off, we could fully appreciate the starry sky. There is nothing around you, and all you can hear are footsteps of camels on soft sand -- it was a dramatic experience.

camels in Morocco

The next morning we were ready to climb the dunes and take lovely pictures of the sunrise. Our bodies were a little sore from trekking for an hour the previous night, so we decided to take road transportation to the starting point of our camel safari. We have very fond memories of the entire journey, during which we experienced the most beautiful, spectacular and dramatic scenery in the world.

The next day we took a train to Fez, famous for its walled medina. We wandered through a maze-like city of minarets with Arabic and French influence. The medina of Fez was founded in the 9th century at around the same time that Islam arrived in Morocco and the imperial rule of the country began. Fez was the capital of Morocco until 1912. We also visited the Jewish quarter, The Mellah, where few Jewish people still live.

Exploring archaeological sites in Morocco

After leaving Fez, we explored the archaeological site of Volubilis. This was a Roman city dating back to the 3rd century BC and was a central administrative city of this part of Roman Africa. People lived there for more than 1,000 years until it was abandoned in 18th century and was demolished in order to build the palace of the Sultan in Meknes. We visited Bab el-Mansour, which is the main gate between the Meknes medina and Imperial City districts. The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail is the tomb of Morocco's greatest ruler, who made Meknes his capital city in the 17th century.

After exploring imperial cities of Morocco, our last stop was Tangier. We took a four-hour drive by private van from Fez to Tangier, which is a Moroccan port on the Strait of Gibraltar. We took a ferry across to Tarifa, Spain, ending our fabulous trip to mystical and magical Morocco.

Reflecting on Veterans Day: a message from our CEO Oscar Munoz

By Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines , November 11, 2019

Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.

When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.

They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.

I want them to look no further than United Airlines.

That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.

They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.

That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.

We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.

We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.

We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.

As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.

Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.

They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.

Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.

Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.

Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.

But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.

We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.

It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.

On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.

Humbly,

Oscar

United named a top workplace for veterans

By The Hub team , November 10, 2019

Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.

"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.

"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."

Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.

Mission Accomplished

By Matt Adams , November 06, 2019

The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.

Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.

Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.

Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.

"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."

When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.

For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.

Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.

That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.

"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."

The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.

About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.

"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."

When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.

"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."

On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.

"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."

For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.

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