Into Africa...

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November 28th 2006
Published: November 30th 2006
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Shipping outShipping outShipping out

Our ferry that took us across the strait of gibralter and into Africa...
After 4 days of not showering, braving turkish toilets, and eating every meal with my right hand, I have to say that my time in Morocco was an absolutely incredible and mind-blowing experience.

after an underwhelming thanksgiving dinner (it lacked such essential elements as sweet potatoes and green beans) i ran back to my place to shower and change as well as do a quick chat with the fam on skype. got my 10:30 overnight bus to Algeciras, a port city in the south of Spain, and had a miserable night's sleep crammed into a seat seemingly made for gnomes. a few others on the bus stuck out as americans and sure enough they were part of morocco exchange as well. at 6:30 we got into the station and basically hung around for two hours until meeting our group leader. almost everyone in my group of 13 was studying in Granada, though there was one girl studying in Madrid, 2 in Barcelona, and one randomly in Milan. it was cool because while the other group of 11 was mostly east coast preppy school kids, aka the ppl i'm used to, my group had a bunch of kids from texas, the

in one of the plazas in Tangier, right on the northern coast of Morocco
carolinas, etc. cool beans...our leader, zach, was pretty chill; he spent two years in the peace core in a berber village in the south of morocco and now lives in granada working with the morocco exchange program.

at about 9 we headed to the ferry and by 9:30 we were off into the strait of Gibraltar and on our way to Africa...we got some reading materials about Morocco and Arabic and whatnot and had a breakfast of bread, cheese, oranges, cookies, and juice. the ferry was delayed a little bit but we were in Morocco by an hour and a half or so. customs was pretty much bullshit, so we passed right on through that and met our van driver. we loaded our bags and then went to change money. the moroccan currency is the dirham and you get about 10 dirhams for each euro. cramming into the van, we headed through the city of Tangier and to a woman's organization called DARNA. they offer courses for illerate women, teach them how to do traditional weaving and other stuff so as to be able to generate an income. they also have a restaurant, which is where we would be

women at the Darna center working on the traditional loom
having lunch.

so yea, we got a tour of the place and then sat down to chat over moroccan mint tea with a few Moroccan girls who were studying english translation. the mint tea is pretty amazing - just a green tea base with lots of sugar and then flavored with fresh mint leaves. we talked with the girls about life there, islamic practices, etc. before heading downstairs for some delicious cous cous with vegetables followed by a lemon-meringue-type tart for dessert. one thing i have to say about morocco is that you can eat like a king there, and its some of the most flavorful delicious food ever for quite cheap. the cith itself seemed pretty cool; since i've been to istanbul i wasn't shocked by the islamic dress or anything, though there are a lot more traditionally islamic-dressed men in morocco than in istanbul. the minarets have this really awesome african style thats a lot different from turkey as well, though the call to prayer sounded uglier in my opinion.

packing into the van once again, we started our journey along the atlantic coast, but first we had a little surprise stop to ride camels. there

still in Tangier
was basically just a random pack of camels on the side of the road along the water with a few moroccan men. we got out and basically just took turns getting on them (easier said than done). the camel that was behind mine kept trying to like lick the genitals of my camel, so my ride got a little bumpy at times, but it was awesome, and so beautiful just riding along the ocean. once that was done with, we continued riding along as evening set in. at one point, when i was the only one awake, i noticed a bag fly off the roof and into the street so that was kind of funny. obviously i woke everyone up and we pulled over to get it.

our next stop was Asilah, a seaside town with whitewashed walls. we walked through the medina, took pictures looking out into the ocean, and ate coconut meringue cookies. mmm. moving on, we eventually stopped at a rest stop and it was interesting because there were like bathrooms but also a room with carpets on the ground so people could stop and do their praying toward mecca. finally, at about 8:30 we arrived

riding camels on the Atlantic coast...
in Rabat where we would meet our host families. i had gotten friendly with this guy Austin from Texas (*chuckles*) so we ended up rooming together with one family. It was a Mom, Dad, two brothers in their late 20s, a maybe 16 year old sister, and then a 10 year old-type lilttle girl. the house was awesome, full of long couches and really cool arabic-style archways. we stayed in a side room with couches along every wall. the bathroom thankfully had a western toilet (though it had a turkish one, aka hole in the ground, as well) except that to "flush" you had to fill a bucket with water and pour it in. funny how all that happened was that the piss got diluted and rose further to the top of the bowl. needless to say there was NO defecation to be going on during my stay...

one of the brothers, Derek or some arabic form of the name, spoke some english so he was basically our translator. dinner was served soon, and since it was friday we had a giant plate of cous cous with chicken and vegetables plus fresh bread. in islamic culture its taboo to eat with your left hand (aka ass-wiping hand) so for and austin, both left-handed, it was incredibly awkward. we had to sit on our hands to as to not use it and basically looked like we had parkinsons as we raised our forks to our mouths. after dinner we had a round of mint tea, amazing, and then went for a walk through the medina with derek. the old part of the city seemed really cool, and at night there were tons of men just grilling all kinds of things on the street. one weird thing was that people don't sell packs of cigarettes, just individual ones, so derek engaged in that. he also told us how he was drunk every day the week before. funny how alcohol is prohibited in traditional islamic culture, and his family is definitely a devout and practicing family. oh well, haha. after our little walk we headed to bed since we had an early start the next (and every) morning.

DAY TWO..............

woke up a little before 8 and had a delicious breakfast of mint tea, these cakes with coconut and chocolate sprinkling, english-muffin-esque biscuits, butter, apricot jam, and these moroccan pancake

the seaside town of Asila
things. by 8:30 we were up and out and on our way to Rabat University where we would engage in a discussion about the stereotypes americans have about Islam and the Arab world with a professor there. it ended up being more of a lecture than a discussion, but it was pretty interesting to hear the perspective from a Moroccan Muslim who's lived in the states, etc. one thing that is clear to me now is basically that much of the Arab world has FUCKED UP islam big time. its just twisted into a repressive political tool...Anyway, i bought a little book of the professor's about basically what we had discussed and then headed out with the group.

our next stop were the Roman ruins of Chellah, probably the most beautiful place I saw in Morocco. it was oddly cold and rainy, but that made the experience pretty cool with all the lush greenery and whatnot. the place was obviously inhabited by the romans until their downfall and later was inhabited by the Almohad Islamic dynasty in later centuries and converted into a necropolis. as a result an imposing main gate was constructed, as well as a minaret and
me in Asilame in Asilame in Asila

the town and the Atlantic in the background...
other things. nowadays its basically the storks that live there. there is, however, this one pool with eels that live there that still attracts women in today's society who are infertile and offer up candles and throw hard-boiled eggs to the eels. there's also about 100 cats and chickens that live there, and they appeared to be "taken care of" by this random Moroccan guy. cool stuff...

back in the medina, we sat down to lunch with our family. naturally, it was freaking delicious...a heaping plate of rice with cooked veggies, chopped fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, fresh bread that we could scoop up this roasted pepper stuff with, and then a steaming dish of turkey meatballs in a really good tomato sauce. for dessert we had apples, bananas, and incredibly delicious little oranges.

the rest of the afternoon and evening was spent exploring the city with the help of Moroccan students. we were all split up into small groups with a couple moroccans and we went off on our way. i was with the 3 other guys plus Abdul and Youseff, both in their late 20's methinks. we first walked (in the rain and wind) into this one
big happy familybig happy familybig happy family

me with the Moroccan family i stayed with
area that looked out on the ocean before heading into the market. it was definitely a legit market with everything from pig carcasses to knock-off jeans, not quite so touristy. we ended up hanging out for a couple of hours at this pool hall and hookah place, which was quite awesome. we just chilled with our shisha (as its called there) and of course, mint tea, soaking it all in and watching arabic music videos on the big flatscreen on the wall. by that point i was, go to the bathroom, and i thought i'd be slick and do it at the pool hall. it was a nice bathroom with flushing toilets, but of course there was no effing toilet paper so i had to yet again hold out...i know you all wanted to know that...

at around 7:30 we headed back through the bustling market, nibbling on roasted beans that Youssef had bought and just talking about random things, including obviuosly Islamic belief and tradition. meeting back with the group we were approached by these two drunk-off-their-asses moroccan guys that i spoke french with. that was fun. the world isn't so small after all! then it was
inside the house...inside the house...inside the house...

where i ate every day...pretty cool, huh?
time for dinner. ironically enough, we had spaghetti and meatballs, except that it was probably the most delicious spaghetti and meatballs i've ever had in my life. it was difficult to not scarf the entire platter down.

after dinner everyone from the group came over to my house so as to chat with zach and the other leader about the peace corps as well as fulbright opportunities. after the weekend so far all of us were rearing and ready to go change the world. i really do hope to end up doing something in bulgaria after i graduate...we'll see...after dinner i chilled with austin and the fam watching 'numbers', the american series, on tv. then it was once again time for bed...however, i forgot to mention one thing, that being the giant open hole in the ceiling. its there on purpose, like a sun roof, except when it rains there's literally a downpour in the house. the family just like sits there and pretends nothing is going on while its raining like 2 feet next to them. all the furniture is around the sides of the room so nothing gets wet, and the water just drains into a grate.

all kinds of delicious breads and cakes and whatnot, plus amazing mint tea
we got up after going to bed because it was raining so hard and thought maybe we'd need to help like unflood the house, but all was ok...then it was back to bed...

stay tuned for days 3 and 4...

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


entrance to Chellahentrance to Chellah
entrance to Chellah

amazing ruins inside...
stork on the minaretstork on the minaret
stork on the minaret

Minaret built in the 14th century by one of the islamic dynasties upon the ancient roman ruins
Roman ruins...Roman ruins...
Roman ruins...

cats and eelscats and eels
cats and eels

gathering around the eel pool along with dozens of cats and chickens and the like...
dead kings!dead kings!
dead kings!

where the last two kings of morocco are buried...
Minaret again...Minaret again...
Minaret again...

intended to be the tallest minaret in the Arab world but was never finished due to lack of funding some half dozen centuries ago...

rice with all kids of vegetables, plus bread with a really good bread with roasted red peppers...then came essentially turkey meatballs in a savory tomato sauce..mmm...
americans and moroccans...americans and moroccans...
americans and moroccans...

Austin, Abdu, random Moroccan, me, Youssef, Kevin, Corey

1st December 2006

wow that all looks awesome!! very different from most the other places you´ve been obviously... but def cool!!! oh hey and fridays was a good time! see you soon!

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