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Published: March 11th 2008
Here is the entrance to the mosque
Ok, so it was Ronda one weekend, and then the following weekend I made a spur-of-the-moment trip to Morocco Africa with some of my IFSA-Butler friends. The trip was such a culture shock, and I would go back in a heart beat. Here is how it all went down:
Our program director gave us the information for guided tours through Morocco so we would be safe and know where to go. The tour gave us 3 days in the cities of Tétouan, Tangier, and Chef-Chauquin (sp.). We took a tour bus from Málaga to Algeciras (1.5 hours) to catch a ferry to Ceuta (a spanish province in Africa). We left for Ceuta around 6:30 in the evening and it only took about 45 minutes on the boat. We saw dolphins, kind of cool, but the most amazing thing was seeing the sunset over the Spanish mountains, and standing on the African coast looking at the Spanish city lights across the Med. Sea. Afterwards, we took another tour bus (with our Muslim guides) to the border of Morocco and Spain. The guides instructed us not to take any pictures of the boarder or of any police officers while we were stopped
Here is our IFSA-Butler crew on our way to Africa
in traffic (All the guides speak about 10 different languages, European and African alike, so no one failed to understand. Need-less-to-say, I feel a little embarrassed that I am having trouble with just 2 languages). The border is a pretty scary place. Very chaotic with traffic and people running between cars, jumping the fence and running for Morocco. Oh yeah, definately different and very crazy. Once we were into Morocco, we got to the hotel and had dinner, then straight to bed, because Saturday was a non-stop day of traveling.
Saturday morning we all had breakfast at the Hotel (all meals, lodging, guides, travelers insurance, and busses were included) and boarded a bus for the Medina in Tétouan. The Medina is just the market place in the city where everyone sells there stuff. All kinds of stuff are for sale. Rugs, clothing, fish, live chickens, nuts, fruits and vegtables, and jewlery. People are crowded into these very tiny, narrow streets fighting for their place to sell. Refrigeration and sanitation are words that only a few people understand, and everyone in the Medina speaks at least 3 languages. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen, and
Rock of Girbraltar
it made me glad we took a guide, because there is no way I would have known how to navigate these streets. There were about 30 of us in our group, walking through the streets with our guide, and I think the travelers insurance was in the form of the 4 police guards that followed our group and help navigate the streets. 2 uniformed guards and 2 undercover guards (all very intimidating), I think, were there to help protect us from the poeple and the people from us. The police are all very clean cut, very stern, and are very scary looking. Later I found out that if anyone was ever arrested, a 20 spot would get you out of prison, because the police in Morocco are extremely corrupt. Anyway, in the Medina we were brought to a run place where 5 gentlemen rolled out about 70 authentic Moroccan rugs and tried to sell them to us. Following that, we went to a Spice shop to see what ingredients were used in all of this other gentleman´s products. I know, confusing, but the photos will explain better. After we left the Medina we had lunch, and took a bus through
Our welcoming committee for the hotel!
the city of Tangiers. Tangiers is very touristic and Euopean, but we got to see we the Atlantic and Med. Sea´s meet, which was cool. We had some free time in Tangiers to walk around and shop for some things in the market place. It had a similar set up to the Medina, but much more organized. When you purchase something in Morocco it is their custom to haggle. I got to be a professional haggler by the end of the trip and was being recruited by some of our friends to work the prices down. It was a ton of fun. We returned to the hotel for dinner that night, and hit the hay.
Sunday morning was also very busy. We had breakfast and then set out for the mountain city of Chauin (I do not know how to spell it, w/e). There we had another guide take us around the city and show us how day-to-day life was carried out. It is a very rural city, and it just appears out of the mountains. Africa has some of the best scenery in the world. Northern Morocco is lush and green, but I guess only a short bus
Here is the view from our front door of the hotel
ride south would have put us in the Sahara desert. The roads between the cities are very exciting, kind of dangerous because of the lack of rules for the roads, but exciting. The bus drivers are amazing at the wheel, and have no hesitation to pass other vehicles around blind turns. I do not know how they do it, but they do it well. Another reason why the roads are so dangerous is because they are cut out of the mountains and have turns that are more than 90 degrees. So even though the distance between the cities might not be very far, the time it takes to get there is very long because you are constantly "turning around." Also, animals are not fenced in and are free to graze on the roadside vegetation. What a culture shock, it never stopped. The views from the bus were spectacular. Everyone is so exhausted and wants to catch up on some sleep, but you do not want to close your eyes because you are afraid you will miss something. Amazing! (Back to Chauin...) It was a beautiful day to explore the city and haggle with the locals. Our tour guide took us
City streets of Tetuan
around for about 3 hours explaing the history of Chauin, and how each city has a center and speaker system that calls out the prayers for the day (5 times a day Muslims pray, that includes the morning prayer, which is called at 4:00 in the morning). Each city also has a Mosque which is enormous. We had lunch in the city, and reboarded the bus to head back to Ceuta to catch a boat back to Algeciras, then a bus back to Málaga. We ended up getting back to Málaga at around 10:30 that night.
Morocco is famous for their mint tea. Since alcohol is forbidden in the Muslim culture, the "Moroccan Whiskey" is the mint tea. It is delicious and I recommend it for everyone. Also, the food in Morocco is some of the best food my tongue has ever had the chance to taste, however, my stomach decided that it was the worst food it has ever had to digest. So I was kind of sick on the ride home from Morocco and the Monday following. The water in Morocco is not potable, so no one drank it or showered in it. However, the food is
prepared in that water, so anything that wasn´t killed off in the cooking process could have been the cause of my illness. I would go back in a heart beat, I love that country.
Enjoy the pictures!
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