No Further South, No Further West...

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March 28th 2015
Published: March 28th 2015
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Morocco was one of my most anticipated adventures on this trip. And I will go no further south or west on this trip until I return to the USA.

First, the positive: I went to Africa! I got 2 passport stamps - Spanish for leaving the Schengen area, and Spanish for returning. The food at lunch was great! I've never had couscous, so I was a bit hesitant. But I loved it. The bread was fantastic, the beef on metal skewers tasted great, and the chicken over the couscous was tender and falling off the bone. Yum! The soup had a little too much saffron in it, but based on what my nose has told me in the past, I think most Moroccan food probably has too much saffron in it for me. Lastly, that mint tea was simply splendid. I want some more of that. The weather was just about perfect, and any time we got a scenic view, it was truly scenic. Even the fog clouds rolling in from the Atlantic on our way to the ferry in Spain this morning were heavenly.

I got to spend my whirlwind in Tangier with some people who were very friendly, and throughout our day, we all bonded. We started making jokes and definitely letting our guards down with each other, more quickly than on any other of these tours I've been on this week. It really did feel sad when I had to say good-bye to some of them tonight.

So, now the not-so-positive: I will never do another tour like this again. If you think it's a good deal to go to Tangier for a few hours with a tour company, just don't do it. I would like to be able to say that my first African experience made me cherish the people, the land, the customs, the food, etc. Really the only one of those things that left a good impression on me was the food, which is surprising, because I'm a picky eater. We were all looking forward to seeing Africa, Morocco, whatever... so much that I guess we let our expectations get a little too high. When we got back to Spain, I told my friends Kathy and Roni, "I feel like we were on a Florida vacation, and after lunch, we had to sit through 2 consecutive time-share presentations with vultures attacking us in between." That sums it up pretty well.

We started the tour of Tangier on a bus, going through different ethnic neighborhoods. Then we got to stop off at the Cape where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet. So far, very tourist-oriented. Then we drove some more to the base of the Casbah, the old fortress. On the way, you could tell that a good number of the ordinary people we passed on the street were less than enthused to see our bus. Then we got out of the bus and walked around. In less than 10 minutes, someone had sounded the alarm that tourists were around, and we found ourselves swarmed with locals who were trying to get us to by their (most often) cheap souvenirs. It really was like Jamaica when the cruise ships come ashore, but much worse. These people were relentless. Saying "no" or even "no, thanks" was not sufficient. Multiple times were necessary, and often simply ignoring them did not help, especially for the lady tourists. I tried in French, and even offered the Arabic Laa Shukran ("no, thanks"), which met with little more success. Any time we went into a building for whatever reason (food, presentation, etc), they were outside waiting for us to exit. They never let up. Even when we got to the bus, they were still pointing at us through the windows, trying to get us to come back out and buy things. For the last half hour or so, I started responding in Russian, which worked best. Either they didn't understand what I was saying, or they thought I sounded pissed off, which I was.

As I said, the lunch was superb. After that, we had to sit through an explanation and sales pitch for some very nice rugs - way out of my price range - for about 30 minutes, and then we had to wait and look through their shop until our guide returned. Next, another 10-minute walk through the vultures led us to a spice shop, where we got a lesson and demonstration on some of the medicinal qualities of some of the herbs and spices. Very nice. Many from our group bought some of these spices to take back. I was still waiting for the free time so I could get my postcards, maybe get some change for Moroccan coins, and take some pictures. My hopes were dashed when we went directly to the bus from the spice demonstration. I was aghast. Unlike yesterday, when we got 3 hours of unexpected free time with very little to do, we got zero free time when there was so much to see and do. Maybe it was for our own good, for our own protection. That's what I'll tell myself.

To top all this off, I'm now a cigarette mule for the Spanish mafia. Not really, but our Spanish tour guide did ask if I would take a carton of cigarettes that she bought in duty free back across the ferry and through the customs, because she had bought too many (intentionally) to carry back legally. So if you're reading this, Interpol, I did it. I didn't buy anything else, and at that point, nothing was really going to make my day better than having a semi-decent crime story to tell.

They collected our passports once we got through customs on the way to Morocco, but we didn't get any Moroccan passport stamps. Bummer. We got them back on the boat to Morocco, and we never had to part with them again, not even when we went back to Spain. I'm an American in Europe/Africa, and I want my passport stamped! And I wasn't the only one who did. So, all in all, it was a pretty disappointing experience. Some good, but most of my expectations were unfulfilled.

Tonight, Europe switches over to Summer Time (in America, we call it Daylight Savings), so I'll lose an hour and will be 6 hours ahead of the East Coast for pretty much the rest of this trip. That's not a problem for me, since tomorrow's the first day in a while that I won't have to set an alarm. And I'm not gonna. I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow, and I'm very glad about that.


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