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Published: March 5th 2011
I AM EXTREMELY HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE THAT I CAN ADD A THIRD CONTINENT TO MY TRAVELS!
Yes, its TRUE! I have hit my third continent, the motherland of creation, the largest continent- AFRICA!!! Unfortunately I could only stay for three days but I will be returning soon! As much as I would've preferred to go to a west African country for my first visit to Africa, Morocco is something like 9 miles away from Spain, needless to say, Morocco was the easiest and cheapest route.
So hows here it all shook down. We decided that the best idea would be to take a guided tour with a group since since conquering Morocco seemed rather daunting. I honestly can't even wrap my head around trying to navigate a developing country whose official languages aren't English or Spanish. So we went the extra touristy route but SO happy we did...
We were picked up in the center of Málaga, just 20 minutes away from our flat in Rincón de la Victoria. We took a big coach bus along the coast until we reached Algeciras, where we would take a ferry to Ceuta. My friends Cherrelle and Chioma
met us in Algeciras, they took a bus from Sevilla, where they also teach English. The ferry ride was a little nerve-racking, the constant swaying back and forth made me more nauseous than I'd anticipated. Landing in Ceuta was not as exciting as one would think because Ceuta is still Spanish territory. The city is surrounded by Moroccan soil yet it is governed by Spain, Spanish is the official language, etc. That being said, the culture shock I'd anticipated disappeared- seeing Spanish street signs and Spaniards roaming the streets was pretty disappointing.
Crossing the border was a joke, as I'd expected. It reminded me of when I visited Haiti. The tour guide took all of our passports, went and chatted with the border control, while we didn't even have to get off the bus we where we were waiting. A border patrol officer boarded on the bus, made sure all of our returned passports were stamped properly and went on his merry way. Nothing too glamorous.
By the time we crossed over to Tétouan it was dark so we couldn't see much but when we arrived at our hotel, I finally got that culture shock I was looking
the one trying to sell me a doggone berka...
for. The hotel was extremely Moroccan, everything one would expect, beautiful carpets, colorful booth- like couches, amazingly carved chairs and tables. Everything was very detail-orientated and elaborate; I would love to decorate my house Moroccan- style one day!
The next day we roamed a town called Chefchaouen, about 2 hours from Tétouan. So cute! It is a cute little town at the bottom of a mountain, theme color- a gorgeous, brilliant blue! So as you can see in the picture, I wore some blue just for the occasion. Our tour guide of Chefchaouen was hilarious, cracking jokes left and right, he spoke english, spanish, portuguese, german, french and of course arabic, I was so jealous of his linguistic abilities. This man was tiny, something like 5 feet tall and was wearing a red Fez hat, and a floor length white robe. He was probably in his seventies but certainly didn't act like it. An example of his humorous charm, he asked us why we though there were so many cats in Morocco. We all looked at him curiously awaiting his response. He said with a smirk, "Porque no hay Chinos." (There aren't any Chinese people) Terrible, right? Just like
in Spain, Morocco lacks a sense of politically correct commenting. Or it could just be that the US is overly PC- who can really judge that though?
We spent the morning and early afternoon in Chefchaouen, mostly walking the streets and shopping. Basically, how these tours work, the guide is from that particular country you are visiting (as it should be) but then they bring you to all their friends' shops to encourage you to buys things. I don't blame them, I'd do it. So we went to a carpet store and the men were showing us rugs for 20 minutes before they let us look around. One of the men tried to sell me a gold, sparkly berka. Like if Beyonce went to an Arab country, she might wear this thing. I said very plainly "Well sir, when am I going to wear that?" He said oh no, its beautiful! We went back and forth for a couple minutes before he finally showed me the tunics; I bought a pretty purple one that I will actually wear in public.
We continued to other markets, Morocco is kind of like one big street market. Of course, the venders
flocked us as we entered their little shops or tents, which was kind of irritating, but I expected it. Reminded me of the DR and Haiti. I've realized visiting developing countries poses many obstacles as people come and harass you to buy their goods or ask for money- something everyone should take into account when signing up to visit economically unfortunate lands. Just walking a couple of blocks can be exhausting!
Later on in the day we stopped at a site along the beach to ride camels! Yep, ladies and gents, the girl who hates animals rode a huge, funky, spitting camel. The ride was incredibly rocky and I wouldn't have rode the thing longer than the 5 minutes I was on it, but it was just one of those "you gotta do it(s)" in Morocco! The guys who owned the camels were nuts, shouting and carrying on in their broken English, like they had been hanging out with the animals too long and camels' obnoxious behavior rubbed off on them or something. Anyway, the experience was enjoyable and the sun was just setting at this point, super gorgeous views.
That night we arrived in Tanger, a more
touristy and bustling city- streets were packed! We decided to wander the streets for awhile before dinner- was that uncomfortable! Morocco is a Muslim country, the women are usually covered from head to toe, not all the woman wear berkas but many of them do. Women are not really seen in the streets or out and about; there were mostly men sitting at the cafes, selling goods, etc. Anyways, we were walking in front a line of cafes and the men sitting there would not stop staring! It was very awkward; the cafes do not allow women, I guess it is not officially forbidden but it is something that women just don't do. That being said, as women walked past these cafes, all eyes were on them, as though they shouldn't be walking there. This was definitely the low point of the trip. I was told by a friend who lived there for four months that women were hardly treated as equals, so I was anticipating the feeling I had many times in the Dominican Republic. I knew I wouldn't be taken as seriously and I wouldn't have the same benefits as men. Womens rights are less than mens in
just about any country you visit, yet one can feel them much more heavily in certain countries, Morocco being one of them.
Sunday was spent in Tetuan, a bustling city, very open and easy to navigate. Most of our time was spent at markets, again, but these markets were mostly of fruit, vegetables and meat rather than the souvenirs shops we saw in Chefchaouen. We wandered through this market until we got to a Berber pharmacy, where we were schooled on all the hottest new medicines on the Moroccan market. Just kidding. These products were remedies, discovered hundreds of years ago and are super natural. Organic as one can get. The walls were lined with jars of herbs and dried plant roots and all kinds of things I'm not even going to try to guess what they were. I wouldn't have been surprised if there were a couple dinosaur toe nails in there somewhere. Witchcraft you might be thinking. Absolutely not, I'm just trying to portray this place and its mystical appeal.
Now, the food! I have to say I was not impressed- at all. Lacked flavor, they aren't into carbs, which are my favorite. Lots of vegetables
and meat. They like to make a huge platter of food and then the whole table eats off of it. No, thank you. I want my own plate. This is also a problem in Spain; getting tapas means everyone orders a tapa or two and then everyone shares them. Again, I'd rather not. Anyways, we ate chicken, beef, vegetables and of course couscous. So flavorless and disappointing! I thought that I would like real Moroccan couscous, but it wasn't any different from American couscous. Oh well, can't win 'em all! I take that back, the mint tea you traditionally have after a meal is pretty good, refreshes the palette. There, I'll give you that Morocco, I like your tea! Pitiful. During the last meal (of couscous) we had typical Moroccan musicians entertain us, which was a nice way to be sent off.
After that we boarded the bus to the border and then took the ferry back to Spain! Morocco was an interesting place to visit, I'm glad I went but I have no plans to return. Between the bland food, aggressive venders, oppression of women, dirty streets and lack of versatility I wasn't terribly impressed, although my eyes
were opened to a number of things. And, I will always remember my camel ride!
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