Saturday, June 18, 2011

España, Part 5

España, Part 1
España, Part 2
España, Part 3
España, Part 4

With today being exactly two weeks until I'm on a plane to London, it's far past the time that I should have finished up posting about my amazing trip to Spain.

The next stop on our agenda was...wait for it...Tangier, Morocco. I could not even wrap my head around the fact that I would be spending the day in Africa. How cool is that?!

We started off the day bright and early when the tour bus picked up at our hotel. We drove for a little while before boarding the biggest ferry I had ever seen to get across the water into Tangier. I was relieved when I saw how big and nice the ferry was because my family has a unfortunate history of sea sickness.

Boy, was my relief premature.

I've never felt movement like that in my life. It was like in one of those movies when an epidemic breaks out and everyone falls ill at once. All around me, passengers started grabbing sickness bags and running to the bathroom. It was terrible. My brother and I weren't okay, but we managed to pull it together. My poor parents, on the other hand? Well, that's another story.

We somehow survived that ordeal, got off the ferry, and then had to go through very lenient customs to get into Tangier. I was very disappointed that the customs worker didn't stamp my passport. I've made it my new goal to get as many stamps as possible. (I've been to Gibraltar, Morocco, Canada, and Mexico twice, and my passport hasn't been stamped for any of them, which kills me.) Immediately after we got through customs, our tour guide met us, loaded us on the bus, and we began our tour.

I have to admit that being in Morocco made me nervous. It's not somewhere I'd want to be alone or without a tour guide, and as thrilled as I was to be there, I was thankful for our tour bus and locals that were there to stay with us and show us around. The bus tour took us through the wealthier areas of the city, where many foreign government officials live, the downtown area where all of the businesses, schools, and city life is, and finally took us down to the coast. It was so beautiful! Our tour guide explained that this particular coastline is the Barbary Coast and that Morocco is right between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. While we were stopped, some locals selling camel rides came by. I've never been so close to a camel before. They're huge!

Then we got back on the bus and went to an area of the city called the Kabsa. This is a very poor area where most of the locals live. This area was exactly what I pictured the city to look like. Not to be stereotypical, but it's exactly how many Middle Eastern cities are portrayed in movies. In fact, this particular area was used in one of the Bourne trilogy movies when Matt Damon's character is jumping from roof to roof.

We walked through the Kasba as a group, and we were instantly approached by so many locals trying to sell us various handmade goods, spices, etc. It was a little intimidating since many of the vendors came right up to us and didn't seem to understand the meaning of the word "no," but I never felt unsafe. We made our way to the center of the area and stopped for lunch. The restaurant we ate at was beautiful inside! It was decorated in rich fabrics and colors, had live music, and was delicious. You could tell it was very authentic. I think the chefs really held back for the tour group, serving us chicken, cous cous, soup, and a sweet baklava-like dessert. I think the food was authentic, but I'm certain that the food most Moroccans eat is more flavorful and exotic.

After lunch, we were taken to a large indoor market selling huge, ornate, handmade rugs and carpets, as well as leather goods, and other small handmade goods. We spent some time looking around, and I almost bought myself a light tan leather satchel, but I decided against it in the end. We toured through more of the Kasba, passing spice markets, seeing exhibits on things like smelling salts and oils, poultry killing and preparing, and beautiful woven scarfs and bags. Once the tour was over, we were taken back to the bus and headed back to Spain on the ferry. The ride back was much smoother and more pleasant.

The day in Morocco was probably the most interesting of our trip. I am so glad I had the opportunity to go there and fully took advantage of it, but I'm not sure that I'd ever go back. I just can't believe I was in Africa!

Next stop: Ronda

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