So its Monday evening and I’m sitting at the café looking at my pictures over and over again and disappointed that they could not better capture what I just experienced. Traveling to Morocco was eye opening and incredible. I learned a lot and really felt like I experienced the culture. Africa is definitely a different world…
We left at about 1:30 from Granada. Through my school we had seen a poster for this program to go to Morocco. We booked online but did not put any money down. The director knows that many students (and their parents) are wary about travelling to northern Africa right now. So we met the program director (Abdel) in Granada and got on the bus with about 30 or so other students from the CLM (our school in Granada). I was travelling with Erin Brown, Erin Rajtik, Allison Pollack, and Sam Schindelheim. Not my normal crew but really really great girls. I had a great time with them and we travelled together well. So we drove from Granada to Malaga where we picked up some other students and from there we drove to Algerias which is where the most southern port in Spain is. We took a ferry from Algerias to Ceuta which is a Spanish territory at the very tip of Africa. So when we got off the boat (it was about an hour) we were still technically in Spain. Our bus driver met us (the entire time we had a really nice air conditioned coach bus) and we drove from Ceuta to the border of Spain and Africa. I have never driven across a border before and it was an eye opening experience. There were police everywhere and there was this HUGE fence. Behind the fence were these big boulders and on the boulders were lots of Moroccon men who were smuggling things in from Spain. There was a man on one side of the fence and another man on the other. The man on the Moroccan side was using a fishing pole type thing to bring the bag of goods from Spain into Morocco. It was very interesting. They checked our passports and our luggage and then we finally were in Morocco. By the time we arrived it was dark but we could still see the difference between 1 mile back in Spain and where we were. Everything was in Arabic and every one was dressed in traditional Arabic robes. After the border we met our guide for Tetuan, Abdul, also known as Michael Douglas. He claims that his family believes that he looks like Michael Douglas and insisted on being called this. We of course obliged but it was rather strange as he did not appear similar to Michael Douglas AT ALL. So anyway, we were in Tetuan and the city appeared rather run down but not full of poverty. We drove along the coast until we arrived at our hotel. In my room was Allison and Sam and we each had our own bed which was nice. We went downstairs for dinner which was fish and potatoes. It was a pretty standard meal and we were exhausted. From there we went straight to bed because we had an early morning!
Crack of dawn we woke up and had a nice buffet breakfast. The food was kind of weird but the tea was delicious! We boarded the bus and drove into the center of Tetuan which is the city where we were staying. It is a small city on the outskirts of farm country and in the main square there is a synagogue, a church, and a mosque. In Morocco the three religions live together in harmony (Christianity, Muslim, and Jewish). From there we changed our money from euros to dirham (11 dirham=1 euro) and we wandered our way into the medina. A Medina is the center of the city and is the oldest part. They are basically markets now but some people live there as well…it is basically its own little city within the city. Right away when you enter is the fish market….there are fish guts everywhere and fish heads…needless to say it didn’t smell so hot. I was not a fan of this part of the tour but it ended quickly as we approached the meat market. There were whole dead cows hanging up and lots and lots of chickens. The Moroccan people were fascinated by the horror on our faces as this is an every day occurrence for them. We also saw the spice market, cheese, olives, and so much more. The people in this part were mostly farmers and were so interesting to look at. After the market we went to this rug maker and got to see all the magnificent rugs that they hand make in Morocco. It was a little awkward though because he obviously wanted us to buy some and we weren’t exactly in the position to spend $6,000 on a rug and carry it home to the US but it was still a cool experience. After the rug co-op we went to a Moroccan restaurant for lunch and had beef shish kebabs and chicken and vegetable couscous. It was delicious! After lunch we boarded the bus and headed to Tanger. When we boarded the bus there was a group of about 6 or 7 Moroccan men who were standing by the bus. We then realized that we had, had an entourage of security guards the whole time that had been following us and watching out for us without us even knowing! Definitely made everything feel safer.
On our way to Tanger we stopped to ride camels…now camels are not a typical northern Morocco thing so the camel riding stop was only a tourism thing that took place in a parking lot. The camel owners weren’t so nice to the camels so I decided (since I had ridden a camel in the Canary Islands) that I would sit this one out and take pictures of everyone instead. Camels smell terrible and are not very nice.
After the camel stop we stopped at an overlook where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. It was so beautiful! There was a little market there to buy things but we mostly looked at the water and enjoyed the view.
Tanger was much more industrial and more urban. There were less women that were completely covered and more people dressed in every day clothes. We went into the same type of Medina but it was less agricultural goods and more souvineers and clothing. This was my least favorite part of the trip. For some reason the people in Tanger thought I was fascinating looking and everyyyonnneee wanted to touch me and follow me around. The women were pointing and laughing at me and the men were asking to touch my hair and shouting broken English at me. My favorite was “hey fire head, you are a lot of womens”. That was when Michael Douglas assigned me my own guard. The rest of the time I was fine and we did a lot of shopping and A LOT of bargaining. It got dark quickly so after that we boarded up the bus and headed back to Tetuan for dinner. Dinner was chicken shish kebabs and it was very yummy. We took long showers (we smelled) and went to bed really early because we were exhausted.
Again with the crack of dawn (not a fan) and we packed up our things and headed to Chef-Chaoen. This was definitely my favorite city of the three. The cities colors and blue and white and EVERYTHING is blue and white. Almost every door is bright blue. Michael Douglas did not follow us to Chef-Choen and I can not for the life of my pronounce our guide’s name but he was very nice. Everyone in Chef-Coen was sooo nice. They kept saying “Welcome to Morocco” “We are happy to see you” “Thank you for coming to my country”. They weren’t as pushy and touchy. And the city did NOT smell nearly as bad. It was nestled in the mountains and was so beautiful with streams everywhere. Lots of fairy places ☺ This is where we had our free time and where I did most of my shopping. We went to a rug/tapestry/blanket maker and watched him for awhile. His work was so beautiful that I had to buy one for POW! Its turquoise and white and is soft and wonderful. I can’t wait to bring it to the beach! Afterwards I bought a leather purse (10 euros) and lots of other beautiful things! I was sad that this was our last stop before heading back to Spain but it really was an incredible experience!