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Excellent Adventure in Morocco

by on July 30, 2012

From David:

Catching up on blogging now that we have Internet:

Keeping with the pattern that the most wonderful parts of this trip have been the day trips to fun places outside the big cities… we had a wonderful trip last week to Tangiers, Morocco. It’s the farthest-north city in Africa, about 30 miles across the Strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa, the southernmost city in Spain. None of us had ever been to Africa before and doing this was one of Renee’s big wish list items for our trip.

Tangiers is pretty westernized… truly going deep into Morocco culture requires a 10-hour bus ride into the desert to Marrakech or Fez. But we thought this would be a good chance to see a very different world than our European experiences. We opted for a guided bus tour (which was hokey in some ways but still a really good decision… especially since we did the trip during Ramadan and all restaurants in town were closed during the day except the two that serve the bus tours).

For all of us, the trip was clearly eye-opening and an excellent adventure. Let’s just let the photos tell the story:

We drove past Gibraltar … (cool to see that it makes its own weather)

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… to Tarifa, which has a neat 10-century Arab fortress at the port …

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… where we got on the high-tech fast ferry…

… and an hour later we were in Africa!

Continent #4 for Renee… 3 to go.

See the yellow stickers on our shirts?  Lose yours, and you stay in Africa… the guide has all the passports.

Right away, some guy tried to sell stuff to Renee:

Then a bus took us all around to show us the town, including the downtown (dead vacant on Ramadan day), the poor sections and the wealthy (many McMansions under construction, but interestingly… every bit of the construction was brick or concrete… lots of sand and no wood in Morocco).

We stopped at the cheesy for-tourists-only camel rides… Anna fell off hers when it stood up while she was trying to climb on, but no harm no foul, and she got back on and they rode around on a very grumpy camel pulled by a grumpier Bedouin camel herder:

We then walked all around the ancient casbah, which is the neighborhood around the fortress in the center of an Arab town. We saw the old fortress walls:

… the narrow alleys:

… many brightly colored doors:

and house fronts:

and other decorations:

… and of course the cheesy, for-tourists-only  snake charmer with a cobra:

Renee stayed way far away, because …. all together now… “Renee Hates Snakes!”

And of course another guy tried to sell stuff to Renee:

We went to an upscale but genuine restaurant for lunch, where we sat on pillows (and had a nice chat with a couple from Bulgaria) and ate kebab, soup, bread, saffron chicken couscous, and some amazing sweet cakes drenched in honey, and mint tea. Anna and Alex were quite brave as they sampled these new tastes:

 

It must really be un-fun to be a waiter during the day during Ramadan… you would be really hungry all day as you feed people, and you can’t eat until sundown.

We then were guided into the “medina” (market neighborhood), through many narrow alleys until we were quite thoroughly lost, and then presented with many opportunities to buy rugs, spices and just about everything. Here’s a grocery store:

And of course another guy tried to sell stuff to Renee.

I’m pretty sure the guide took us to the stores owned by his uncles; this sales presentation in the spice store felt like Professor Snape in his Potions Lab:

He had spices to cure every condition (and I do mean every!)

Renee then found a store selling some scarves she really liked… for $35.00 each. Her dealmaking experience kicked in, and after an hour of hardball negotiating:

… then walking away for a while, then coming back and trying again:

… she bought a whole bunch of them for $11.00 each. Scarves for everyone! I even got a bit of video of her negotiating… it was quite amusing for the whole group.

And then right as our bus was leaving, she cried “stop” and jumped off to buy some cheesy, for-tourists-only, leather camels from a 13-year-old kid who had been trying to sell them to us since we got off the boat. She respected his perseverance:

I had had a fun chat with the kid… he wanted to trade me a handful of leather camels for my iPhone, and we debated whether a good trade would be cheesy leather camels for a cheesy leather iPhone, or real camels for real iPhone. But no deal was made.

(Renee’s now been complaining for the last week that she regrets not having bought more camels.  I don’t share that regret).

All in all, quite a wonderful day, and we made our fair contribution to the Moroccan economy.  Hope this post gives some flavor of the experience.

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5 Comments
  1. Lucy permalink

    I love this post. Wish I could have shared in the experience with you. Glad to be back to long posts!

  2. Uncle Phil permalink

    An interesting experiment would be a man trying to sell Renee a snake, with the opportunity for her to haggle. Would her love of shopping for a bargain overcome her hatred of snakes, or vice versa?

  3. Professor Snape did have an intresting yet boarding lecture.

  4. Aunt Ginny permalink

    Love all the photos. What happened to the camels head…who took that photo? I really thought you guys would fade by now and take lots of time off from touring. This is definitely an adventure of a lifetime. I have never seen Anna so into anything as much as this trip and Alex is now in the flow and getting a second wind. Renee should definitely have bought more camels!

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