Entering Morocco from the ferry boat
We woke up at the crack of dawn so we could be downstairs in time to catch the bus for our big overnight in Morocco. The bus came, picked us up, and headed down the road. We didn’t know this at the time, but the tour bus had another dozen or so stops to pick up more people from other resorts. It was a little annoying, but I was too excited about going to Africa to be too bothered by it. There was a small damper on my excitement though; I woke up with the beginnings of a head cold. I was a little cranky, but determined to savor every moment of our adventure within an adventure.
A few hours later, we got to Tarifa.
This was where we would meet the ferry that would take across the Mediterranean and into Africa. At this point, our guide singled us out for some special instructions….apparently Zak and I were the only ones staying overnight in Morocco. Like we were idiot children, she explained about getting our passports stamped and these special forms we needed to fill out. She walked us through every step, took our passports and forms, and went to get everything taken care of. She said she wanted to take care of it so there were no mistakes. (Seriously? Did I have a sign on my forehead that said IQ 35?)
Public Sqaure in front of a Mosque
The ferry ride over was initially a lot of fun, but I eventually became nauseated and grumpy. This is really unusual for me; I never get sea-sick or motion-sick.
My stomach is lined with iron when it comes to movement. I knew I was going from a minor head cold into something more serious as my stomach began rebelling against every dip and surge of the boat. I didn’t think I would ever be as happy as I was when we finally docked….in another continent.
Riding my smug camel
The fresh air and lack of movement helped, but I was still feeling a little puny. Luckily, I had some allergy meds and pain killers, which I partook of as soon as we landed. Feeling marginally better, we joined the group on the tour bus, and listened to our guide describe our surroundings as we drove through Tanger. At one point, we stopped and piled out of the bus into a dirt parking lot filled with camels (only in Morocco...). For a euro, the put each of us on a camel, pulled us around the parking lot, and took our pictures. Cheesy but fun. I would have loved to have had a ride somewhere a little more exotic than a parking lot, but beggars can't be chosers!
I should probably mention that this was our first experience with a formal tour.
We’re usually do-it-yourselfers, so this was something new. We opted for the guided tour because we had too many questions and not enough answers about getting to Morocco on our own.
Zak on the Camel
The walking tour through the Medina wasn’t bad. We wound through the narrow streets and dark walkways in the Kasbah, snapping endless pictures of the native clothing, clothing shops, rug weavers, cobblers, leather tanners…we even stopped at a traditional “pharmacy” and received a demonstration on the local nonWestern pharmaceuticals. The chemist swore he could cure everything from obesity to impotence or sinus infections!
After the “drug store” we had a fabulous lunch-- Moroccan-style! The restaurant was done in bright colors- reds, whites, golds.
There were beautiful rugs on the floors and tapestries on the walls. The lights were mostly done with multicolored glass lamps that I have seen all over the place (in stores like World Market), but didn’t realize they were Moroccan in origin. We had a wonderful 4-course meal! Live music filtered through the rooms, and we all chatted as we explored each new taste and texture.
I'm serious! This guy is smug!
After lunch, we made our way to a rug dealer and large souvenir shop. They finally gave everyone some time to look around on their own and shop. That was one of the biggest disappointments with the larger guided tour- no time to shop or explore on your own. That was partly why we opted to stay the night.
Once everyone purchased their souvenirs, we meandered again through the narrow streets of the Kasbah, loaded onto the tour bus, and made it back to the port.
One of the two tour guides struck up a conversation with us on the way back. He said he was local, and was happy to show us around this afternoon if we were interested. Why not? At that point, we felt that we had barely even begun to experience Tanger, and we were hungry for more. We agreed to meet him at our hotel in a few hours.
Into the Kasbah
At the port, everyone got off, and we were left completely alone with a bus driver that didn’t really speak English. Neither of us speak Arabic or French, so there wasn’t a whole lot of conversation on the way to the hotel. He helped us check into our hotel, handed us our overnight bag, and told us he would see us in the morning. Then he left.
All alone, Zak and I headed to our hotel room, shouldered our way into the door, and looked around at our surroundings.
When we booked the overnight, we were promised a 4-star hotel…I’m not sure whose definition of 4-star they were using, but this definitely wasn’t it. The hotel was dark, dingy, and so filled with cigarette smoke that there was a permanent haze over everything. Sure, we had a lovely view of the Mediterranean out our window, but the whole place looked worn and in need of a serious overhaul. The walls were dented and dingy, the lighting was dim, the phone was broken, our key didn’t work in the lock of the door, the separate twin beds (WTF?!) were hard and had plastic headboards, the bathroom tiles didn’t align, the window didn’t have a screen on it, the room was done in tacky Egyptian (Why? We were nowhere near Egypt!)…Instead of the lovely beach-side oasis we expected, we were faced with the middle-of-nowhere ghetto-motel that you stop at when it’s too late to drive on and it’s either that or the side of the road.
Inside the medina
To top it all off, my cold was hitting a crescendo, and I was exhausted, disappointed, and miserable.
We asked the front desk if there was a western pharmacy nearby, and he gave us directions to a place just down the street. The only problem was that it was closed from 4 to 6. Dejected, I went back through the dark, creepy hallway, forced the door open, and gingerly lowered myself onto the slab they generously called a bed, pulled up the sheet, and slipped into sweet unconsciousness until it was time to meet our guy for the personal tour.
One of the shops in the Medina