Me with bread and the baker!
So my sister and I arrived in the port of Tangier for our three day stay, I think it was a Wednesday? Greeted by mirages skittering across the miles of pavement, we just followed the crowd to what seemed to be nowhere in particular, but happened upon some taxis. All we had was the name of our hostel and our backpacks, so approaching the cab drivers, we thought we would be all set. Unfortunately, we couldn't quite say the hostel's name correctly, or else no one there had ever heard of it... until one man, in the cab in the back, our saviour! said he could take us there. Hurrah!
Problem two: he only spoke Arabic and French. No problem! I can speak French well enough :)
Problem three: we had only euros.
In fact we didn't even know what Moroccan currency was called (dirams, we discovered at an ATM later that day), let alone its Euro equivalent. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, we thought.
Dar Jameel, our hostel
Driving up the winding slope to the older part of Tangier, called Medina, we could clearly see the split between the old and the new. New Tangier, well organized, lots of palm trees and straight roads, swept out to the East. Old Tangier, however, with its one-lane roads, constant turns, maze-like layout, and crowds of men of all ages, proved to be quite different. Always intrigued by a challenge, we trekked onwards.
Our hostel proved to be AMAZING! Dar Jameel, our hostel, was exquisite! In every, naturally-lit room, the walls were completely covered in the most beautiful, hand-made tile work.
Each bedroom had the most enormous and comfy beds I have ever slept in; it was five floors of heaven and luxury for a price which would normally prohibit luxury. PLUS! Breakfast was included, but this was a breakfast of champions if I ever had one! Fresh fruit picked up that morning from local markets, fresh-squeezed orange juice, coffee, mint tea (of course), croissants, Moroccan flat bread with four different sauces, all home made. And to top it all off, you could take the left-overs with you!!! A + +!!
Just some guys enjoying mint tea :)
Our first afternoon was spent with a construction-worker-turned-guide named Mahmoud, who showed us all over the city, including the Kasbah! We rocked it.
We also got to see this community bread oven, which was really interesting. Well, I guess it wasn’t just an oven, but a baker too.
Each family would make their own bread and bring it to this man who spent his days putting in and taking out other people’s bread from this coal fire with large wooden paddles. He let us smell bread he was just taking out, a loaf that was as big as two arms forming a circle in front of your body! Enormous!Relying on a complete stranger, however, made me quite a bit nervous, but what could we do? The city of Media was an urban labyrinth, not to be fared by the weak of heart, or the directionally challenged, or those without a map, like ourselves. The complete lack of any kind of road names also disinclined us from solo exploration. Instead, we ate a nice kettle of fish and hit the sack.
The street in Bourne Ultimatum!
When you first get to Morocco and the honeymoon stage wears off (you know when you look at normal stuff and it suddenly becomes wonderful because it’s in Morocco when it’s really some lame-ass fire hydrant) you still can’t help but notice the difference between what you’re wearing and what other people are wearing. And what’s better is that you can’t help but notice them noticing you.
Dressed in knee-length skirts, my sister and I were taxiing around Morocco, seeing the palaces and the Caves of Hercules (which were amazing, next entry), men were staring at us, some even following us for blocks (not in the taxi, but when we were walking). Confused, I looked around to see what the other women were wearing, and suddenly it all made sense.
Saster and guy who look us through the CAVES of HERCULES!
All of the women were dressed in floor length dresses with hejabs covering their hair. We looked particularly swanky compared with these modest dressers.
At the night club, however, it was a completely different story.
At the entrance to the club, we saw the same attire being ported by the ladies, and thought that we were perhaps going to have some trouble, being the most provocatively dressed women in the place. However, when we got inside, the women were just as swanky as us, actually they were downright scandalous! Skirts that were only about a hands width long, dipping, no-back shirts, LOADS of make-up, perfume up the wazoo made me wonder, WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN???
Needing to use the ladies room, my sister and I teamed up to find it, and find it we did, as did apparently every other woman in the club.
The bathroom was actually more like a lion’s pit with dresses flying up in the air, women clawing for a spot in front of the mirror, showing, screaming, two or three women per stall, not peeing but changing. For a woman who had to pee something fierce, I was horrified. How on Earth was I going to get myself into one of those stalls… alone?
One of the cleaning ladies who was standing outside chuckling picked up on my panic, and approaching me asked me in Arabic if I needed help (I assume). Realizing that I only spoke English, she decided to take me, poor little American girl, under her wing, and in true momma-bird fashion, began pecking away at the competition. As soon as she secured me a stall, I practically ripped my skirt off, because I knew my hard-won privacy would be relatively short lived. By the last drip, the pounding had reached a climax, and I booked it out of there, not without offering a grateful smile and hand wave to my beautiful heroine.
It’s like the Moroccan men say, go to bed with an angel, wake up with a monster.