04 Jul

A Minaret, a Mosque, and some classic architecture to start this off...

So, this may be one of the last posts here ( I still have one or two left beyond this), (Thank God), so I thought I would briefly go over my experience in Morocco.  Some interesting information I learned:  Morocco was the first country to recognize the United State’s independence from Britain, and subsequently, the first US embassy is located in Tangiers…also, Tangiers is also known as one of the international espionage capitals of the world.  Morocco apparently has no extradition laws or agreements with other countries, and it is also very conveniently located for such things.

In other words, this will either be my first and last time here….or it will be the first time of many.  It all depends which side of the family I decide to follow after career-path wise. (Espionage or Academia…? …decisions, decisions…/sigh)

I will be repeating myself slightly, but not too badly…that’s why I have drafts.

For the lazier among you:  Here is the link to the entire album of photographs I took during my stay in Morocco:

Click Here.

In any case, I started out last Saturday waking up in a rather chilly hostel in Cordoba, I woke up late, and I realized that the timing for the weekend was completely off than I had anticipated so Morocco was not looking too well.  Regardless, I decided to head to Cadiz anyhow since I heard there was a lovely beach there, and I could still catch the bus to Tarifa later.  I caught the 11:45 train (after stumbling upon an item I was in search of for 2 weeks in the concourse)  and after an uneventful ride, ended up in an uneventful little beach town that just did not feel “right” to me….regardless of the fact there were no hotel rooms to be had on account of an even that evening.

I spent another couple of hours of my life in the bus station, and made my way to Tarifa- by this point it was about 2pm.  I had a bit of trouble finding the docks, and it was extraordinarily windy-  I ended up flagging down a police cruiser for assistance to find that I was only about a block away from where I needed to be.

From this point on, things became exponentially easier for me; the high-speed ferry had just arrived and I ended up getting a discounted price for a reason I could not recall (29 EU instead of 36 EU) and I was out on the water in a matter of minutes.

In the line for passports I first met the family I mentioned in the previous post- however, I don’t think we actually had a decent conversation until the boat ride where I shared my stock of dramamine.  Honestly, folks- for people who get motion sick at all- Dramamine should be considered mandatory.  I can’t tell you how many people I befriended since I have been willing to share on this trip!

In any case…as mentioned before, I had read on several different sites online that single women travelling alone to Morocco should try to find a family to stick around to avoid being harassed- which seemed like incredibly strange advice to me at the time. However, Mike and Shelby seemed to like the idea of having me around, and I was not going to object…

Basically, even though I feel like the depth of my knowledge of Islamic culture barely scratches the surface, I keep forgetting how much I know compared to many (even if what I do know does not amount to nearly enough in my opinion)  So, it was nice to feel useful at least.   In the case of Morocco, I had already decided to respect local custom by dressing extraordinarily conservatively- I bought a long sleeved shirt in the local style from a Moroccan vendor in Cordoba in a store called “Little Marrakesh.” wore a patchwork skirt I picked up in Granada, and although I did not wear a headscarf, I still wore the scarf I had around my neck as if I had just taken it off on account of the heat (as I saw many of the local women do)

I was glad I did….apparently, even if you “stick out” as an obvious tourists, tourists who at least make an effort not to be offensive get treated much better than otherwise.

In any case, here is what I viewed from the boat as we approached:

Reminds me a bit of the Tulsa skyline- if Tulsa were anywhere near water and had any sort of land gradient whatsoever...

So, we got off the boat and were approached immediately by Aziz- who decided to be our tour guide for our time in the country.  My new friends decided to spend the night relaxing at the hotel- so I decided to head off into the streets of Tangiers with my guide.  I asked to see the oldest parts of the city, and I was not disappointed-  the first place we went was created in the days of Ancient Rome, and many of the structures, although not much to look at, predated the time of Christ.  See below:

This may be the oldest archway in the city- I wonder how many coats of paint are on it...and more importantly, how many of them are lead-based....

Allegidly, this part of the city survived since prior to Christianity- I have no doubt this part is old, but I am skeptical if it is THAT old....fascinating nonetheless!

When I showed my dad these pictures, he was honestly more interested in how they adapted the power grid to accommodate the advance of technology rather than the interesting architecture.  In the above two pictures you can see how the powerlines are strung thickly on the outside of the buildings and snaked along corridors and alleyways…I suppose going below ground is not an option and there is no room for any other method of supplying power except for, maybe, individual solar panels in the future…

Regardless, from here, we headed to a disappointingly normal dining establishment- the food was cheap and very good- but not especially “local” as I hoped. (however, at some point during the night I was able to make it to a traditional tea establishment which served excellent Moroccan mint tea!) After this point Aziz snuck me into a local palace to enjoy some classical moorish music for a few minutes:

The lighting was so low that the pictures of the musicians themselves turned out very poorly- however, this courtyard turned out beautifully. (albeit slightly unfocused)

I also have to add that taking cabs in the city of Tangiers is terrifying.  The windows do not open, and the cars themselves are several decades old and driven by people who would likely call both Jersey and Massachusetts drivers “too polite”.  The cabs frequently pick up other passengers along the way- which I actually do not mind-  however, what did actually scare me was witnessing a motorcyclist run directly into the cab in front of ours, take out the cab’s tire, then drive off at full speed….  I was thankful I was not in That particular vehicle verses the one I was in…

However, I did manage to snap this photo from the taxi of Steve Forbes' (of Forbes magazine) old it's a house for foreign diplomats and occasionally a museum.

Next, I headed back to my hotel-  the hotel itself was gorgeous and situated next to some indeterminate ruins:

This is Hotel Contiental- It isn't air conditioned, however, what it lacks in comfort it makes up in history...

That backhoe makes me nervous....

As well as very close to the local Mosque:

I took far too many pictures of this building- I kept forgetting that I photographed previously each time I saw it for some odd reason...

Another interesting thing I learned about Tangiers- there are actually speakers placed throughout the city so that the Adhan (Muslim call to prayer) may be heard by all 5 times a day.  It’s actually very beautiful to hear, and very haunting in the evenings- even more so closer to the mosques themselves. (Although even some of the Mosques have loudspeakers in place rather than a real muezzin.)

The next day I woke to a free breakfast of, again, disappointingly familiar European style food…a plate of assorted pastries, orange juice, and a cup of hot chocolate.  (Still very good, but not the experience I was hoping for!)  And I was given a free tour of the more interesting parts of the hotel-

I wish my hotel room looked like this...

One of the many sitting rooms...

The hallway leading to the dining room (which I did not photograph since there was a large number of groggy people within)

The store(soukh) within the hotel...I think this was the point of the entire tour, really.

The tour ended at the store attached to the hotel- although lovely, there was not anything that interested me enough to purchase it. However, I will say that many of the items for sale may have been here for decades, which added rather than subtracted from its interestingness.

From here, my friends and I were lead into the marketplace:

The view upon entrance...

I can't seem to escape Spanish olives- no bad thing- I like them.

In some ways, this place resembles the Q-mart...

It was here I wished I had a small kitchenette in my hotel room- most of these fish were so fresh they were still breathing.

Interesting Ceramics... If only I could be convinced they would survive the trip in my luggage (But I know better- If I bought even one, I know it would have been ceramic dust in my suitcase in minutes)

This gentleman was selling pigeons. I have no idea to what purpose.

Herbs and vegetables ...and unidentifiable liquids in bottles...

I noticed many people in interesting outfits which I were told were the Berbers from the mountainous areas of the country-  they wore bright colors, unique straw hats, as well as a great deal of yarn.  I generally avoided photographing them since I was told they were generally adverse to it- however, I accidentally got the back of one in one of my shots.

I saw many interesting things- including people walking chickens on leashes like dogs, as well as several booths containing things I could only guess at.  From here, we heading up the mountain to see the Casbah and the Casbah museum.

Main entranceway

A familiar courtyard...No, this is not Alhambra!

More interesting ceilings...

...and even more beautiful arched doorways and columns!

I have several more pictures of this place, but for the sake of time- I have only posted the ones above.  However, outside, I loved this view from the unrestored portion of the Casbah:

A small child asked me in very good English: "Why do you take a picture here? It's ugly!" I disagree.

From here, we ended up in large shop filled with many interesting things–  as well as traditional bargaining.  Oddly enough, I’m pretty decent at it.  I negotiated a camelbone mirror from 40EU to 12EU-  and a wall hanging from 185 Eu to 65 Eu;  It’s nice being broke, because it gives me the chance to be respectful and deeply admire the craftsmanship as well as be completely honest about how much of my cash I am willing to part with.

I bought one of these- sadly, it's one not in this particular picture. Mine is similar in style to the think greenish one- but in muted blues and violets with silver accents:) If I had the cash, I wish I could have taken the purple in the foreground: The only way I justified spending the money was the realization I might never get a chance again to see Morocco unless I am extraordinarily lucky...

Afterwards, the owners invited us upstairs for some more mint tea- which I would dearly like to learn how to make here at home, and we all parted ways.  My friends were going to be staying for a few more days, my guide Aziz off to other clients, and I headed back to the boat.

...where I snapped this photograph (with permission). I just really liked the scene.

On the boat ride returning, I met a gentleman from Britain named John who happened to be on the British cabinet on the Middle East (his specialty was education)  He had recently left his job, and was doing some traveling as well- I had an excellent talk with him on the bus ride to Algiceres and I have yet to email him (to be fair, he has not emailed me either…)  Ths is makes for the second person on this trip I have met who was somewhat related to my field of study.  I received a lot of encouragement from him to continue my education in its current direction- just as I had from Steve in Madrid weeks before.

In closing, most travel guides called Tangiers a waste of time- however, on account of my time constraints as well as distance,  making it to Fes, Marrakesh, or Casablanca was a logistic impossibility.  Even so, I did not by any means agree with the guides in this respect.  I found Tangiers fascinating- but I still wish I had the time (and the funds!) to make it to the more notable parts of the country.

I also found that I experienced absolutely NO problems whatsoever…however, I did witness people who were harassed or heckled a bit by the locals.  I think part of it is that I had absolutely no fear at any part of my time here- where some Westerners seemed terrified for some reason.  Additionally, I was complemented many times for my choice of attire- it just goes to show that a little forethought can go a long way in getting along with the locals.  This entire trip abroad was weird in that way- I ended up finding more interesting and meaningful conversations with complete strangers and natives to the places I visited than I did with most of my classmates…and I related to them better, too. If I had the choice, I think I would have liked to have spent the entirety of my time in travel from destination to destination- however, I also liked the classes I took as well.  It would have been nice if Jaen wasn’t so far away from everywhere else!

1 Comment

Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Uncategorized


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