Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Morocco - A Ferry to Africa

Umm. I am not sure how to even start this post.
How about....one day we took a ferry to Africa.
And spent the day in Morocco.
Yep, just any normal day when you take on a new continent and all. I woke up with my stomach in tight knots a little frightened about the adventure ahead, but we pressed on and honestly that anticipation of the unknown was a big part of the fun! (I can say that now that we are back safe and sound!)We traveled from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco aboard a 30 minute ferry. Who knew Spain was that close?! We were met at the ship by our guide named Muhammad (figures - apparently Muhammad is what Muslim parents typically name their first-born son) and off we went to explore and discover. Brooke and I tried to be engaged yet at the same time discreet. We definitely felt the impact of being a woman in a Muslim country. When our guide started talking about Shi'ite Muslims vs Sunni Muslims I really felt very far from home.

The first part of our tour we were taken up and around the wealthy part of Tangier. We saw the fancy palaces and homes of the rich and famous. Except all the homes and palaces were behind big huge walls. I didn't think this start was terribly interesting since we really couldn't see what was behind the walls, but as Brooke noted - they wanted to be sure our first impression of Morocco was the wealthy as opposed to the brutal poverty. Makes sense.
I got a kick out of the stop sign in Arabic.This mansion we were able to catch a glimpse inside. I could tell the Islamic/Spanish overlap with the colorful tile detail and the intricate carved wood.We went out to the point where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean ocean. Our guide told us this place is mentioned in Homer and many Greek myths. Although it was hard to take him seriously or even to focus too much because he kept calling "Homer" "Humor" and poor guy, he was missing some teeth in some strategic places. Not the easiest person to concentrate on! No worry though because Connor loved the ocean and especially this large cactus.Then a special highlight of the trip - we RODE CAMELS! I had a hard time picking the best of the best photos because who really has the chance to ride camels in Morocco?!?! My camel is this one; she is named Fatima. Doesn't it just look like Fatima is smiling for the camera?! We paraded together in a big circle. We can't help but to buckle with laughter at these photos though. Doesn't it look like Brooke's camel has a gigantic hump as opposed to the camels Kirk and I are riding? We didn't realize the difference til looking at the photos and now we see why Brooke was balancing and holding on for dear life while we were waving away with confidence. Too funny!I'm not sure Connor knew what was happening. It is a miracle she didn't scream. Instead she held on tight to Daddy and took it all in while riding the camel's hump.
These photos crack me up too. Brooke looks glamorous even as the camel sits with her on it!Connor wanted to see the baby camel up close!We went to Hercules' cave. To tell you the truth I couldn't tell you a thing about the caves - why they are there or the story of their importance. It is a big tourist trap now a days but a fun one.Inside the cave was an opening that looked like a backwards image of the continent of Africa!There were many schoolchildren dressed in traditional Moroccan outfits visiting the caves too.After the caves we entered the historic Old Town in Tangier. In this photo Kirk is following our guide. And off to the side is a snake charmer! We definitely weren't in Kansas anymore!A peek at the beach from the Old Town.The many doors and tile entries were charming too.We had a demonstration from a local pharmacist about all of the local alternative herbs and medicines. It was interesting to learn about the uses for the creams and spices. We walked into the food market area around lunchtime. Handy, right?! The market was a feast of color, sights, and smells - just as you would imagine it. Not sure I would be comfortable getting my meats and produce this way, but it works for them. We saw a little bit of everything, even some guy walking by with freshly butchered goats strung over his shoulder.We opted for a clean and touristy Moroccan menu at a place in the middle of the market. It was a multi-course treat with Moroccan cous-cous and other yummy dishes. I just love this photo of Kirk at lunch with the festive colors all around.This course was the best. It was a pastry with ground chicken topped with cinnamon and sugar. I have never had anything like it before, but it literally danced in my mouth with powerful, tantalizing spices. I think I could have eaten 3 of them!I can't decide who Connor looks like in this shot. But I love that look! She had just woken from her nap.Connor lunched on her new favorite - ham and cheese. I made a promise with myself that I would bring everything from Spain that she ate. Just one of my phobias - I didn't want to deal with a sick child. Here Connor partakes the ham and cheese along with her toy camel. She was still on a high from the camel ride!
The Moroccan quartet added the perfect ambiance to our meal. Connor and I went over and danced a jig with them! They thought Connor was pretty cute!They thought Brooke was pretty cute too!Here is a video of us dancing along....enjoy! Not sure Connor knew what to make of it all!

We looked down at the market below and these guys were selling live turtles (as pets?) atop these baskets. They even pulled out a big lizard at one point!More colorful streets along the Old Town maze of avenues and corners.With full bellies Muhammad led us to a shop that sold expensive rugs - like any good tour guide who was hoping for a commission off any sales would. We didn't buy anything, but enjoyed the carpet show nevertheless. Connor loved sprinting atop the ornate rugs.Another one of my favorite shots is this one of Kirk and Connor waiting outside a shop in the Old Town while the ladies shopped away. The colors and chaos of it all screams Morocco!We visited the American Ligation in Tangier. Kinda like an embassy. Pictured below. Still very Moroccan even if it is American!Finally we topped off the day with a visit to the beach. The shore was wider than any other I had ever seen. Here is Connor with the Old Town in the background. We couldn't resist capturing this scene of the men and boys frolicking on the hot summer day with the women fully clothed in the traditional Muslim covering.On the ferry ride back to Spain I had a Diet Coke with an Arabic label. Can you see the relief in my face? I was very happy we went to Morocco, but returning home was a great feeling too. What a sensational adventure.
We needed maracas to shake in Morocco! Hard to believe I have now been to AFRICA!

1 comment:

Dallas said...

Great post! How did you find your guide and did he design the day for you or did you tell him what you wanted to see?