Moroccan and Rollin’ in Northern Africa
Hey study abroad students! Are you sick and tired of your European country being far less technologically savvy than America? Don’t you just wish for once you could give your señora a pair of jeans and get them back the next day? Are you sick of eating french fries with a fork? If the answer to previous questions is “yes!” then you should go to Morocco! Morocco is the perfect second world country to make you realize that wherever you are is not so bad. All jokes aside, Morocco was quite the experience! Sure we weren’t allowed to drink the water or eat their salad, but hey, who wants water and salad anyway? Am I right?
I should have anticipated that the weather would suck just because that always happens when our group goes on a cool excursion in which I hope to take a lot of pictures outside, but we soon realized that everybody was destined to look like crap and it was surely acceptable (especially there). Forty days of rain per year and we were there for two. What are the chances?! See, if I was good at math, I would follow this up with a legitimate answer, but instead you’ll have to envision my blank stare.
Our first stop was at a restaurant where I could spend the rest of my life and be perfectly content. It was there that I officially became one of those people. You know which ones I’m talking about–the ones that photograph their food. I couldn’t help it though! This was the first time I had seen couscous in three months and had food that was flavored with someone other than salt. I was in all my [ever-so-cultured] glory. Our tour guide informed us (eight times nonetheless) that we would get to try the mint tea of Morocco. He was right! Sure it was delicious, and I bet he was really excited, but the entire weekend he repeated his sentences in various sentence structures, and interchanging adjectives after everything that he said. I don’t know if he was just really excited to show off his English skills, or he has some type of disorder, but regardless I became easily frustrated with him. Immediately after we went into a walking tour around Tangier, however it wasn’t long before we made our first diversion at a Moroccan “pharmacy.” Up the stairs we went to a room filled with long benches set up for what looked to be a camp talent show, though the man that emerged next was far better than any act I’ve seen before. His display table was filled with bags of spices, herbs, and creams promising the removal of any unwanted blemishes or fat on the human body. “Hello, Please!” eventually became his tag line as he would preach the miracles of orange oil and test our knowledge of saffron. It took me about 15 minutes before I realized just who he reminded me of. Willy fuckin’ Wonka. This guy wore a lab coat and had something so condescending about him, yet everyone wanted more. He even had his own version of oompa loompas come out between each product and rapidly, one by one, give each of us a sample without saying a word. Everyone thought they were so clever by taking him up on his “buy two get one free” offers and splitting it with their friends to save money, but let’s be honest, we all just paid 5 euros for Johnson and Johnson’s baby lotion in a container the size of a silver dollar and packaged in arabic. Jokes on us.
After this sitcom we weaved in and out of the streets of Tangier, occasionally stopping for novelty items and every so often getting a tidbit of information from our tour guide. At the end of our walk, the man who had latched onto us at the beginning (whom I believed was another tour guide) stood with his hands out, expecting tips. Was he not actually with us? Is he insane? Literally what was going on? This was only the beginning of the series of ridiculous men who would later follow us around like groupies. I should say we were given fair warnings that this country was accustom to frequent tipping, however I did not know that local pedestrians with nothing better to do but lurk, were included in this. And so we were off to Hotel Chellah, finally able to unpack, unwind and spend the rest of the night soaking in the fact that we were in officially in Africa!
Early the next day, and by early I mean earlier than everyone else thanks to slight confusion about daylight savings, we had breakfast at the hotel. Special shout out to the Arab woman who made me a delicious pita-esque bread with her bare hands while sitting over a small grill. You rock, don’t ever change. After loading the bus, we were headed to Chefchaouen, which in my opinion was the best city we saw. About an hour and a half from Tangier, tucked away in the mountains is this pretty little village where all the houses and buildings were painted the same beautiful blue color. The narrow uphill streets were a little bit frightening seeing as they had been freshly coated with rain, and I was sure to link arms with those around me, if by some chance I were to go rolling down the hill. At least then I would not be the only one embarrassed. We were led through Chefchaouen by an old man wearing a traditional long man dress called a Djellaba, and a fez (the hat, not the character from That 70’s Show) (Common mistake no worries). Yet again I was able to pinpoint his animated look alike, and so he became “the little old man from 8 Crazy Nights.” He was such a nugget and spoke such good English in cute old man fashion! Although we were told that taking pictures of people in Morocco was somewhat forbidden, this man was all for it. He even threw in the peace sign for a full effect. Of course the day wouldn’t have been complete without a tourist trap, so naturally we stopped in a rug shop? Sorry for the question mark, I just have no idea what to call this place. It was full of tapestries, and carpets claimed only to be authentic and available from Chefchaouen. They were so pretty, I just couldnt resist. I figured that if I was a legitimate person who collected post cards and shot glasses from each city I traveled to, then by this point I would have spent the same amount on those as I spent on my new blanket. I haven’t decided where exactly it will wind up, but if you get a silky, cream colored tapestry from me as a birthday present, just know it’s legit.
Later that night we were taken to a dinner show in a large tent which featured performers such as “The Man Who Walks on Glass,” “The Man Who Spins with Candles Glued to the Tray on His Head,” and the ” Thank G-d She’s a Belly Dancer because Her Face is an Atrocity Lady.” Not sure if those were their actual titles but they’ll just have to do. This reminded me of an upscale Bedouin tent, if you will. It was humorous, moderately entertaining and the food was good so what’s there to complain about? Being one of the last people to get seated, I found myself at a table with only three of my friends. We we’re perfectly fine with this, that was, until the random older couple from Ireland joined us. I’m not good at sharing and I really wanted them to leave, but as it turns out they were quite lovely! The two of them shared stories about when their son was abroad, which made us all a bit emotional especially when she tried to express how much he loves the friends he made and how quickly everything is going to be over. Eeeeek. Must. Not. Digress. And write. Depressing. Blog entry.
As far as night life goes in Morocco, there is none. Literally it does not exist to my knowledge, and therefore we were banished back to the hotel for the evening. I’m sure you can guess this did not upset me tremendous amounts. Plus, I needed a good night’s sleep because I had a hot date with a camel the next day. Any Nice Jewish Girl (that is a title, it required capitalization) has ridden a camel once or twice before, so while I was definitely excited, I was not expecting anything too crazy. Our last day in Morocco was spent in Asilah, but the camel ride was a pit stop along the way. Perched on the African coast of the Atlantic Ocean, four camels, and a bratty little baby one awaited us. They smelled like shit and made a lot of weird noises, but so do a lot of people and that’s even more unacceptable. The ride only lasted about two minutes, but I’m pretty excited to say I’ve now done this on two different continents. Asilah was a pretty town along the water full of walls covered in artwork and authentic little shops. We were given free time to wander around, and make some purchases. This was my time to shine-the hour of haggling. Now you know I love handmade pottery as much as the next aspiring house wife, but there there’s only so much I’m willing to spend. Most of the girls on my trip decided to get a henna tattoo, but I was ultra reluctant considering I will be doing my signature betch pose in many upcoming spring break pictures.
I realize this post is a bit shorter than the rest, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because we barely did any historical sightseeing. While all of Morocco is history in itself, we stayed clear of mosques, and other important buildings. I suppose not being allowed in to places unless you are Muslim makes it a tad difficult to go on a tour. That’s okay though, the culture and the locals were the true stars of this trip, and it was nice to turn the intensity level down a few notches. Salaam Aleikum, Morocco, and thank you for rockin’.