Hola a todos,
After a fairly calm and relaxing month in Sevilla, I was ready to head south to a new country (and an entirely new continent) to experience the wonders of Morocco. Despite receiving warnings from program directors about “the dangers of Morocco,” I decided to take my chances and experience the country for myself. After it was all said and done, I’m glad I did.
Day 1: Getting There
I traveled with Discover Excursions, a program that organizes cheap weekend getaways throughout Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. Now, for those of us who are a bit geographically challenged like myself, Morocco is in northwest Africa separated from Spain by the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the short distance between the two countries, bad weather turned a 7 hour trip into a 16 hour trip.
This was the intended trip itinerary: 3:30pm board busses for Tarifa, Spain. 8:00pm ferry leaves from Tarifa port to Tangier, Morocco. 9:30pm arrive in Tangier, Morocco. 10:00pm dinner at La Paloma Hotel.
This is what actually happened: We boarded the busses for Tarifa, Spain at 3:30pm. The Tarifa port closed due to unsafe sailing conditions so we had to leave from the port of Algeciras, Spain (which almost doubled the ferry time). But to top it off, we had a 4 hour layover in the port station before we could even board the ferry. So that brought us to 1:00am when we finally boarded the ferry from the port of Algeciras, Spain to Tangier, Morocco. We arrived in Tangier, Morocco at 5:00am and finally arrived at our hotel in Tetuan at 6:30am.
Needless to say, it was a frustrating experience. At least the beds were comfy??
Day 2: Chefchaouen, Morocco
We left the hotel around 9am to depart for Chefchaouen, Morocco aka “The Blue City.” Chefchaouen is a small medina in Morocco’s Rif mountains. I’m sure I’m not the first to say it lives up to its name. It’s filled with narrow pathways and detailed doors coated in various shades of blue. Some doors were grommeted with brass fixtures and handles- each with its own stylistic flare. It’s no surprise that Chefchaouen is one of the most visited places in Morocco- it’s beautiful! See for yourself:
After visiting the main sites, we stopped for lunch in Aladdin- a mediterranean style
restaurant. We were first served hot glasses of Moroccan mint tea. I would consider myself to be a bit of a tea connoisseur, but I had never tasted a tea so flavorful! We were then served an extremely fresh vegetable salad- a delicacy I have missed since coming to Spain. This was followed by yellow rice topped with fall-off-the-bone chicken and fries.
The Bargain Game: Bargaining is a cultural custom in Morocco. Of course the vendors want the highest payment while the buyers want the lowest price. I had my first bargaining experience in a leather purse shop in the Chefchaouen market. I found a perfect handmade leather bag that I decided I had to have. My exchange went something like this:
Me: “Cuanto cuesta?” (Spanish is more commonly spoken in Morocco than English)
Vendor: “380 douhams” (380 douhams=38€)
Me: “No. Voy a pagar 15€” (Obviously this was an unreasonable offer but go big or go home).
Vendor: “Cuál es su oferta final?”
Vendor: **Puts purse in bag and hands it to me**
Moral of the story, patience is a virtue and a little stubbornness doesn’t hurt. Vendors really want sales and are willing to negotiate for fair prices. After all, tourism is the city’s main income. While in the market I also bought Moroccan-made party pants (8€), pigment-matching Chapstick (.50€) and a henna tattoo (5€).
Day 2: Asilah & Tangier, Morocco
We began our day in Asilah, Morocco. Asilah is a much smaller medina than Chefchaouen. What sets it apart however, is its beachside location and beautiful views. After taking in these views we were able to do more bargaining in the marketplace. I bought a cloth canvas painting depicting the city of Chefchaouan (5€), and a handmade necklace (6€).
After touring Asilah, we boarded the busses for Tangier. Finally the moment we were all anticipating… camel rides!!! Although the experience was a bit underwhelming (the rides were short, the camels were a bit grumpy, and the trainers were rough), it was still an interesting experience that not a lot of people can say they’ve had.
We made our way back to Spain after the camel rides. Thankfully, the trip home was smooth-sailing.
My trip to Morocco was a cultural learning experience and certainly something I will never forget. Contrary to popular western belief, Africa is not solely made up of indigenous African tribes. Northern Africa is a major part of the Islamic world and is mainly comprised of Berbers and Arabs who are predominately muslim. It was interesting to see and experience their culture firsthand. It’s obvious that Morocco is a developing nation that lacks many basic resources, but something so beautiful was how happy and genuine the Moroccan people were in spite of their situation. It was incredibly admirable and eye opening.