Camels, chickens, and fish, oh my!

Trip Start Jan 27, 2008
Trip End Jul 23, 2008

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, March 1, 2008

    A phone call woke us up at about 7:30.  We had a buffet breakfast with potato things like lefske, pancake things that had holes in them, croissants, fruit, eggs, and some different meats.  Then we got back on the bus for a short trip to the center of the city of Tetouan.  There were so many palm trees around.  The architecture was pretty similar to that of Spain in some areas, but was also very unique in the colors and some of the styles.  We started off in one area and Michael Douglas told us that we would be walking through the medina, which is the old part of town.  We needed to walk single file or in twos because although cars were not allowed in there, there would be animals and other people that need to get by.  The medina was full of little markets on almost every alley.  So many different things were being sold.  There were live chickens that people would pick out so that the shop owner could pick it up by the neck and kill and prepare it right there in front of them.  Lots of stands had full fish sitting out.  There were vegetable stands, spice stands, shoe stands, and handicraft stands.  We saw the main mosque and heard the call for prayer. 
     We saw the king's palace.  The king of Morocco stays in Rabat, the capital usually, but during the summer he often travels north to other palaces to stay.  We learned more about the religion of Islam, especially about the five pillars, which are represented in the 5 pointed star on the Moroccan flag, as 99% of Moroccans are Muslim.  Michael Douglas took us to a pharmacy, who sold natural medicines, such as a motion sickness/relaxant perfume, weight loss tea, saffron (the king of the spices), a cream used for pimples and lip balm, Moroccan tea for relaxation, etc.  The Pharmacist's assistants would come around and give us a dab of each cream, etc. to try out and then we could buy something if we wanted to.  We also went to a traditional Bazaar, which was basically a store with many items from Morocco.  The store owners gave us a rug show on the top, where they showed us probably at least 50 rugs, rolling each of them out and piling them on top of each other.  The presenter was pretty entertaining and had us touch each of them and described what they were made of.  They were all hand made, some out of camel wool, etc.  Then they held up each rug again and if one of us wanted it we had to say something and if we didn't, we said "la".  Some people got very big rugs and ended up spending quite a bit of money on them!  The presenter took each person to a room on the side and bargained with them, while the rest of us bargained for other items downstairs.
    One of the most interesting things about Morocco was the bargaining.  In the U.S. and even in Spain, we are used to a set price and knowing how much it will cost, not considering how much it should cost or would cost if we bargained.  In Morocco, however, if you're caught looking at something for a while, one of the store keepers will come up to you and tell you how wonderful what you are looking at is and tells you a starting price, which both you and him know is too much.  Then you say something lower and they tell you how wonderful it is and why it is worth more, but usually go down a little bit.  It goes on forever, some people got the trick of saying that they only had so much money or walking away or starting really absurdly low and then working up to what they thought was best by the end of the trip.   I didn't buy very many things, so I didn't have to bargain too much.  All of the store keepers spoke English because of the importance of tourism in the economy.  All over Morocco, wherever we went, there were children or men on the street trying to sell us things, play camels, drums, hats, peanuts, etc.  They would continue asking you until you ignored them for a long time or until you bought something. 
    We had lunch in a restaurant in Tetouan, which was decorated very nicely and had windows on the room, where children kept poking their heads in.  Lunch started off with a lot of bread and a really good vegetable soup.  Then we had some delicious couscous with chicken, potatoes, carrots, and another vegetable that we couldn't figure out.  We finished it all off with an orange.  Then we all piled back on the bus for a winding road trip to Tanger.  Luckily I had taken Dramamine because the bus ride was about 2 hours long and some people ended up getting sick.  I slept most of the way to avoid getting sick, but I did see a lot of the scenery.  I was surprised that Morocco had so many mountains and trees, I guess I expected there to be basically a desert.  The scenery was really pretty with small houses among mountains, rivers, and a lot more greenery than there is in Andalucia.  Along the roads in very remote places, there would be people walking or just sitting because it seemed that everyone walked places instead of driving.  There were a lot of donkeys, cows, and sheep just wandering around, not fenced in or watched by anybody. 
    When we got to Tanger, we took a kind of bus tour with Michael Douglas telling us all about what was around us.  We saw the port where part of Casablanca was shot and we went up a mountain from which we could see the whole city, full of white buildings.  The main source for the economy is the port, where they fish and have a lot of tourism.  Then we got to a place where I got to complete one of my main goals for the trip- riding a camel!  Although it was only in a parking lot and was pretty touristy, it was still pretty fabulous.  The camels were a lot larger than I had pictured and getting on and off of one was pretty terrifying because they were on an extreme tilt for most of the time.  After camel rides, we went to a rest stop/restaurant with a beautiful view of Cabo Espartel, one of the coasts.  Then we went back down the road and had a tour of part of the medina of Tanger, as well as a little bit of free time.
     After a very long day, we took another winding bus ride back to the hotel in Tetouan, where we had dinner- a delicious salad, chicken and vegetables, and for dessert- a really good strawberry and chocolate cake.  We had to say goodbye to Michael Douglas aka Abdul because we would have another guide the next day.  (Paco stayed with us all three days, but wasn't really a tour guide, more of an assistant, except for in Spain).  I fell asleep very quickly after such a fun, busy day.
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