Wake up in Europe, to sleep in Africa.

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Sunday, July 23, 2006

He Said:
So a very long travel day yesterday was! We caught the first (although 2.5 hour delayed) ferry of the day across the Straight of Gibraltar into the Moroccan port city of Tangier. From there we rode the train south through the agricultural heartland to the city of Meknes, finally wearily arriving at our hotel 13 hours after departing Spain. Again a second day in a row of far better experiences than the guidebooks led us to expect. Tangier is supposed to be infamous for the hustlers who hang out at the port ripping off tourists. We didn't have a single negative experience; in fact the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC has far more con men and weird people around it! Moroccans so far have been an extremely friendly and helpful bunch, nothing but good reviews from us so far! Although predominantly Muslim, their society is quite diverse and quite an interesting mix, you have people wearing anything from designer jeans and Nikes to traditional jellabas (long shirt-like robes) with curled toe pointed slippers.
We closed yesterday evening by walking around a bit and getting dinner at the local equivalent of a diner. Awesome (and cheap) food!
Katie has never been to a Muslim nation before so I'm finding her interpretations and reactions to be quite interesting. I'm sure you'll hear a few comical remarks in her observations!

Today we jumped full-on into Morocco. Walked into the medina (old city) and promptly got lost in the labyrinthine alleys. Found our way out thanks to a few local young boys. Visited the tomb of Moulay Ismail who was king of Morocco in the late 1600's. We both found it to be very beautiful and peaceful, and sat a while in its atmospheric courtyard. Next we entered the souq (market) area of Meknes, and were immediately immersed in all the smells, sights, and sound that make Arab countries such rich travel experiences, Katie found it a bit overwhelming! Stopped in a museum housed in an old mansion, ate at a small café, then sweated our way back to our air-conditioned room to cool-off until the heat of the day ended.

She Said:
I am really getting in to this whole backpacking thing. I have realized that I brought WAY to much stuff, and I really don't need half of what I have. I am sure you will be able to tell from the pictures (I always wear the same thing!). Todd is an expert traveler - from packing the right stuff in the most efficient way, to navigating any city like he has been there a dozen times. I think I could get lost walking to the bathroom. If it were up to me to navigate, we would have either died in the Meknes Medina today, or possibly set up a nice camp with pretty Moroccan tiles and woodcarvings (sometimes I can be pretty resourceful...).

The souqs sell anything you could imagine from clothing and mattresses, to all kinds of food. I have never seen so much meat for sale before - cow carcasses hanging on large hooks stripped of their skin (but with huge penises still attached) with flies landing all over them, and even live bunnies and chickens just waiting to be purchased and butchered for the freshest meat. The smell was overwhelming, and it made me think of the dinner that I ate the night before in a different way (was my tajine, a Moroccan stew, made with meat that came from this place?). Maybe I should look into vegetarianism. The produce and nuts did look rather clean and yummy.

It is interesting to be a Western woman in a Muslim country. There are very few women walking around at night - it seems like men out number women 20 to 1 on the street, and it feels like I am somewhat out of place. There the cafés lining the streets just full of only men drinking coffee/tea, reading the paper, smoking, starring off into space, and just hanging out. If you didn't know better, you would think Meknes is competing with Key West and San Francisco as a travel destination. Ah, but I do know better, and realize that the social lives of men and women are somewhat segregated outside the home. And women wear the pants in the family inside the home (where, based on my limited experience, they stay most of the time). Its so hot here that I can't say I blame them, particularly if you had to wear a robe and a head covering. Oh, and I can't help but hum the Darth Vader theme song to myself every time I see the occasional orthodox Muslim woman in a head to toe black jellabah with face cover (only eyes showing).

All of this makes me appreciate America and the freedoms we all enjoy as a citizens - whether it be religious freedom, the freedom to say and do what you choose and when you choose to do it, as well as the EQUALITY between men and women in all facets of society. I miss that.
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