Mo roc and roll
Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
104Trip End Ongoing
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We got to Tangiers and were promptly swarmed by a bunch of Taxi drivers. I'm getting pretty good at ignoring people. This is going to serve me well in the future, me thinks..
We walked around a bit. Not too much happening in Tangiers. So we bought a bus ticket for Rabat. Getting on a bus is the last thing we want to do, but so is staying in a shit hole city in Morocco. The bus ride was long and really, really hot. Looking out the window was enlightening though. The countryside was surprisingly green, which is to say that it's well irrigated. The farms seem to be doing quite well. The roads were all top of the line as well. Getting into Rabat, we got into a Petit Cab (as opposed to the grand cabs) and headed into town. I was struck by how western everything seemed to be. Modern as well. The other thing that struck me right away was just how many flags there are all around Morocco. They really like their flag, and it shows. As Rabat is the capital, there are a lot of embassies from around the world. I guess this was my first real hint that we were in an Islamic country as most of the countries represented were middle eastern. For what it's worth, our embassy looked like it had been designed by Mike Brady, not our best effort.
We didn't have too much trouble getting a decent hotel. Decent is really quite a relative term these days. By decent, I mean that we didn't see any roaches or centipedes. It also had an arrow that pointed towards Mecca. The toilet was down the hall, and it was one of those squat jobs. Or, as they call them in Morocco, "Turkish" toilets. I'll bet in Turkey, they call them Moroccan Toilets. Stay tuned.. I'll let you know on this. Now, in Arabic countries your left hand is considered dirty. To shake, accept a gift, or eat with your left hand is considered to be extremely rude. This is because your left hand is used to "clean" yourself... if you catch my drift. WARNING: WHAT IS ABOUT TO BE SHARED IS GROSS. Now that you've been warned... I had to use the aforementioned Turkish toilet. And after calling balls and strikes for a few minutes, (there's no time for reading with these things) it was time to "clean up". Sadly, I was not prepared. And there was no paper to be found. So, I figured, "When in Morocco, do as the Moroccan's". Suffice it to say that Ted Williams isn't the only lefty that can bat clean up. Not one of my finer moments, but nobody can say that I'm not getting down on the level of the people.
After we got settled, Kelly and I went for a walk around the city. We were surprised by how open everything was. Compared to Qatar it was night and day. We didn't see any burkas. Most of the women had their heads covered, but quite a few made no attempt to cover up. The clothes were no different from those that we wear in America, with the exception of these flowing Moo-Moo looking robes that some of the older men wear. We walked through a park and notice lots of young lovers holding hands, and even stealing some kisses on the park benches. Again, not what we had expected from an Islamic country. For all of the strides that they seem to be making, however, there is still a definite divide between the genders. Men associate with men. All the time it would seem. If you walk by any cafe chances are that it will be filled with men. Most of them sitting outside with their chairs facing toward the street, lazily drinking coffee or this ridiculously strong mint tea (which is fantastic by the way) and smoking cigarettes like they were Edward R. Murrow. It's kind of strange. Also, it is quite common to see men walking around holding hands or arm in arm. This is not considered "gay", it is just a sign that they are good buddies. You actually see kids doing this a lot too. In terms of people watching, Morocco is tops. As we continued on our walk, we stopped to get some orange juice at one of the many fresh squeezed orange juice stands. This stuff is fantastic and only about 25 cents a glass. The vendors usually only have a few glasses though, so you have to wait for the people in front of you to finish their juice, so the vendor can wash your glass in a bucket before giving you your juice. So when you get your glass, most people chug it like a can of Keystone Light at a frat party. This so the people behind you don't have to wait too long. After chugging some juice, we came upon a group of men praying in a parking lot. The call to prayer had sounded just a few minutes earlier and this group of taxi drivers gathered together and were putting their heads to the ground in the middle of this trash filled asphalt. Nobody paid them any attention, and they were wrapped up in their prayers. It was an interesting non-exchange.
That night we were serenaded by a fantastic phantom band. As we sat in the court yard of our hotel, we could hear the flutes, singing, drumming, and cymbals, but try as we might, we couldn't find the party. I think they were playing on a roof somewhere.
The next day we headed into the Medina, which is basicly the ancient walled city. The city is basicly set up into two parts, the old city and the new one. The old part is very very old. It's a large, working Medina and probably goes back 900 years. People live and work in this labyrinth like medevil city, in much the same way that they have for all of those years. Except now they have electricity. To say the Medina is a maze is kind of an understatement. In fact, most tourists hire a guide so that they can find their way around. We got lost in it many times, but we found it to be part of the fun. We might have considered hiring a guide, but we found out that if you try to negotiate with a vendor while you have a guide, then you will not get a good price. This is due to the fact that the guide will get a hefty commission from the shop keeper for bringing you to his booth. One man told me that the guide can command up to half of the sales price as his cut. While walking around the Medina, we were approached by what have to be the worlds best sales people. The shop keepers in Morocco's souks (markets) have a magnificent sales approach that makes you want to talk to them. It is seemingly harmless and nonchalant, yet through all the small talk a gentle, yet persistent pressure to buy is applied. It's kind of tough to explain, but they are constantly sizing you up based on what you are carrying, where you are from, and how long you look at certain items. As we rounded one corner, we were again reminded that we were in a strange and foreign land. A shop keeper was yelling at this boy of around nine, who was clearly not his son. Out of nowhere he starts hitting him with a broom handle. Not a love tap either, I'm talking WWF style. The kid tried to plead his case; but the shopkeeper was having none of it as he repeatedly slapped the boy across the face with his hand. It was quite an awkward thing to watch. Normally, I like to think that I would have stepped in, but not in Morocco. I'm not the home team here. The man then found the boys friend and slapped and hit him a few times for good measure. I hope he got his point across.
After some souk time, we went to the edge of the city to some wonderfully well preserved Roman ruins. Wild flowers have long ago taken over the ruins, so walking through them is almost like walking through something of a Disney Garden. Ancient Roman columns and stone work surrounded by fantastic flowers. These were some of the best ruins that we've seen yet. Later that day, we made our way through the Medina towards the beach. On the way there, Kelly and I fell in love with some of the coolest doors you could imagine. I'm not one to get excited about home furnishings, but these doors were really cool, we actually contemplated buying them, but figured they wouldn't fit in our packs. We'll have to come back here some time with some money, as the rugs and cool antiques could really make for some interesting conversation pieces someday. As we excited the souk, Kelly was accosted by a teen age girl doing henna decorations on women's hands. Henna, for those who might not know, is basicly an ink that is put on the hands and feet of women as a decoration. Once applied, it usually lasts for a week or so. Anyway this girl approaches Kel and grabs her. She starts putting this stuff all over Kelly's hands while saying, "Because, You are beautiful Madam." Kelly tried to get away, but then the girl's friend joined in and in about 15 seconds time, with Kelly objecting all the while, her hand was covered in ink. Then this girl had the nerve to ask for "Only five euros". I pointed out that we didn't ask for this and we were not going to pay her. She looked at me and said that I must pay. I lost my shit. I asked her if she spoke English, which clearly she did. She responded, "yes". I then told that she was a thief. I got in my wallet and pulled out 20 dirhams which is about 1.50, and tried to give it to her. She kept insisting on five euros and would not take my offer of money. So I wadded of the bill and threw it on the ground, called her a thief again, and walked away. The dumbfounded look on that gypsy's face was priceless. I hate thieves.
The beach was actually quite a surprise. It was straight out of a Frankie and Annette movie, except for the fact that the music was in a wailing Arabic. There were girls in bikinis, guys surfing, a huge promotional tent with hundreds of teen age boys huddling around jumping up and down when the music would come on. It wasn't too different from Daytona. The men/boys at the beach were in ridiculous shape. It was kind of weird how fit everyone was. It was here that I realized that the United States will never win the world cup. Here, an in every country we've visited so far, every male plays soccer and they all have incredible ball handling skills. Kelly and I watched a juggling circle and noticed that every one who joined in looked like Pele, and Morocco's team didn't even qualify this year.
The next morning we headed off to Fes..