It began in Africa-ca-ca-ca-ca
Trip Start Aug 30, 2006
33Trip End Jun 11, 2007
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We got off the boat in Tanger under sunny skies and were met immediately by a guy whose name was Mustafa, who explained that he was employed by the government to give a sort of guided tour of places you wouldn't ordinarily see in the area. So we went along and enjoyed a mostly amazing tour of the city and surrounding areas. After checking into a nice hotel across from a mosque (the call to prayer, the first one I've heard, woke me up at dawn, and was quite chilling the first time, insistent like an emergency alarm). There was the Medina, or old town, over 1400 years old, everything a dirty white color, dim streetlights, dirty, crowded. The market, full of fly-covered fruit and smelling of fish, where we were educated on Moroccan carpets (the one thing in Morocco that always appreciates in value), silver, woodworking, and spices
Probably the most interesting thing about Morocco are the people. Tanger was a pretty Moroccan place despite its tourist town status, as in the Medina there were almost exclusively locals. The women dress mostly in traditional Muslim clothes, although it's not shocking to see them dressed like Westerners. The men dress mostly in Western style (an ironic term, as Morocco is geographically west of most of Europe), although plenty do not. There are the very rich, who drive new Mercedes and wear suits and seem to avoid places like the Medina; the comfortable, who as adults dress nicely and as children walk around with adults; and the pretty destitute, who as children hawk chiclets or fake Italian watches, and as adults are stooped and gaunt, their faces the color of dirt
These last few are typical of Tanger, Mustafa explained. Since Morocco hasn't developed the same industry as Western countries, its economy relies only on handicrafts like carpets and leather and silver, which while they are quite nice don't provide the sort of economic growth and employment that industry can sustain. So lots of people simply can't find work, so they just hang out. It is hard to see because they don't look pathetic, just bored, a victim of their society just as certain people are in the U.S., except they don't complain (more on that later).
We moved on to Marrakech by night train, where I was treated to a show of Moroccan cell phone etiquette. Like the Spaniards, it is horrendous, and seems not to take into account either the vibrate feature or the ring-silencer. The rolling green rocky hills of the north gave way to the red desert of the south, even more rocky, mostly being worked by people as if it was combed. Then we arrived in bustling Marrakech, escorted to a hotel by a friendly cab driver.
Let me just say that driving is an absolute nightmare here. The tendency is to drive in the middle of the road as long as no one is coming, a policy which ignores the center stripe and often calls for swerving
Marrakech is beautiful, with a big rose garden in full bloom and a huge royal palace, a mosque from the 12th century, and of course the main square. It is also incredibly smelly and dirty, a mix of garbage and car fumes filling the air. Lots of old cars, but just as many donkeys and horses, gaunt and tired looking, pulling all sorts of carts. Also people pulling carts. Traffic EVERYWHERE.
But while these seem like inconveniences, they are not really. What is annoying to me are the tourists here, mostly garden variety French and English, hanging out in the hotel bar drinking beer (which good Muslims don't do) and taking photos. They are just irritating, the type with rolling suitcases and thick accents who make the waiters bend to their wishes. I mean, I'm glad they're traveling, but they're not for me, and there are a surprising number of them.
The other inconvenience is that, as a Westerner, I am constantly hit up for money, hashish, goods, etc. Dozens of times a day a young man walks past me and whispers, "hashish," which is legal but not openly smoked here, and pesters me when I answer in French, no, we don't want any. Shopkeepers call from their doorways as if we'll just fly in and buy everything
Which brings me back to our wonderful country (well, for most of the people reading this anyway) who yesterday gave me some mixed news from the elections. While I am happy that the Dems have gotten some seats back, I have to voice publicly my extremely bitter disappointment in the fact that Wisconsinites voted for not one but two extremely, blatantly discriminatory and unsympathetic measures, the gay marriage ban and the reinstatement of the death penalty
Okay, if that offended anyone...too bad, I'm not in the mood. But Africa is cool, anyway. Love you all.