March 02, 2010

Part 1: Womp Womp

I am happy to announce that all 15 people in our group made it safely back to Malaga Sunday night after a whirlwind tour of Tangier, Morocco! Now, we can say we've been to Africa!

Our trip began early Friday morning when we caught the 7:30 AM bus from Malaga to Tarifa, where we had to run to catch the ferry to Tangier. We finally arrived in Morocco (after a few episodes of seasickness...) around 3 and were taken to our hotel by our friendly tour guide, Jonas.

Oh, hey, Africa.

We hung out in our rooms for awhile before going on a panoramic bus tour of Tangier.

This is where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet at the Straits of Gibraltar. Unfortunately it was overcast that day but you can usually see straight across to Spain!

Along the way we stopped for camel rides! This was one of the "Things To Do in Morocco" checked off our list!

Next, we headed to the Caves of Hercules, a must-see in Tangier.

Our tour guide explained that it looks like a face from this way but the reverse side also looks like the continent of Africa. And wouldn't you know it, that's where we were!

Our next stop was the Medina, an area of shops and markets, mostly geared towards the "wealthy" tourists. First, we hit up a three-story bazaar where they tried to sell us "magic rugs" made of cotton and cashmere. These were some hard-hitting salesmen!

And there were so many rugs!

I actually did some bartering and bought some nice gifts. I don't want to give away the story for the people I bought the gifts for, but let's just say it was really sketchy!

We continued through the markets on our way to a herb store. These shops had everything! There were butchers across from flower shops, shoe stores, candy stores, and of course a million shops filled with touristy knick-knacks, just waiting to lure in the Euro-carrying tourists. Euros are highly valued in Morocco because they are worth about 11 dirham, the Moroccan currency. The vendors could spot tourists from a mile away and made it a point to bombard them with "bonito" (pretty) bracelets, "barato" (cheap) statues of camels, and anything else they could try to sell. It was a madhouse.

At the herbal store, we were given a demonstration by a man dressed in a white coat, pretending to be a doctor. Yeah, right. He made us sniff eucalyptus seeds to clear our our sinuses and stop snoring. He taught us how to brew ginseng roots to make your "lazy husbands" unlazy. He showed us saffron cream for your chapped lips, rose cream for your hands, and orange blossom concoctions to cure hangovers and insomnia. He also showed us an array of cooking spices from ground up saffron, curry, and a Mediterranean blend to season any dish.

And while all these things are pretty cool in retrospect, at the time, I was completely miserable. I have never felt so unsafe and uncomfortable for such a long period of time. Between worrying about basic necessities such as water, being harassed and followed by vendors, the less-than-clean hotel rooms, and seeing the stark contrast between the beautiful palaces and beaches and the utter poverty that most of the country lives in, I was an emotional wreck. The buildings looked relatively new but nothing was maintained or taken care of so it all went to crap. And Tangier is considered one of the richest and safest cities in Morocco due to its tourist population in the summer. I can't imagine what the rest of the country is like if Tangier is the tip of the iceberg.

And just like I didn't know what to expect going to Morocco, I didn't expect to miss Malaga as much as I did. In the past few weeks, it has truly become like another home. The thought of my warm, clean bed, a tap with potable water, and not having to wear my purse under my jacket for fear of being robbed all seemed like a distant dream the entire weekend. It may sound pretty dramatic but that's really how I felt.

A group of us even talked about it during our downtime one day; we are so fortunate to live in the United States. And sure, the US isn't perfect, but at least we have a government that protects us and provides for us with safe public areas, clean cities, and human rights. It also made me want to do something about the poverty in these developing countries. UF offers some Alternative Breaks where you go to a Latin American country over a 3-day weekend or even spring break and help build a school or rebuild homes devastated by some catastrophe. I will definitely look into one of these trips when I get back to the States. But for now I have vacations to both Barcelona and London coming up next week!

Hope everyone is doing great and I can't wait to see you all soon! I can't believe it's March already; time is flying!

1 comment:

Dr. Brother said...

I heard some tourist wear their backpacks on their stomachs to prevent pick pockets