Welcome to the third part of the Moroccan Travel Logs.
Last time I went through my experience in Casablanca and my first action-packed day in Rabat. This is going to be the last part of the blog series looking at the last days of my trip. Enjoy
30 December 2012
After the dynamic touristy day I had, today I wanted to take it easy and relax in the apartment while planning for my next step and places to visit. I looked through the Arabic TV as well. It was interesting to see what the media in this country is like. It was quite amusing to see how you had an access to an array of international channels which would be paid or locked in most European countries. As there weren’t any strict policies on public television, you could pay a TV hacker to adjust your receiver to catch channels from all over the world. In the afternoon I went for a run around the beach and the center. It was a bit strange as it is not very common for people to run around the streets. A cultural difference that was getting me strange looks around the city. Evening came and I and my hosts went for a small leaving dinner in a local restaurant nearby. The girls took me to a Moroccan restaurant which was traditionally decorated and everyone was dressed in Arabic attire. Mint tea, warm pitta bread, salads, and tajines. The food was delicious as always. My host didn’t even let me pay the bill as we were leaving the restaurant. I had to go to bed early as I was about to head to Fes in the early morning.
31 December 2012
Back on the road again, pack and off to the early morning train from Rabat to Fes. About 2-3 hours ride though spacious and comfortable compared to the last one. Once I got to Fes I had no idea where I am going to stay or what I am going to do. I didn’t have much luck finding a reliable host and I didn’t know of any hostels either. I wasn’t worried though as it was a nice day so I just started walking around the place randomly. The Old Town was really interesting as it was surrounded by ancient walls and enclosed from all sides, like a castle. People in Fes, though, weren’t as nice as the people in the other places I went. They were intrusive, pushy and unpolite.
A random guy on the street spoke to me and mentioned that he is also on Couchsurfing and offered his hospitality. I wasn’t particularly keen on staying with some random person without credibility, but after looking at his Couchsurfing Profile I decided to give it a shot as I didn’t have a place to stay for the night. He had positive references, though he lived in a suburb overlooking the city. The area looked super sketchy, but he took me to his favorite sandwich shop and an artisan place where they made me buy some of their merchandise some trust was built this way. The artisan was his friend, an Old Berber selling carpets, lamps, scarves and other kinds of clothing and ceramics. The Berbers are great salesmen offering you things for free so they can lure you into the next step and sell you the actual product they are selling, massively overpriced. Try haggling with these guys and you will most likely end up paying even more than previously offered. Even though I got ripped off it was interesting to learn about the Nomadic life of these people as well as the way they get their merchandise. Carpets made from camel wool rather than sheep, and caravans traveling through the desert carrying spices and food.
On the way back to the house, in a typical Arabic fashion, we jumped on a motorbike of a stranger who gave us a lift. The sense of community and connection between these people is amazing. The way they constantly lift and help each other out is great.
It was New Year’s Eve! I almost forgot about this fact as this holiday is not that popular in this part of the world. The Moroccans don’t really use the Solar Calendar that much, as they favor the Lunar Cycles. There wasn’t much of a spirit of celebration. This is when I realized that the meaning to a celebration or a special day is only as good as the importance people attach to it. An occurrence in someone’s language or country can mean absolutely nothing to someone else on the other side of the world. This was probably one of my quietest New Year celebrations as I didn’t drink and I went to bed just past 1230. Even though there weren’t any celebrations or friends around me I was proud of the fact that I choose to spend my New Year differently, in a new continent, country, and a stranger’s house. Staying true to the wanderlust.
1 January 2013
Happy New Year! Starting off the year with a bang in a new continent, country, city and off we go to the next destination. Kicked off the morning with an exploration of the gardens of the old city of Fes, followed by a guided tour of the inner closed part of the city and the tanneries. The tanneries were super interesting as I got to view them from the rooftop of one of the buildings. This reminded me quite a lot to one of my favourite computer games and movies – The Prince of Persia. The tanneries were the place where the Moroccan people were painting and preparing hides from animals. The same technique of painting was used for hundreds of years. Wondering around the souks following my tour is always interesting, but you get fed up with people being super pushy trying to sell you their merchandise. For lunch, I had a couple of amazing burgers made from the intestines of a sheep topped with spicy sauces and a cream with berries for dessert. Food in this country never stops to impress. On the way back to the house I couldn’t stop but contemplating on the complexity and randomness of the way that the streets and city were planned out like a labyrinth without an exit.
2 January 2013
Early before dawn, I managed to catch the bus to Chefchaouen. This place was very famous and many travelers recommended it as one of the best places in Morocco. The bus ride took more than 4 hours through a winding road up the mountains. The road was so small that you could barely fit in two vehicles passing each other. By midday, I got to Chefchaouen. I had 5 hours on the dot to see the whole village before the last bus down to the north seaside of Morocco leaves. The place was enchanting with a bit of mysticism around it. Hidden deep in the mountains, nestled under a tall ridge with only one road taking you back and forth. White houses colored in blue surrounded by Palm and Orange Trees dotted the village. In this part of the country, people spoke Spanish so this made it easy for me to communicate with everyone. The old medina of Chechaouen was one of the most fascinating I saw on my trip. Stone paved streets winding around the houses painted in white and blue. The locals around looked super relaxed and friendly. Nobody was trying to push-sell you their merchandise. After enjoying a great dinner at a local restaurant and having a chat with some Spanish Tourists I headed back to the bus station.
It was late night when I got to Tetouan where I didn’t have a place to sleep planned again. I was really tired from the day and didn’t have many options so I decided to power through and get the last bus to Tangier on the northern coast of Morocco. Well, once I got to Tangier it was pitch dark in the middle of the night. I was in an even worse situation without food or place to stay. I headed down to the harbour looking for a cheap hostel. That’s where I realised that Tangier at night is not the friendliest places to be as a foreigner, especially around the harbour. Through the back alleys of the docks I followed a random person offering my cheap accommodation in his hotel. I didn’t have much choice so I followed. The place looked dodgy and suspicious but it was cheap. I booked in a night, had a quick shower and went to bed. In fact I didn’t have any problems with the place so it all turned out well in the end after the massive amount of travelling covered through the day. A good closing last night on Moroccan ground.
3 January 2013
The Moroccan Adventure was about to come to an end. I woke up early and ready to finish off my trip. Back to Europe and Spain. I got around the city for a quick breakfast and some presents. The harbour and the Old Fort overlooking the strait of Gibraltar looked so much better under the daylight sun. I managed to find a random local guide who took me to the small streets of the Harbour up on some rooftops of an Old Berber house. From the top you could see Europe and the Rock of Gibraltar. What else was interesting was the fact that a combination of Church, Mosque and Synagogue tops where visible throughout the city. A demonstration of conviviality and tolerance of different religions in this city. I further explored this cultural diversity aspect by visiting the white church of Tangier. This Anglican Church of Saint Andrew stood out with its stark white colour and clean Moorish architecture.
It was time to go, and a lovely lady directed me to the way of the bus station. I was going to cross the border on foot through the Spanish border with Ceuta. Ceuta is a small city enclave of Spain on the Northern African coast cutting small part of the Moroccan coastal territory. Through a tall mountain range overlooking the Mediterranean and a massive modern commercial harbour outside Tangier I finally got to the border. As most land borders the place was not the safest to cross, especially considering the fact that is a direct connection between Africa-Spain-Europe-European Union. Loads of bad characters waiting and loitering around though I managed to go through without any issues. I didn’t even get checked or searched at the border. Once they saw my white face and European passport I was through. It is crazy how people in Europe do not realise how blessed and entitled they are just for being born on the Old Continent and the European Union. I walked 5 or 6 kilometers from the border checkpoint to the city of Ceuta. Under the flags of Spain, Europe and a message Bienvenidos a España I bid my farewell with Morocco. A farewell for now but not forever as It will be only a matter of time for me to return to Africa and Morocco as these places have so much character and colour to them that everybody needs to experience at least a taste of them in their lifetime. A decision to get out of my comfort zone around Christmas and venture around a new continent, foreign culture and country sparked a desire to continue doing this and exploring further with the years to come.