Monday, October 18, 2010

Come with me to the casbah..........

Today we go to Morocco!!  We were up very early and at the breakfast buffet waiting for it to open at 7:30 AM.  We grabbed some fruit and bread and headed out to walk to the gas station.  We had to walk a block or so from our hotel and use the ramp for the walkway over the highway.
Our voucher said that the bus would pick us up at 8 AM and we were there waiting by 7:45 AM.  We waited; we waited; we waited.  Several times tour buses stopped to pick up people, but never us.  We didn’t know what to do as we did not even have the name of the tour company on our voucher.  Finally at 8:45 a bus pulled up and the lady popped right off and headed for Danielle and me.  She said, “Tangiers?” and I said, “No”.  Then I realized that we were in fact going to the city of Tangiers in the country of Morocco, so I said, “Oh wait!  Yes!”  She had our names so finally we boarded our tour bus. 
We stopped five or six more times to pick up additional people.  There were two lady guides.  One got on the bus intercom and went on and on and on in some language, for about 20-30 minutes.  Then the other guide used the intercom to say some things in Spanish, and finally she switched to English.  However, between the roar of the bus, the other passengers chatting in their language, the accent of the driver and the poor sound quality, we basically understood nothing that was said.  Honestly, they could have given us a sheet of paper with information written on it and at least we would have known the plan for the day.
We drove for about an hour and a half and passed Gibraltar on the way.  We went to Tarifa to board the ferry.  The non-English guide held up a large artificial sunflower and jabbered away, then blew a musical whistle.  The English speaking guide said we were to follow the whistle and the flower.  We left the bus like lemmings, following our leader to who knew where.  We had to have our passports stamped, then we were given a ticket and then ten feet later a guy collected our tickets.  I guess that didn’t give us enough time to lose it!
It is about 8 miles across the Straits of Gibraltar to Africa and it took about 45 minutes for the ferry to cross.  I took a photo of Kristina and Lori enjoying the ferry ride.  As we were pulling into port, the magic whistle sounded and we all followed the sound down the steps and to the area where the vehicles were parked.  As soon as the gangplank was lowered we rushed off the ferry and through the terminal.  There wasn’t anyone in the passport area, so we did NOT get our passports stamped to show that we entered Morocco.
While we were still on the bus, Michelle-the English speaking guide had come down the aisle and put a heart shaped sticker on each of us.  This identified us as a member of this tour so that she could keep track of us.  Michelle stood at the gate leading to the parking area and the guard only let those of us with stickers through. 
There were two busses.  We waited by one and asked the “other” guide if this was for English.  She said, “No, only Russian!”  Ah, that is what language she was droning on in, Russian.  There was a young Russian couple who should have stayed in Spain.  The phrase, “Get a room!” totally applied to them.  Because all of the Russians boarded their own bus, we had a lot of space on our bus, so we could spread out, so we did. 
We now had a young local man for our guide in Spanish and English and an older man for German.  The younger man claimed that the older one had four wives, but we never asked if he was joking or not.  Off we drove, into the city of Tangiers.  We drove by some interesting sites, but they didn’t stop for photos.  Our first stop was at a small lot for us to ride a camel.  Lori rode a camel and the rest of us took photos and watched.  There were a lot of people peddling their wares that we had to ignore.  We trooped back onto the bus and continued through a lovely residential area.  Malcom Forbes house was pointed out to us as well as one that had belonged to Barbara Hutton, the heiress to the Woolworth fortune.  This area had some lovely views of the sea.  We continued on down into the heart of the city and into an older area of town.  There we parked the bus and continued on foot.
Our guide took us on a walking tour, down uneven streets, up hills and through small winding alleys.  We followed and fended off the hawkers who would get right in your face and try to sell you their goods.  We passed through a gate in an old wall and came out into a more open area.  This was the casbah.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I always thought that the casbah was a market area, like a bazaar.  Perhaps this used to be or perhaps that is an American misconception.  Carole- thought of you here.  We were here to watch a snake charmer play with a cobra.  He did and then he put it away and took out another snake, to drape around people’s shoulders for a photo op.  Lori had Danielle shield her from this as she does not “do” snakes!!
Back into the alleys we went, to run the gauntlet again on our way to lunch.  We arrived at the restaurant and went upstairs.  There were musicians playing “local” music and at one point a lady dancing came through our area.  The Russians joined us here.  I didn’t think their guide was EVER going to quit talking so that the rest of us could eat in peace. 
We started with what looked to be a tomato based soup; then two lamb kabobs, then a piece of chicken with couscous, spearmint tea and finished with a pastry coated with a honey sauce and sesame seeds.  I thought it was all very good. 
We left the restaurant to be herded to the local cooperative where we had to listen to the rug spiel.  Then, we managed to escape there and get back downstairs to where the other goods were located.  I wanted to see if they had a caftan that would fit me.  They did and the salesman insisted upon having me try it on over my clothes.  It was rather expensive so he showed me some others that were cheaper.  Lori bargained for me and said that I was no help at all!!  I do not bargain…so I don’t really know what to do.  I probably paid too much, but we got two for half the original asking price.  Kristina bought a few small items.
Now we were guided over to the herbal store where we had to listen to another demonstration.  None of us bought anything there, but I did see that some of the Spanish ladies purchased items.
Follow the leader again through the pack of vendors determined to sell their goods to us.  There was even a man with photos of us walking down the streets earlier in the day.  That gives you a creepy feeling, to find out that someone was there taking your photo without you even realizing it.  We were led to a hotel which was the bathroom break and a chance to purchase a quick drink.  A guard at the gate kept the peddlers out of the area.
That Russian couple sat at our table (only one chair was required because she sat on his lap) and they made out the whole time we were there.  [roll eyes]  We ignored them; I guess they don’t teach Russians appropriate behavior for public areas.    
After a couple of minutes we started back through the drove of hawkers for a short walk to our bus.  A five minute ride to the docks and we were herded back onto the ferry for the trip back to Spain.  We got another stamp for entering Spain and once again had to share the bus with the Russians.  Their guide blabbed at them for about 20 minutes and then was blissfully quiet for the rest of the bus trip. 
We were dropped off just after dark and walked about a block back to our hotel.  Danielle elected to stay in the room, but Kristina, Lori and I headed down the beach walk in search of dinner.  We found a small café called “Blackberry” and had sandwiches.  Then we ordered a brownie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  It was wonderful.  We strolled back to our hotel.  Lori went to find a wi-fi spot and I went to bed.

No comments:

Post a Comment