Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tangier, Morocco and Tarifa, Spain

I arrived in Tarifa, Spain early on Saturday morning, checked in to my hostel, and went to talk to the tourist agency about a day trip to Morocco. I ended up heading out two hours later after my hot chocolate and reading (Mere Christianity at the moment, which is something I should have read years ago--like when I was an agnostic). The ferry there only took 40 minutes or so, and it was full of not-that-fun looking people with the red FRS stickers stuck on their tops identifying them as fellow tour group members.

We arrived, boarded a bus, and had a "panoramic tour" of Tangier, never stopping to take photos until we arrived at a dusty dirt spot on the side of the road where we were heavily pressured to ride a camel for a photo op for the bargain price of one euro. So of course being the photo snapper that I am, I obliged. Poor camel didn´t seem too happy.

Afterwards we were shown a few homes belonging to government officials but were told that photos were forbidden. We then walked through some streets and were harassed to death over the next few hours to buy things no one would want. It was really exhausting, and it all seemed worse because it seems the company and guide (FRS) were almost undoubtedly in cahoots with the whole deal. For example, we were escorted to stores that were clearly marked up sky high and forced to sit through what amounted to an informercial on rugs. At another store we had to sit through a 20 minute demonstration on various herbs and creams that supposedly accomplish everything from curing acne to stopping snoring. Who knew?

The only real highlight besides knowing that I was on a continent I had never visited before was lunch. Yes, trust me to find the food redeeming. The restaurant was beautiful with tapestries, pillows, music, and sort of what you would picture a a Moroccan restaurant to look like(whether or not it was even remotely authentic I do not know). The first dish was a soup loaded with yummy smelling cinnamon, followed by beef on skewers, and a main dish of chicken in fluffy couscous. I love all of the spices plus they smell so good. And of course, we had plenty of bread and dessert--a Moroccan version of baklava. Afterwards we were trotted through streets so we could be harassed some more by what were probably FRS´s employees. Most of us were very glad to get back on the ferry.

Even though the tour was a joke, I am glad I went. You can see Africa from the beaches here in Tarifa, and it would have driven me crazy not to at least go check it out for 8 hours and a tour group was the only safe way to do it. On the bright side, Tarifa is a great beach town full of kites, Quicksilver, and quirky restaurants. It´s nicknamed the Hawaii of Spain. I have spent the day with a neat girl from Toronto who is working in Switzerland for the next year.

And I am still surprised by the diet here which seems to include no what is the solution?? Fiber cookies! Seriously, they are everywhere from gas stations to kiosks. And they only contain like 2 grams of fiber as if that is a big deal, and naturally many of them are covered in chocolate. I hardly ever notice anything like that in our grocery stores (although admittedly I am usually just a perimeter type shopper with maybe one aisle), so it just seems funny to me. I have also found that no restaurants have anything other than whole milk--and that enough of it mixed with coffee and sugar is pretty good stuff, which is saying a lot since I have never like coffee...I guess cafe con leche just sounds exciting enough to try it. Several of the town I have visited have candy stands on what seems like almost every block. Each one has drawers and drawers of candy with lots of gummy type stuff, marshmallows, and stuff like that. I imagine children love it especially thrown in with the fact an ice cream stand is on any corner that does not have the candy stands or pastry shops.

As much fun as I am having, I am excited about spending the rest of the summer with family and friends. I leave in five days!

p.s. I am thankful for the sunscreen that makes it possible for me to enjoy the beaches for hours. And I am thankful for tapas, which allow me to try lots of things for less money.


allbilly said...

Those skewers look dangerous. Did you get an "I've Been to Africa" tshirt or anything? Surely FRS had those for sale.

Scotty said...

mmmmm... tapas....

icadle said...

I know you are a cheap-scape, but could you pretty please pick me ups some stop-snoring cream? PLEASE!

Accidentally Me said... were on a camel, and that picture somehow didn't make the blog?!?!?

Lost said...

Yay! I'm happy to hear you made it over there and while the tour sucked, at least you go to go! I know exactly of the dish you had with the couscous. It's called a tangine and when I was there it was my FAVORITE thing. Did you get to have any of the freshly made mint tea?

I'm laughing at the camel pics. I remember seeing that, too!

Laughing harder about the fiber cookies! When I was traveling in Mexico, I bought TONS of them and ate them all of the time b/c ...exactly...the food doesn't have alot of fiber!

Again, happy you made it over and while the tour was sort of a joke, you go to go and experience something of Morocco and you did it safely!

Ally said...

Lost: I LOVED the mint tea, which is fun bc I never like hot teas. I have been a bit afraid to try the fiber cookies...and plus I am already eating plenty of sweet without those.

AM: Seriously! I was feeling too lazy to find it, and the internet cafe computer did not pull up photos easily. I am sure it will follow when I return to the land of normal computers and whatnot.

Ivy: Too late): Sorry.

Billy: I seriously would not have been surprised if they had been selling those too.

brookem said...

i was wondering the same as am! fiber cookies?! hmm. 5 more days, wow! time has gone by quick, huh? or has it for you?

ella w. said...

I am glad you made it through Moracco safely! I went through a tour in China once and they made us sit through all sorts of "presentations" on shit that I would never buy.

2xA+r0n said...

After eating Moroccan food and commenting on mint tea on my own blog, you overlooked it without mention! :(

Kim said...

Nice blog and pictures are great. You remind me my trip to this amazing country. I have been to Morocco long time ago and very liked my trip. Morocco is a beautiful country, with its ancient towns, coastal resorts and snowy peaks. This North African kingdom boasts 1,400 miles of coastline, year-round sunshine and an open invitation to tourists all over the world. It is the major cities where capital growth has been at its highest – most notably, Casblanca, Fes, Marrakech and Tangier. Among them I like Tangier the most. Tangiers is a city in the north of Morocco near the Straits of Gibraltar. It has a rich cultural heritage and is a city full of life. And I wasn't surprised when I found that a lot of people buy in Tangiers property.
Also I had unforgettable trip to the Sahara desert. It was really great trip.

Lost Arts Guild said...

Thanks for your post about Tarifa; we're headed there next month and I'm doing a bit of pre-lim research. We spent a week in southern Spain last year and loved it so much, decided to return.

I encourage your Christian faith and walk. Nothing good is gained through ease and Christ is a solid anchor.

God's blessings upon you, yours and the work of your heart and hands.

Sandra @ Thistle Cove Farm
appalmtngal at gmail dot com