Sunday, March 2, 2014

'Cause this is Africa

Morocco is right across the street from Spain. 

No. You didn't read that in the right accent. Try it again. This time, read it with a deep southern drawl. Let's do this together. 

Morocco is right across the straight from Spain. 

If you don't get it, please go visit the south and get a proper southern woman to say both versions. If she has a drawl, both sentences will sound exactly the same. 

You're welcome.

Moving on... Tangier!!

Getting to Tangier was an interesting experience. We took a tiny plane from Madrid to Tangier. The flight was short, but they still fed us a nice snack and entire cans of soft drinks. It was a refreshing change of pace from what I've come to expect from airlines.

Once we got off the plane and got through customs (leaving the EU is fun), Alli and I set off to find our airbnb apartment. The address didn't exist. Awesome. Luckily, the airport staff called our host, who said to take a taxi to the McDonald's by the beach (there were only two in town). Once we got to the McDonald's, it's a man that's waiting for us (it was supposed to be a woman). He doesn't seem threatening, and the apartment owners had confirmed ID on airbnb, so we decided it seemed okay. The poor guy couldn't remember the codes to get in or the floor of the apartment. Strange. So, once we got settled and the guy left, we decided that the combination of everything didn't feel right. Then, we heard a knocking sound. Assuming it was the host (or her business partner, or something).. we checked the door. The man outside was not the host, and suddenly we couldn't see out of the peep hole. Naturally we assumed that he covered it and we were about to get kidnapped (looking back, the hall light probably went out... it was likely a neighbor). I checked the windows and height of the apartment (fourth/fifth story). No one was getting in or out except for through that door. We checked for WiFi (which was supposed to be on and working). No WiFi signal at all. No cell phone signal. We were alone and disconnected. We sat in fear for what felt like hours whispering about what to do. The final decision was that whether or not there was any real danger, we weren't sleeping there with no means of communication after feeling so scared.

Don't go wandering out into Africa near midnight. Just don't do it.

I remembered seeing an Ibis hotel on the taxi ride from the airport. We thought it was close and we could walk. Bad idea. Some security guards helped us, but one wanted us to follow him down a dark alley with four of his friends. Our response was to get in a taxi ASAP. The hotel was literally around the corner. It was worth the 10 dirham (1 euro) taxi ride. We slept at the hotel for the night with WiFi and heat. The adrenaline took a long time to wear off. Breakfast at the hotel was wonderful. Tangier didn't look nearly as threatening in the daylight. And the apartment was cold, but great once everyone in our group arrived. It had a ton of room and WiFi that eventually worked. It was just creepy that first night. Peace of mind is priceless.

Tangier was a very new cultural experience. Specifically, I have never been made so aware of my gender. I am female. Men on the street remind you of that. We were called "flower," "señora," "guapa," "lovely," and "mujer" among other things. If a man passed us, he commented on our gender. And not in a kind way. Women were not highly regarded. It was almost as if they were reminding us that we had no power. It was strange. After eight, there were no women or children in the streets. Translation: Taxi. Now. It's time to go to the apartment or inside a restaurant. 

However, once we were in a restaurant, we were treated like celebrities. I'm a teacher. I'm by no means rich. For 100 dirham (10€), I ordered a typical Moroccan dish, was brought two rounds of appetizers, endless bread, bottled water, and a pot of mint tea. 
The owner of the restaurant came by an talked with us asking about the food and service. He asked where we were from. We were treated like royalty.

Tagine Magrabi. Some sort of roast beef cooked in a light almond sauce. Tasted light and sweet. I asked for the waiter's recommendation. It was incredible. 

Mint tea. Sweet, warm, hint of mint. I need to learn how to make it!

Our appetizers that just kept coming. Yum!!

Enjoying our first Moroccan tea. 

Enjoying a fresh smoothie! We all got two straws. This was the only appropriate thing to do!

Crepes... Mmmmm

Omelette de fromage et champignons. I don't speak French... Cheese and mushroom omelette.

I highly recommend eating out in Tangier. Phenomenal food and service.

As far as markets and sight seeing, we kind of got in over our heads. Online reviews said to check out Casa Barata. This is supposedly one of the best markets. "Best" is very subjective. I didn't want to get out of the taxi. That place was the sketchiest place I've ever been. Like, stuff your phone and important documents in your bra and clutch everything else under your arm with your thumb looped in the strap for added safety. I would not go back unless my very life depended on it. 

The street markets were much safer feeling. 

The US government warns that there are a lot of stolen goods in most of the markets in Tangier and that I should avoid buying them, obviously. I was concerned that I wouldn't know a stolen good when I saw it. Should I be looking for a Walmart sticker?! Nope. Stolen goods being sold in a market were easy to spot. No one just happens to have twenty spare big name brand smartphones with stickers still attached if they aren't stolen. Converse does not wholesale to the street vendor on the corner. Stolen goods were obvious and prevalent. It turned me off from buying anything from anywhere other than a Moroccan goods shop. 

Very Moroccan shop

I'm a little obsessed with these dresses. They're the perfect length for me, and they're super cute. I bought a few of them (70 dirham/7 euros!). 

Tangier was obviously a summer home for its residents. Our apartment didn't have heating. Yes, we were in Africa. Yes, we were freezing. Furthermore, our apartment building was nearly vacant. It was spooky. The neighbors were still finishing construction/details in their place. Some details of the apartment building were completely unfinished/shotty. Light fixtures were missing in the halls, frames weren't straight, windows weren't sealed (I swore I was going to wake up in Oz this morning for all the wind howling through the unsealed window). I lovingly referred to it as "Sochi." However, it was a nice place and only a stone's throw from the ocean and a McDonald's (without WiFi... Seriously, Morocco?!).

Calm blue water of the Straight of Gibraltar. 

Hello, water!

The sun wasn't out at first, but I was determined to take photos anyways.  

The city is a mix of white new buildings, half finished open buildings, and cripplingly decrepit buildings. They are all mixed together in one soup of a city. It was very interesting to experience.

Evidence of my country is everywhere. Also, note all the unfinished buildings in the background. 

I can't even start to pronounce Arabic. I assume it says "STOP."

A complete building. Wealthy only. 

Typical taxi

Unfinished buildings were abundant. They were all mixed in to the city.

Tangier was a very interesting cultural experience. I think I'd only go back to Morocco if it were with a guided tour and/or if there were guys in my travel group. It was absolutely fun to pay in dirham. I'll throw a hundred your way! It's only ten euro! Talk about feeling rich. Morocco, it's been real... but I'm glad you were only a weekend trip.

From my heated apartment with reliable WiFi,

1 comment:

  1. When I was there, the streets were full of lime green mercedes taxis. Who paints a taxi lime green????? Jena