Even if you’re a little, shall we say, slow, Morocco is happy to have you visit.
You don’t need to wear a turban, or a burqa, or bow toward Mecca five times a day (although it was a little cool to hear the broadcast waft about the city when it was time for the Muslim residents to do so).
Tangier is a very metropolitan –indeed, almost European– city, having been conquered and occupied by Rome, the Byzantine Empire, Portugal, England, and Spain, as well as a couple of drunk Dutchmen for about six days. It’s a sister city to Pasadena, of all places, which is ironic because not many little old ladies drive around brand new, shiny red Super Stock Dodges in Tangier like they do all over Pasadena.
We were glad the clothing requirements were lax for women because we were afraid Carolyn might have to wear the latest in Islamic clothes or headgear, like the infamous tank-top as shown to the right, which has become quite popular in some parts of Afghanistan.
There’s so much misinformation and misdirected hate aimed toward Muslims (at least in the states; I haven’t found that to be true for Europeans), that we were glad to see for ourselves that, lo and behold, they’re just people. The places that have most of the terrorists are in backward states largely populated by a disaffected, undereducated, and over-propagandized populace; kind of like Mississippi or Alabama.
Morocco is a peaceful place where mosques, churches, and even synagogues coexist side by side. We saw women dressed in dresses, scarves, burqas, shorts, and bikinis. Okay, maybe not bikinis, in the city anyway. We saw some beaches from afar, but I couldn’t tell whether the women were wearing full body armor or not.
Morocco has a rocky coast, and so got it’s name from the Romans after they sent an exploration party across the channel:
“Giuseppe! What did you see there?”
“Oy, nothing except more rock-o!” he replied. And so the name stuck.
This is the approach to Tangier. We took a one-day tour provided by the oddly named Bland’s Travel. But I guess if you’re going to Africa for the first time, you probably don’t want to be in a tour named “The Bullet Dodgers” or “Most of You Make It Out Alive Tours,” so we settled for Bland.
This is the scene that greets you when you walk off the ferry. That tower is part of the mosque next to it. There are a few vendors here and there, but none that bother you much. They saved the bothering for later in the tour.
A closer look at the city once we landed. It’s not all that different from cities in Spain and Portugal, actually. They even have electricity and everything!
Our tour guide was a jolly ol’ Englishman. My wife was played by Carolyn on this leg of the journey.
Their main language is written in an alphabet we wouldn’t have even tried learning had we moved to a country that used it. Their secondary language is French; Carolyn doesn’t remember much from high school, except she does know how to say, “Ooh la la! Those boys are really cute!” I tried using it and almost got arrested. If you think Christians hate homosexuality, you should try America’s ally Saudi Arabia, where it’s punishable by death. Sheesh. Even in Morocco, it’s actually illegal, but you “only” may have to serve three years in prison with a bunch of other, uh, men. Psst. Don’t tell the authorities, but they’d probably be a lot more miserable in a woman’s prison. Just sayin’.
The tour took us to the other side of the city, where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. We didn’t see any color changes, lines, or wave differences, so it’s hard to tell exactly where they meet, but we’ll take their word for it.
The tour also included a delicious lunch in –get this– an authentic Moroccan restaurant. I can’t remember if I’ve ever had genuine Moroccan food before, but it truly was delicious, and I’d certainly have it again.
They have enormous palaces around the area, some of them owned by Saudi royalty. Guards are in place to keep the riffraff out as well as arrest any woman who isn’t behaving properly. Oh, wait, that’s America’s ally Saudi Arabia who does that.
A local tour guide joined the tour, giving us all the inside scoops about Tangier and Morocco. This is at the entrance to a pretty spiffy cave, called the Cave of Hercules. Here he demonstrates just how strong Hercules must have been to separate the continents.
The cave features an entrance that looks either like a woman screaming or the outline of Africa. Pictures of this are quite famous, especially now that another photo of it is in this blog.
One of the downsides of that particular tourist agency is they really go cheap on the transportation. It took us hours just to go a couple of blocks downtown, what with all the cars honking at us and stuff.
One of the upsides is that I got to ride right next to Anne Hathaway.
Mounting and dismounting is kinda hairy. You have to hold on tight, because you go almost perpendicular at one point. Here Carolyn is holding on for dear life. She made it, thankfully. And the camel’s fine, thanks for asking.
She’d walk a camel for a mile.
Actually, she wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want to either. That’s a very bumpy ride on an ornery animal. I think maybe walking a mile for a Camel might be better for your health than walking a camel for a mile.
In case you ever wondered what it looks like from atop a camel.
After the camel ride, I thought I had become Moroccan so I had to buy one of these thawbs. Yes, that’s what some call it, a thawb. It made me look fat so I kind of thobbed about it, which made me realize where the name came from.
Sans thawb, back to lookin’ like just another dumb ol’ tourist.
Examples of Tangerine architecture. Interestingly, none of them were orange, plus we couldn’t tell if there were any seeds inside.
The entrance to the local WalMart.
The Tangerine Walmart. They seem to take great pride in laying out their goods in an organized, beautiful way. It may be all out in the open, but it sure is neater than any Walmart I’ve ever seen!
That didn’t make Carolyn like it any more than she did. All that meat laying about isn’t so appealing to many western sensibilities, especially when your potential food is grinning at you.
A couple of the pictures above were taken in the fish market. Despite all the fish, it really didn’t smell as bad as you’d expect. Open and airy, but they keep it clean!
This guy was a hoot. As you walk through the areas with shops, various peddlers cling to you like spiders on Carolyn’s back. “Get it off! Get it off!” They’re very persistent, and seem to receive “No, not interested,” as “Of course I’m interested, I’m just playing hard to get! Wear me down for another half hour and I just may buy something!”
I had a running dialog with this guy, who asked me for the tenth time what my price would be for the shirt he was selling. I finally said “free.” Unfortunately, that began the negotiations. He followed us all the way down to our bus. He was good-humored and a funny guy, he just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Despite losing the sale, he responded with a big thumbs up when I brought my iPhone up for a shot. I almost bought something out of pity because he obviously has to wear a tablecloth to make ends meet.
So that’s it for this particular road trip. On the drive home, we encountered some of the record-setting temperatures Spain and Portugal were going through. I glanced down and noticed it was not only 43.5 degrees centigrade (110.3 fahrenheit), but that Lucifer was really enjoying it. When it peaked at 45 (113 fahrenheit, or in scientific terms, “Holy shit it’s hot!”), we were Knock Knock Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. If I’d have been more ambitious, I would have pulled over and called up “Highway to Hell” on my iPod, but one can only do so much for one’s art. Besides, I now figure my iPod is sending me messages regularly and I just hadn’t realized it until now, so I’ll be living my life as an iPodian from now on.
“Honey, it’s playing ‘Why Don’t We Do it in the Road’ again!”
Anyway, bucket list: Been to Africa. Check.