Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rocking in Morocco

Morocco was awesome.

However, I hated it as soon as I stepped off the ship. There were a lot of military or police guards within the port. I was travelling with friends from the ship from Hawaii and from Alaska. Thankfully we had a male with us. He had to hail the taxis for us and do the speaking since us females were not recognized. Casablanca STUNK and I would see dead fish on the streets, fish body parts and TONS of stray cats. Omg. I feel like for every 5 people we saw, we would see one cat. They were EVERYWHERE.

So the three of us were headed to Marakesh. We heard there was not much to do in Casablanca and Marakesh had great markets and more of a tourist/things to do scene. We were told to take the first
class train because there was air conditioning and less crime. First off, the 2.5-3 hour train ride (as we were told) was actually 4+ hours. And we missed the 12:50 train. Us two girls had bought their tickets but when it came time to buy Travis', the machine was not working. So, time to kill 2 hours! We ended up eating at a hotel and it all worked out. Our meals were about $4 USD a piece, not bad!!!

I slept for part of the train ride. I woke up and we were literally in the middle of the desert. Omg. Occasionally, we would see donkeys with people. Palm trees too :) But rural mountains and tents! I assume those are the Berber people who live in the mountainous areas of Morocco.

We ran into SAS students at the station and took a cab with them to where they staying and we were able to get a room where they were! We stayed at a riad, picture an open courtyard in the center and rooms surrounding it. We opted for the cheaper room without air conditioning and a for the 3 days we were away from the ship, I did not shower. We had 2 beds and a sink in our room. No soap. You used the public toilets that had no toilet paper or soap! So, it's a good thing I had my travel toilet paper rolls with me!

We just explored the medina (old city part) which was like a 90 second walk from our riad. SO. MUCH. GOING. ON. People selling stuff on the street, just chaos. It was cool though!

Oh and I forgot to mention that Marakesh had a very different feel from Casablanca and I was glad I was out of that city. Locals from the markets in Marakesh told us that Casablanca was the slums and there is
nothing going on there, just dirty (and they were right!). So I really liked it once I got to Marakesh.

That night we went to a restaurant with Moroccan food and belly dancing!!!

The next day, we just planned on shopping, shopping, shopping. Even devoting a whole day to it did not even cover a portion of all of the area. We got an early start at like 8 AM because we were told the
markets opened at 5. Well, nothing really opened til 10 but we still explored the area. In these souks (tiny market areas) there are separate areas for different things. Like a spice section, olive section, poultry section, jewelry section, rug, clothing, so much!

We went to a cafe in the area and I had my first dish of couscous. It wasn't as great couscous I have had at home but oh well! Each meal we did have bread and olive oil and as you can imagine, the olive oil was
always great. However, we ate outside a lot and I have never seen so many flies in my life and they were constantly on and off our food, on my straw, not to mention the stray cat sitting under the table next to
us. Sweet. I tried an avocado milkshake.....literally just as it sounds. Milk and ice (not sure how I stayed healthy after that!!! We were cautioned about both dairy and ice since it could have been made with contaminated water) with pureed avocado. It was good. Definitely weird! But good.

There was everything and anything getting sold on these streets.

Snake charmers were on the street which was horrible. Monkeys too. We even passed a cage of chipmunks that seemed psychologically distraught, I suppose because they were near the snakes. Poor little guys. I just wanted to free all the animals that were there.

We found a 1-hour camel trek right outside the city and that is just what we were looking for. The actual desert was still about 8 hours away by car and we were not really interested in sleeping outside. Our riad was fine enough, with the wrought iron window that let air right in and open to the courtyard.

We sign up to do this camel trek that would depart at sunset. The sunset was beautiful on the way to the desert. We get to the "desert" and board the camels. It was a lot scarier and much higher up than we thought!!! There was just a cushion and a bar to hold onto, no seat belt or enclosure to keep you up top safely. Ok! The camel tied to the one behind me kept making noises and was not about the trek. I figured it was just going to spit on me. I was kind of ok with this since I hadn’t showered in a couple of days. Our guide did not speak English. A lot of people thought I spoke French because of the 5 or so phrases I kept using haha but I kept saying Miseur, miseur!!! And we think he said something like it was fine, it just misses its mom at the camp. So I felt bad for it. But then. The demon. It bit me!!!! It got me right on the back of my thigh and I yelled MISEUR!!! It didn't break the skin but I do have a bruise of teeth marks on my thigh. He released that camel and told it to go back to the camp so somehow I guess it just wandered back to the base where we started. We were about 20 minutes into our trek and needless to say, about 2 or 3 minutes into it, we and our sore thighs had had it! So we tried conveying that once the sun was gone, we wanted to turn around. I would play charades and say no lumiere (tried to think of beauty and the beast) and the whole trek was a bit shorter than planned but we did it, done and not wanting to go back haha!! Also, my camel's name was Obama, the people in Morocco are obsessed with Obama. Anytime they learned we were from America, they just said Obama and wanted to talk about him.

The next morning, we went to the Marjorelle Gardens, a private garden of someone but open to visitors. It was beautiful and tons of tropical plants and cacti. There were even some plants from Madagascar!

But from there, we headed to the train station so we got there by 10:30 because our riad front desk person told us the train was at 11. Remember there was a language barrier here. So we get there in plenty of time and I show the ticket checkers in the station my round-trip ticket I had bought the other day and it was for 12:50. Turns out, there was a 10:50 train but we did not realize that because we were looking for 11:00 train. Here we go with waiting for more trains lol thankfully, there was food and air conditioning at the beautiful new Marakesh station so it was fine, just a little unfortunate. Especially when the train had a delay. I didn't want to make the whole day a travel day but it turned into that. I needed to get back to the ship by 5 so that I could leave for the dinner with the family. I bought a program to have a traditional dinner with a family and really wanted to make it. So thankfully, got back to the ship at 4:30, showered by 4:40 and made it to the dinner.

The dinner was AWESOME! I really thought the whole thing was going to be very fake and touristy but it was so real and so wonderful, I was crying when I left my family. Our host, Karima, teaches English so she spoke wonderfully. Her niece who is a dentist was there to help her out and her 2 young children, Annis and Sarah were there. I ended up joking around with the kids for most of the dinner lol and their mother said they must really love me because they are never like that and playing with me all the time. Sarah, who was 5 or so, kept sticking her tongue out at me. I didn't get to say goodbye to her because she buried her head in the couch when it was time for us to go and would not get up. But they were alot of fun and Karima was a sweetheart. I loved the dinner, great food (I ate soup!!!) and there was honey and fresh pressed olive oil from their family. YUM.

The next day, Sunday, was my first and last day in Casablanca. We went to the Hassan II Mosque. It was huge and really pretty, holding over 100,000 people (I believe) for services.

I did not like Casablanca but the rest of the country was great and I have some ridiculously weird and hilarious stories to share as I just explained. How many times can you say that you’ve been bitten by a camel in the desert in Morocco?! The locals tell me that is good luck!