Last week, my good buddy James came up to me and said, “Hey Dave, let’s go to Morocco next weekend, we need to sign up this week.”
It was by far the coolest thing I have done thus far! I had been thinking about it, but finally got the motivation to go and sign up. We went with a company called SolChasers and they took care of everything. Last Friday I got up at 5:00 am to be at the meeting point at 5:45 (this is not easy when you go out until 2 am the night before). We slept on the bus, which took us to Tarifa, Spain, where we jump on a fatty boat to take us to Tangier, Morocco. The boat ride is approximately 45 minutes, and depending on the weather it can be a rough ride. It’s sort of like a hurricane, it’s not the boat ride that will make you puke, but the people all around you IN the boat puking that will make you puke. So basically, not like a hurricane at all. I felt fine.
When we got off the boat, it really wasn’t that different. Except that we were in Africa. We changed our money over to the local currency (Dirham), and got on a bus bound for Fez.
Our first stop was in a small city called Chefchaouen. It really was charming and beautiful. We had a local guide who walked us around the city, showing us landmarks and telling us about the history of the city. One thing that seemed unique about the city was how they dyed almost everything with an indigo dye. Our guide explained that it helps decrease the intensity of the sun reflected from the walls and also helps deter mosquitoes. I thought that was really interesting. Unfortunately, since our group was so big I couldn’t hear half of what our guide was saying, but I figured wikipedia would fill in the gaps. After a little over an hour, we jumped back on the bus and headed off to Menkes, Fes where we would be spending the night.
Our hotel was pretty cool, but I didn’t take any pictures of it nor do I remember what it was called (this trip was kind of like a vacation, if you haven’t noticed). We had a hot waitress who kept eye-flirting with James and I. When we finally talked to her we found out she had bad teeth. That killed my interest. Plus, she only spoke Arabic and French, which drove the last nail into the coffin.
Fes is a great city. We got up early to jump on the bus and go explore the city. The best part had to be the markets and the people. We realized that we weren’t in American anymore when we passed by a camel head hanging from one of the butcher shops. Little treasures like this were everywhere. Dead fish, cow heads, goats, and meats of all shapes and sizes hung from just about everywhere. The amount of flies deterred me from buying any steak, but it was a trip to see. I also noticed that Morocco doesn’t believe or can’t afford refrigeration in most places. You know your food is fresh, because they have nowhere to keep the old stuff.
We got to see the dye pits where they stain and tan leather. It was really cool, the smell was just under unbearable, but we got to learn how they treat, stain, and manufacture the leather. Then, we went to a ceramic shop where they make ceramic pots and mosaics which can be seen in most of the architecture and buildings in the city. The ceramic was really durable and BEAUTIFUL. We saw each stage of the process. The potters, the men who chiseled each mosaic piece, and the ovens where the pots were glazed and fired were all on the tour. The second night, there was an optional belly-dancing dinner thing, which James and I opted to skip and sleep instead.
The last day, we left the hotel bright and early to say goodbye to Fes and jump on the bus for Tangier. We made a few pits stops along the way, including a stop in Asilah, where beautiful beach views were a dime a dozen. Finally, we made it back to Tangier, one of the more modern cities of Morocco. I was surprised at how many hotels they were building, it seems Morocco is growing it’s tourism, and for good reason – the place is beautiful.
The boat left from Tangier and took us back to Tarifa, just in time for sunset. I wish I could convey the true experience of the country in this blog, but unfortunately I’m limited to only words. I think that someday I will return to Africa, maybe even Morocco, to explore the continent that in so many ways is still wild. It was definitely worth it to see people who live with what they have instead of complaining about what they don’t. Maybe that’s the magic of Morocco, it’s ability to truly bring you back down to earth.