Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 162: How to Survive Morocco (Tangier and Chefchaouen)

Squatting toilets, no toilet paper, djellabas – talk about culture shock. The past four days that I've been in Morocco have been indescribable. I constantly feel myself surrounded by dichotomies here – the culture may be drastically different from America but people's hearts are the same. My experiences here have been so rich that I almost feel that writing about them would be such an inaccurate portrayal that it is futile. From the second that I stepped out of the ferry from Tarifa it was clear that I was not in Europe any more.

The ferry to Morocco from Tarifa is well worth the €37 ticket.

People's responses to my statement "I'm going to Morocco," have run the gambit from "I love Morocco," to "Please don't." Though I try not listen to other people's opinions, the general advice was to be on my guard, be confident, and realize that you will pay for everything. Initially I was a bit nervous but now that I've experienced the hassling on the streets, squatting toilets, and dilapidated hotel rooms, I feel more comfortable.

No potatoes or flowers allowed.
The group of English hitch hikers I met up with.
The ferry also takes cars and campers.
Bye bye Tarifa!

Everyone warned me that the locals were going to try to get money out of us any way that they could. I expected to be swarmed by these types, and that's exactly what happened. I came prepared with an arsenal of "No, no, no, no, no, no's" but I wasn't prepared for their level of persistence. I met a group of students from England on the ferry and we decided to brave the onslaught together. Taxi drivers, tour guides, all types surrounded us when we got off the boat. We said no to everyone and kept walking but two of the men kept following us. One man told us he knew where we could change money, when the bus to Chefchaouen left, where we could store our bags, and some good places to eat. Hook, line, and sinker, we followed him.

There were a ton of seats.
The ship was really nice with two decks and lots of windows.
Leaving Spain.
View from the back.
Getting artsy with the sun.
Africa on the horizon.
Almost there!

"They will make it seem like they are your friends, but they only want your money," Daniel, my kite surfing instructor warned me before I left. His words have been ringing in my head as I travel through Morocco. I've been trying to decide if the people here are truly friendly or only motivated by money. My decision is that it's not so black and white. Most people in Morocco are rather poor and tourism is the country's main source of income. So these locals on the street trying to help me with this or that of course want money, but some are genuine. I've been shown around by three people now and they've all been friendly and eager to help. Even if money is their only motivation they are masters of making it seem like otherwise. Though I was skeptical at first, now I wish every country had people this helpful.

My second passport stamp.

Once we had gotten off the ferry, our money changed, luggage stored, and I bought a bus ticket to Chefchaouen our guides brought us into the town. I was highly suspicious of the guides, they had handsome dark skin with gruff facial hair giving them an authentic Moroccan look. One was dressed in a bright blue hat and yellow and brown checkered jacket. They were very friendly but slightly overly talkative and pushy. I wish their tour included more historic tidbits but the city was amazing. Another one of their talents was getting us to buy stuff. They took us to a lavish three course lunch for €10 followed by robe shopping (my djellaba was €55). I wasn't expecting to buy a djellaba but they were kind of awesome so I figured I needed one. I'll write more about how newfound robe lust later. After showing us around the streets a bit they brought us back to the bus station in time for my bus. I paid them €17 to split between them and hopped on the bus to Chefchaouen (€4) right as the sun was setting.

I wouldn't recommend going to Tangier but as my first experience in Morocco, I was amazed. It looked like a scene out of Aladdin with street vendors' sunken faces and bustling atmosphere. There were a ton of people everywhere and a giant handful of other cultural differences to absorb, but I had enough. Despite my tour guide's warnings that Chefchaouen is full of "thieves and junkies," I was happy to leave Tangier and get out of the big city.

We're here!

The bus to Chefchaouen was unexpectedly long but chill and comfortable. Our ride took so long because there are no highways to Chefchaouen. All of the roads max out at 60km/hr but I would guess our average speed was somewhere around 40. The beautiful silhouettes of mountains that dimly permeated the window made me wish for the sun – the ride would have been much nicer during the day. About two and a half hours later we arrived in Chefchaouen. I got off the bus hoping to find a spot to pitch my tent as it was nearly 12. I was surprised and not surprised when a young dude came up to me and asked if I needed a hotel. I said I was just looking for a place to camp but then he told me it was only 50DH so I agreed.

I didn't feel comfortable taking photos – sorry I don't have more.
Tangier at sunset before I left for Chefchaouen.

Once again, I was surprised and not surprised. This place made Motel 6 look like King Mohammad VI's grand palace. The only room available was on the roof and the bed was skeezy. Thankfully I found a creative solution. I passed out after a super long day.

If this bed could talk...
I didn't want to take any chances :p

From taking the ferry in the morning to arriving in a new country, exploring Tangier and taking the bus to Chefchaoen, I was wiped out. Morocco is a fantastic wonderland of sensory overload. I felt like I had been pulled in all directions. Although I was exhausted, I felt positive about my upcoming two weeks in Morocco. I am in a land of dualities – surrounded by a new environment where I am the only constant. Morocco is not an easy place to travel, but difficulty feeds personal growth. I look forward to surviving in Morocco.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails