We just returned from a trip to Morocco. We flew into Malaga, Spain and spent one night there and enjoyed some yummy tapas before setting off on a wild ride to Algeciras, Spain to board the ferry to Tangier.
The wild ride was due to a taxi driver who kept falling asleep at the wheel. Mike was in the front seat, poised to grab the wheel if necessary. Spencer and I kept watching him in the rear-view mirror and when he would fall asleep, I would clap my hands loudly. He stopped once at a truck stop and got a Red Bull and drank most of it before getting back into the car. We were all pretty relieved when we saw the exit for the Ferry terminal.
We had arranged for Youssef from Rough Tours to pick us up at the Tangier Med. port. We had just 8 days to see as much of Morocco as possible and had debated on whether to rent our own car or hire a guide. I'm really glad we did the later because there are frequent police checkpoints and there were 3 days in the trip that we spent 23 hours on the road. He had a comfortable van that we were able to spread out in and he kept feeding us information about the customs, culture, language, political climate, industry and so much more. I feel like I had a good overview of Morocco by the time we were done.
Ski speaks Arabic, which he learned from teaching Iraqi refugees English when he was living in San Diego. Quite a bit of the population speaks French and there is a good representation of English speakers too. So we really didn’t have any problems communicating.
Our first stop was to see the medina and market place of Tetouan which is an UNESCO site. Youssef walked us through the open market and then into the little alleyways where they sold all sorts of live chickens and raw meats such as rabbit, lamb, goat, pigeon, etc. This is when I first noticed the cats. We saw only a handful of dogs in Morocco but a plethora of cats and donkeys.
The #1 place on my list of things to see was
the mountain village of Chefchaouen which was the first picture to pop up when
I put “Morocco” into Pinterest. Most of the city is painted blue and white. The
story in the guide books says that they painted it blue and white to combat the
flies. Our guide, Youssef, laughed out loud when I read that to him. He said
they painted it blue and white because the tourists like it. The hotel where we
stayed was called Dare Chefchauoen. It had an amazing kidney shaped pool that
looked out over the city. We had our own little bungalow with 2 bedrooms, 2
baths, a living room and a balcony patio.
After a glorious swim in the pool we went back to get ready for dinner. That is when we heard the first prayer calls go out. It’s pretty cool how they carry through the village. Ski said right away that he planned to hike up the mountain to the mosque, which was quite a distance above us. This was also our first Moroccan meal. I order a lemon chicken tagine, which was so full of flavor. Spencer ordered the Berber soup, which was very bland. Ski got some skewers of lamb and Mike had a beef and almond tagine. Our dinner began with a traditional Moroccan salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. The Moroccans fashion their bread after the French but the baguettes and galettes taste far from the bread I’ve eat in Paris. Dessert is usually fresh fruit. So the fare is very healthy. In fact, I actually lost weight during the 8 days.
I got up super early the next morning and walked through the dark streets alone. The only other person I saw during the first 30 minutes was the garbage collector. Then the locals started coming out.
Most Moroccans don't like to be photographed but I found some teenagers that cheerfully posed for me.
I wished that we had the time to stay one more day. Ski hiked up to the mosque that was on the mountain. There were some pretty incredible views from there. After a breakfast of breads, jams, various honeys, yogurt and fresh orange juice, we headed out. I was sad to leave this place. It was pretty magical.