No, I wasn't in Casablanca, instead, I was where the movie was filmed, in Tangiers, Morocco, which is supposedly a short 35 minute ferry ride across the Mediterranean Sea from Spain.
The water was smooth as glass
The people were incredibly nice
The Customs procedures were %*&
But at least we didn't get lice! (yet!)
Tangiers was my idea to have Zack sample a totally different culture and it lived up to the billing. Zack and I hooked up with a couple of Canadians, Carlota and Will, in Tarifa, for the day trip by Tangiers.
To get there we took a 40 minute ferry, compounded by whacko customs and lots of stamps by overly diligent customs officers. So in actuality it took two hours! Shheeesh.... do I LOOK like a terrorist? Ok, don't answer that!!
We wanted to go to the medina, which is a huge market, and we knew that we'd be assaulted by kids and men, insisting on being our tour guide. It always starts like this:
"Okay, I'll be your guide!"
"No, we don't want a guide!""I'll be your guide!"
I know good place to buy carpet, silver trays, etc"
"Noooooo..." (They are all friggin' deaf, ya know!)
"You buy bracelet, necklace!"
"NO!!!!" and of course you pull out your mace and zap them... Okay not really, but you feel like it.
Soooo, to avoid the above scenario a 1000 times, I negotiated with a "legal" guide named Foerrrldoersg... or "Fonzi" as he told us to call him. We did, and for 12 E or about $14.
It was well worth it.
For the $14, we got a nice van, a driver, and of course, our guide, Fonzi. Fonzi was well-known, think Moroccan Mafia, because when we would enter the souq, he'd say one word and the sea of peddlers/hawkers/pests would cease and desists.
He took us to a bakery the size of a postage stamp. I think it was his brother's :), and I am here to tell you that they were the BEST cookies I've ever had. I won't swear that they were the cleanest that I've ever had, however, but, come on, they were cookies!! Even dirty cookies are cookies!!
Actually, if they are right out of a clay kiln, they're probably cleaner than your hand.
Fonzie was great. I was his "brother". He'd say,"Ehsteve.. I tell you this my brother. You must..."
He showed us some exquisite mosques and minarets. And he showed us some not so exquisite mosques. Here he's standing in front of a not so exquisite mosque and pointing out that green is the color of peace in Islam and that when you see a green door, it is usually a mosque.
The minaret is the tower that is used to call the people to prayer. Back in the day, as my Muslim friends are fond of saying, the call to prayer would be from a real live person who had climbed to the top and would sing out the call. Nowadays, say hello to the taped message over a loudspeaker.
Our arrival into the souq (pronounced Sook) meant that we had to drive into the old town, or medina,which meant going through the keyhole doors that separate the old city from the new city.
Once inside the souq, the roads become extremely narrow alleys lined with shops selling everything imaginable. Learning to say no (La) in Arabic sounds like this: first you are polite and say La chokran (no thank you), and then after the 9th time... to the same person...
you just start singing, " LaLaLaLaLa!"... and it still doesn't work!
There are coffee/tea shops spread all through the souq, not all created equal. Some have no walls. This is one of the nicer ones. Very clean and nice folks that didn't chase us. They didn't chase us because they understood that we were tourists... and they were also invalids.
Some people were very camera shy and some were flat out insistent that we not take their picture...unless of course we paid them. It sounds crazy until you think that their picture is a commodity and like oil, those who have the commodity can charge for it. Unfortunately, they always want more! Shock!!
When that failed we were brought to a tea shop which was fine because I had wanted to try the famous Moroccan mint tea. Whereas one sprig of mint would be fine, they cram the whole plant into the glass and add a Cuba of sugar... you read that right. All the sugar in Cuba!
As all good tours in the Middle Eastern/Arabic/Muslim countries must end, they all end in someone's silver shop or carpet shop. This one did, and of course, there was no pressure to buy anything! Right!!
As luck would have it, the souq came to our tea shop and more specifically, to our table, selling everything from kleenex to bracelets. I needed/wanted a couple of souvenirs for two very important people in my life, so KaBoom, for 4 E I had a life long treasure and a great story to match. I've met many hawkers in many places, but this guy spoke English as if he had just stepped off the bus from Pa.
Hmmm.... good thing that Tangiers spent money on cannons because it stopped everyone except Portuguese, Spanish, Italians(you let the Italians beat you!!!), French, Berbers, and the Germans conquer you! Yep, those cannons were a sound investment.
The best part of the trip was having Zack along to experience a whole different world! I will never forget it!
Where to next, CruzCampo! (inside joke!)