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A Day in Tangier, Morocco

17 May

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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I almost feel as thought I am cheating by using my quick trip to Morocco as a way to cross off the “Visit a New Country” item on my list. By visiting a new country, I expect to spend some quality time there, get a feel for the place. This was not that. However, the rest of my Spring and Summer vacation time has been spoken for. So I don’t think I’ll get another adventurous trip until the Fall. So my maiden jaunt to Africa will have to do.

I was traveling with my family, and my parents had arranged for us to go with a tour group. I have never done anything quite like this tour group/bus in my travels before, and I don’t know if I would again. It was a good way to get an overview of the city, and it was nice to have an escort through such a foreign place. But being lumped in with 20 or so tottering foreigners, all of us flashing our cameras, some in our group acting rather rude, I felt like a bit of a spectacle. When I imagined visiting Tangier, I saw myself playing the role of a Beat poet for the day. Walking the kasbah, listening to the Arabic of the shop keepers, sipping mint tea in a cafe where the walls are covered in colorful mosaic tiles, riding a camel over sand dunes. The reality was not this. But, I still got a taste of Tangier.

We are making the same face.

We are making the same face.

I did get to ride a camel which had been a life goal of mine. I paid a Euro and a Morrocan man led me around for a minute or two whilst my family snapped pictures. It’s such an awkward, yet graceful animal. A couple of baby camels were wandering around as well. Again a Euro to hold the ropes and take a picture. We encountered a lot of this in Morocco, a constant barrage of street vendors. Children and men following us around with bracelets or bongos or camel statuettes, trying to negotiate, demanding we buy something. We were escorted to the hill with the camel rides, to an open square with snake charmers waiting for us, waiting for their Euros. It was a strange experience. At the end of the day, as we loaded back into the bus to take us to the ferry, a small child pestered my sister to buy a camel from him. He reached into the bus, placing the camel on her knee, refusing to accept her claim that she didn’t have Euros on her.

My sister's street vendor friend.

My sister’s street vendor friend.

The majority of the day was spent wandering the kasbah which was the one time I was glad to be in a guide-led group. The streets were unlabeled and winding, spilling into a variety of alleyways with open shops and stray cats running to and fro, the vendors coming out of nowhere and lurking just one step behind with bongos, “Only two Euros!” While it was confusing and overwhelming, it was also the most exhilarating part of the day. It’s difficult to describe all the sights and sounds, and we were ushered through so quickly, it was impossible to soak it all up. We were taken to a large rug store and shown the handwoven rugs. We went to a pharmacy where a very excited pharmacist showed us all of his favorite products. Argan Oil! Saffron! Mint tea! Magic Lipstick! I got suckered into buying the Argan Oil and the Magic Lipstick.

In one of the stores of the kasbah.

In one of the stores of the kasbah.

For lunch we were taken to a cafe that served us couscous and vegetables along with some chicken on skewers. It was a modest lunch topped off with Mint Tea which was sweet and refreshing. While we ate, a small Moroccan band played and a belly dancer weaved her way among the tables as we tried to ignore the American tourist in our group who bellowed with indignity when the waiter asked him to pay for the bottled water he had asked for.

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I don’t want to paint a bad picture of what my day in Morocco was like, because overall I’m ecstatic that I got the chance to see it. It was so much to process in only one short day, and it’s hard to absorb such a foreign culture in a limited time. It was like window shopping and never actually going in the store. Maybe I will pull a Paul Bowles one of these days, move to Tangier, and lead the ex-pat life I’ve always dreamed of.

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