Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tangier, Morocco

Living in foreign country is a culture shock. Germany is no different. The lack of deodorant, the line cutting, the blunt talk, not to mention the difference in language. But the culture shock of living in Germany is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to eating/shopping/visiting (and can you imagine, living?!) in Tangier, Morocco.

Let me paint you a picture. A hot, lovely, weekend getaway in Andalucia, Spain with a day trip to Morocco, Africa! A new country, a new continent - I could not have BEEN more excited! I'm a planner, so before our trip, I figured out the ferry (location/time/etc) and decided that I wanted a tour guide to make the most of our trip (EVERYONE online and in real life, suggested that we get a guide). After lots and lots of searching, I could not find an online tour company. Oh well, I thought, it'll work out, there were only three major things I wanted to see while we were there - we could figure it out on our own.

In our rental car, we drive to Tarifa, Spain, on Monday morning to catch the 10am ferry to Africa. Everything goes according to plan and we make it to Morocco, still without a tour guide. After all the customs/passport (very, VERY strict) regulations we went through, we were immediately bombarded with Moroccan people, of course, trying to sell something, anything.

The first Moroccan man trying to sell his tourist services, we immediately turned down (we were, or we thought we were, too smart for that!). A strange man in a foreign country with no association to a tour company, no thank you. The next, well we weren't so smart. We got roped in. He convinced us that being in a foreign country where the people speak a different language and live very differently, with no map and no idea of where anything is, was a very bad idea (well, we knew that much already, but yea). He convinced us. For thirty Euros, we could have our own personal tour guide through Tangier, including the snake charmers, the Kasbah, and the Medinah (all the major things I wanted to see!).

We meet our tour guide's cabbie friend and hop in, up to the Medinah. The cab, sketch city. I immediately look to Alex for some reassurance and he begins to open his cab door to make sure it opens from the inside (we've seen too many scary movies). No luck. He begins to frantically (his version of frantic. Mine would have been much, much more frantic) try to open with the door with no such luck. No way to roll down the windows either. GREAT. We both look at each other with slight panic. All we can do now is hope. The Moroccan roads/way of driving was also NOT reassuring. We could have gotten in an accident (since there were no roads/people were driving erratically/people were hanging out in the middle of the streets) at any point and been STUCK in our tiny, ghetto little cab. Thankfully, the cab dropped us (and the tour guide) off in the Medinah, safe and sound! (Yes I know, we were too quick to judge).

Our tour guide was extremely knowledgable and made us feel safe(r) and almost comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. Everything was going well (not TOO overwhelming) until the dreaded carpet shop. My lord do they push the Moroccan carpet sales on the unsuspecting tourists. At this point, we'd both about had enough and informed our tour guide that we would like to take the next boat back. Two other carpets shops (of course!) and many jumped through hoops later (seriously, the passport/security checks are tight), we made it back on the boat, and 30 minutes later, back to Europe (and I hate to say it, but MY version of civilization).

Morocco was a great experience, but a major culture shock. Of course, Tangier is not ALL of Morocco and I am still looking forward to visiting Fez, Casablanca, and Marrakesh in the near future.

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