Well, sort of… My plans for this past weekend changed so many times it was kind of ridiculous. First I was supposed to go to Istanbul, Turkey but the friend that I was supposed to stay with in Turkey called me and said he thought he might have contracted the swine flu so I thought it would be best to postpone my trip. Then I was going to stay in Barcelona for the weekend and hit up a local club with my friend Mayme. But on Wednesday I decided it would be more fun to take a weekend trip to Tarifa, the most southern point of Spain, and possibly take a 7-hour day tour of Tangier, Morocco. It’s only 20 miles away and there are ferries that leave from Tarifa to Morocco every hour. Simple.
But no… this simple weekend trip took on a mind of its own and turned into quite an adventure. Wednesday night I booked a flight to Malaga, also in the south of Spain; I decided on Malaga because the tickets to Tarifa were too expensive. Then, I emailed my friend Mayme to inform her that I wasn’t going to make it to the club this weekend but she was more than welcome to join me on my trip. On Thursday morning when I was headed to the airport Mayme called me and said that she wanted to come, so she booked a flight and met me in Malaga on Thursday night. We checked out a few bars in Malaga that night and stayed at a hostel near the beach. We spent most of Friday traveling: we took a 2-hour bus ride to a city called Algeciras, then got on a 30-minute express ferry to Morocco. Or so we thought – it turned out we were on the 3-hour ferry, so we didn’t arrive in Tangier until after 10pm.
We had 5 things on our Moroccan wish list:
1. Find a place to sleep (we tried to book a hostel ahead of time but they were all full)
2. Go to the open-air market
3. Go to a Moroccan spa
4. Eat authentic Moroccan food, preferably with our hands
5. Ride camels
When we arrived in Tangier, we had the taxi take us to one of the hostels that was full, in hopes that someone had canceled. Of course this wasn’t the case, but a nice local led us to a hotel that had one room available for that night only. It cost 540 dirham for the night (relax, that’s only 54€/$81). Saturday morning we woke up early, ate our complimentary breakfast then hit the road and tried to find a new hotel. Being that we were in a conservative country, we didn’t want to go out in public and misbehave so we looked up “appropriate behavior for women” online before we left our hotel. It turns out we were completely inappropriate. Women out there don’t expose their upper arms & definitely don’t expose their legs. It’s also more respectful to cover your head. Also there are many restaurants and cafes that are for men only, so we had to be careful not to enter any of those. Oh, and here’s where we got into trouble: “To avoid unwanted attention, don’t make direct eye contact with men.”
After walking 45 minutes in the heat with our heads, legs and arms covered while looking down so we wouldn’t make eye contact with men, we finally found the perfect hotel directly across the street from the beach. It was a little above our budget (about 110 €/$165 for the night) but it was worth it…Now that we were settled in we were ready for our Moroccan experience, but everything kept on going wrong. The concierge at our hotel told us about an authentic Moroccan restaurant across town, but of course it was closed when we got there. We were starving and didn’t know where to go because most of the restaurants were “men only.” Finally another nice local led us to a restaurant in the “women’s district” and we ate our authentic Moroccan cuisine, although we didn’t get to eat with our hands like we wanted to.
We walked around the open-air market for a while then went back to our hotel to see if our concierge could direct us to some camels. We were told it was too late in the day for camels — apparently camels end their workday by mid-afternoon — so we decided to go to the Moroccan spa. The one that we wanted to go to was by appointment only so our concierge recommended another one near our hotel. When we got there, we noticed that there were separate entrances for men and women. Once we walked in, there were nothing but old naked ladies but the prices were reasonable so we decided to stay. We changed into our bikinis, but were quickly instructed to remove our bikini tops. We did as we were told. When we went to pay for our services the prices had suddenly doubled. There’s something very humbling about haggling over spa prices with a woman who only speaks Arabic, especially while you’re topless. After coming to an agreement we tried to take our wallets with us into the steam room so that no one would steal them, but the ladies were offended that we thought they were capable of stealing from us (as if they hadn’t already). Because of the language barrier I couldn’t understand what they were saying but one of them pointed to her eyes then pointed to the sky as if she was saying no one will steal from us because God is watching. Anyhow, the spa experience ended up being decent. I got my ENTIRE body exfoliated, my skin has never felt softer.
After our spa experience we went back to our hotel, drank some Moroccan whiskey (better known as mint tea, it’s non-alcoholic), ate some dinner, relaxed for a bit then hit up a couple of clubs. We were shocked to see what the girls were wearing at the clubs. The entire day we hadn’t seen so much as a bare arm. But at the clubs the girls were wearing miniskirts & tank tops, the kind of outfits we wear to the clubs in the States. There was also a belly dancer. The next morning we woke up extra early, scarfed down our complimentary breakfast then searched for camels. Our concierge told us that they were usually at the beach on the weekends, but much like everything else she had told us, she was wrong, so we took a cab to camels across town and finally got to ride them! We were hoping for a 3-hour tour across the desert, but settled for a 10-minute ride around the parking lot, kind of like the pony rides you take when you’re a kid. We spent the rest of the day traveling, via ferry, bus then plane, and finally got back home by midnight. What a weekend!
Below, there’s a picture of a Moroccan version of the Taco truck, except they serve snails & there’s a sink attached to the truck (awesome!). There’s also a picture of a Moroccan toilet (this isn’t a urinal, women use it too).