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Friday, January 14, 2011

Travel Tales: Morocco

I think the best response I ever had to the question,
"What do you want to do tomorrow?"

"Let's go to Africa."

We were in southern Spain, on the Costa del Sol,
in a little village called Estepona.

The next morning we headed off early and sped
south along the A-7 and passed the Rock of Gibraltar.
At one of the countless turnabouts we saw a tiny sign
for our destination, Tarifa.  We veered off onto a tiny
mountain road and as we rounded a hairpin turn,
there it was, Africa.  When we looked over the tiny
railing we noticed something strange.
We were still so high up in the mountains
we were above the clouds.

We had no ferry schedule and when we arrived
we could hear the boat revving it's engines.
We ran for tickets and later found out we were
part of a tour.  We aren't tour people but since we
planned to hire a private guide once we arrived in
Tangier we decided to go with it.
Onboard we met some Americans including some
great people from New Jersey.  Then we departed to
cross the Straits of Gibraltar,  the straits are where
the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet.
I have spent a lot of time on the water but this
was the roughest sea I have ever experienced.

Then, we first set foot in Africa.  It was our first time.
Everything was different, the air was different, the sun
was different, the faces, the clothing, the scents were
so foreign and exciting.
We toured around and admired the architecture and
the kasbah and homes of the famous and then
it was time for the souq.

The souq is the old section filled with
food vendors and shops with handcrafts.
It is a confusing, twisting labrynth of tiny
passageways that make you feel like you are in
an Indiana Jones movie. 
There's laundry and wires and lanterns
strung above your head.

We had been told by our tour guide not to
engage with the street vendors or they wouldn't
stop pestering you.  Pardon me but that was
the most fun.  I broke the ice and bought a
beautiful silver necklace for Kate and got him to
throw in a matching bracelet.  I learned that day
that if I had a past life I was one of these vendors.
I could haggle with the best of them and I had a
fabulous, fun time doing so.
In a shop a British guy from our group told
me he thought they were beggars.  That was
when I stepped outside to have more fun on the
street than with that dull British guy.  The next time
I'm in Tangier I will find the guy in the photo above,
he was lovely and a lot of fun.

By this time we had worked up quite an appetite
and it was time for lunch.  We had a traditional
meal of spicy vegetable soup and Donner Kabobs
and couscous with chicken and baklava.
It is amazing how a group can bond when they
break bread together, here everyone started
talking about where they were from and
swapping travel stories and hints and tips.

All the while we were entertained by local musicians.
In our group were some people from England, the
cute Spanish couple, the older couple from Denmark,
the guys from Germany that I sang songs from Evita
with as we walked through the souq, and the brothers
with their wives who were originally from East
Africa but now live in Edmonton, Alberta and Seattle.
I think I became a temporary member of their family
for a few hours, we had so much fun together.

After lunch we walked off our meal and bartered
some more and took photos and laughed and
compared our treasures.

I think I could spend a lifetime photographing
the beautiful tile work.  Fabulous color and
inspiring design ideas.

As night came on we sat on the terrace of a hotel
and relaxed over drinks while talking with our new
friends about all our adventures.

We took a late night ferry back to Spain and had
to say farewell to our new travel friends.
The guys from Germany dressed up on the return
 journey in their fezs and djellabas ~ they were off to
make a splash in the bars of Tarifa.  I bet they did!
The older couple from Denmark were staying in the
town next to us and since they had GPS they said
they would lead us back through the mountain
roads.  As we were waiting for our husbands to pay
for the car park, the woman came over to my car and
took my hand and said, "Thank you for today" ~ it
was a lovely moment.  We followed the lovely Danish
couple through the mountains and back up the coast
and when we got to our local road we all waved good-bye
like little kids and blew kisses.

And that is what travel is all about!  Kisses, Ellen

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