Madrid

Madrid

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Side Trip to Morocco

In 1998 when I chaperoned a student trip to Spain, we had the opportunity to take an optional day excursion across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco.  We were staying at one of the beach resorts along Spain's "Costa del Sol".  Although the "Costa del Sol" did not impress me at all, in retrospect, it probably would have been better to have skipped the optional excursion, and just rested on the beach after our whirlwind trip through Spain.

We left our hotel before dawn and took a tour bus for the hour and a half ride down the Spanish coast to the port of Algeciras on the Strait of Gibraltar.  We boarded a ferry boat to take us across the nine mile strait which separates Europe from Africa.  On the other side we landed at Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast.  There we were met by another tour bus to take us to the city of Tetuan.  Along the way we stopped for a staged photo opportunity for each of us to ride a camel.

 

We arrived in Tetuan, which is one of the royal cities of Morocco.  Facing the main plaza is the palace of the king when he is in residence.

 
 
We then entered the "medina", the old town, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The "medina" is a warren of narrow streets lined with whitewashed houses and shops.  We stayed closed to our tour guide because it would have been very easy to get lost in the labyrinth.
 
 

 
 
 
We had lunch at a restaurant in Tetuan, a place with traditional Moroccan décor, music and cuisine.  It was obviously a stop targeted for tourist groups, but the food was quite good.  (By the way, the fellow in the background wearing shorts was not one of our students.  We had told our group... both males and females... to dress conservatively with a minimum of exposed skin.)
 
 
 
If our tour had ended there, we would have probably been satisfied with our glimpse of Morocco.  But instead we drove an hour to the west to the city of Tangier.
 
 
 
 
I don't think any of us were impressed with Tangier.  We visited the "souk" (marketplace) and went to a carpet shop, where the carpets seemed to be covered with a decade's worth of dust.  The street vendors selling tourist junk were very aggressive.  Unlike Mexican vendors, who usually take a polite "no, gracias" for an answer, they were persistent to the point of being annoying.  Now I'm not going to judge the whole country by Tangier.  I know that there are cities such as Marrakech and Fez that are supposed to be fascinating, filled with history and architecture.  I will just write Tangier off as Morocco's version of Tijuana.
 
After way too much time in Tangier, we headed back to Ceuta (an hour and a half journey) to take the ferry boat back.
 
Along the way, we had a view of the Strait of Gibraltar, with Europe barely visible on the other side of the water.
 
 
By the time we took the ferry back to Spain, and then made the long bus ride back to our hotel, it was 11:00 at night.  We were all exhausted and glad that our trip to Morocco was over.





5 comments:

  1. I'd love to go to Morocco one day, but I'd have to brush up on my French, which has been sadly left aside in order to learn Spanish.

    Have you ever read "La Reina del Sur?" It takes place in Algeciras and surrounding areas. It's quite a page-turner, and I'd highly recommend it.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where almost any place warm and sunny seems really inviting right about now.

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    1. In the north, near the Strait of Gibraltar, Spanish is widely spoken... but probably not so much as you head south.
      I haven't read that book. I'll keep it in mind.
      Saludos,
      Bill

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  2. Okay, why don't the three of us go to Morocco. I have always had a fascination with it. Had no idea it was only 9 miles from Europe to Africa! AND, I would have one of you to speak Spanish and the other to speak French! Can't beat that.
    I'm with Kim, "almost any place warm and sunny seems really inviting right about now!"

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    Replies
    1. Not a bad idea, but my travel schedule is booked for this year. LOL

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    2. Next year? I'd imagine that Morocco is lovely in January, certainly compared to either Cleveland or Boston.

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