Saturday, January 24, 2009

Couscous, Camels and the Casbah - Part ONE

We made it to Africa!! :) Early this morning, we drove back to Tarifa, Spain in hopes of catching the 9am ferry to Tangier, Morocco. It was a 50/50 chance when we arrived due to high seas, but the captain decided to go ahead and we boarded the 35 minute high speed ride across the Strait of Gibraltar into Africa.

We had determined last night that we may be best to hire a guide in Tangier, so I checked some of the forums, got a recommendation and contacted Said (Cy-eed) via email to set it up. He was waiting on the dock with our name on a sign ready to show us the inner parts of the city.....the parts that tourists without a guide couldn't see. We have hired lots of guides through our travels, but Said (Cy-eed) was one of the best!!

We began our journey by driving on the outskirts of the city to the famous Hercules Cave. This site contains the symbol of Tangier.......The shape of the opening of the rock viewed from the inside of the cave appears to be the shape of a man laughing. Viewed from the ocean side, it is shaped like the continent of Africa.

As we were driving around the coast, we stopped to see the camels. We jumped at the chance to take a ride and it was so exciting!! Just the process of getting on and having the camels stand up, made me laugh - it was so high up!! We enjoyed riding along the coastline and seeing the area from the camel's view!! It was certainly one of the highlights of the day!! :) We thanked the owners and they were willing to pose for a picture. They kept wanting to wave, so I found this picture hysterical - especially in their "western" dress!! :)
We toured the general city passing the summer "cottage" for the Saudi Arabian royal family, the Tangier home for the Moroccan royal family and the Tangier Governors home -all spectacular! We then began our walking tour by going inside of the Casbah, through one of the 7 gates to the old city. The original town of Tangier was surrounded by a stone fortress called the Casbah (which means fortress in Arabic) in order to protect the city. (Remember the song by Clash - "Rock the Casbah"?). On the inside of the walls (inside the Casbah) is the ancient town, the medina, now filled with residental communities and souks. One of the things that we really enjoyed about Said, is that he was very knowledgeable about Morocco as well as the history. We enjoyed learning about the old and the new cities and the Arab/Muslim perspective. We found it ironic that the second tallest building in Morocco is the Catholic Church - of course the tallest is the Muslim Mosque.

Said took us to the local Souk - the open air market filled with fresh chicken, lamb, goats and kosher beef along with lots of fruits, vegetables and olives. This is where everyone does their shopping. (No grocery stores here!)

We also walked past many jewelry souks. We learned that when women marry, their groom buys them a gold belt made of solid gold with inserted gems (which really look like wrestling belts). Said told us that they always want skinny wives so they don't have to buy additional gold for their belt! :)

At noon, the 4 minute call to prayer came through the city with a loudspeaker from the mosque. It is a reminder to the Muslims 5 times during the day to pray. So Said headed over to the mosque for his noon prayers while we enjoyed a Moroccan lunch.
Part Two will start with lunch...There's just so much to write about Morocco!! :)
One more thing....I thought you might enjoy the Coca-Cola sign in Arabic. :)


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