First day in Morocco

We left Tarifa, Spain this morning and took the ferry from Tarifa to Tangier. And what a difference a 45 minute ferry ride makes! The instant we got off the ferry we were accosted by taxi cab drivers who were, to be completely honest, rather scary, smelly, and really pushy. We ended up walking out of the port, backpacks in tow, and going too far in the wrong direction. (Do’h!) This is when we learned that the Lonely Planet map provided for us in our guidebook was crap. How many street named Mohamed can be in the vicinity, you ask? Apparently dozens. So we gave up and got in a taxi that totally ripped us off. (Argh!)

When we got to the Hotel Hollandes, we found that they had tons of vacancies, and we ended up climbing stairs, descending to the dungeon and just running up and down the hotel checking out the differently priced rooms. We settled for a mid-priced room with a shower head just above the toilet (the luxury!).

After changing out of our sweaty shirts we wandered the medina like 19th century flaneurs, only we were female and not-so-inconspicuous since everyone stopped to stare at us.

Entrance to the medina

Entrance to the medina

Our entire goal at this point was to find a SIM card for our phone, and to that end we were unsuccessful, which is probably because my Arabis is shit, and my French is even worse. And Lindsay… she knows American Sign Language, which didn’t really help here. Awesome! After going back to the hotel, the nice man who worked the front desk took us to a teleboutique (a shop where you can use pay phones) where we were able to get a SIM card and recharge it.

Next on our list: Food.

This proved much more difficult than activating our phone.  As single women traveling the Middle East on our own we didn’t want to be offending people with our independent American ways. We also didn’t want to go somewhere where we would be surrounded by hordes of staring Moroccan men. Cause that would be just a little bit uncomfortable. We wandered for what seemed like hours as our stomachs rumbled and our mouths watered. And, of course, every single shop and restaurant we walked past and looked into was populated by men. Every single cafe had men lined up and seated against the outside window looking at people (at us!) as we walked by on the street. What were we to do?

And where were all the women? Apparently, they were all in the ice cream shops. WTF? That’s what we were thinking!

In the end we stopped at a sandwich shop that had delicious roasting chickens in the window and “Hawai” sodas in the fridge. All the patrons were guys, but the sandwich makers behind the counter were super smiley (probably because we were laughing hysterically as we tried to place our order in broken French) and friendly. We enjoyed those sandwiches (they had FRIES in them! Genius! Even if my Moroccan professor had told us not to eat fries…) in relative privacy in a dining room above the restaurant–because apparently that’s where women and families eat, upstairs away from all those creepy staring men. In the end we felt like we had earned those sandwiches, and they were soooo worth the effort!

Delicious chicken chawarmas. Moroccan style (i.e. fries!)

Delicious chicken chawarmas. Moroccan style (i.e. fries!)

Today’s Lessons

  • Lonely Planet books are pretty decent, but their maps (at least this time) suck big time.
  • The petit taxis have meters and are cheap. The giant grand taxis are for long distance and sharing, and the drivers will otherwise rip you off (I shake my fist at you!). Even then, I’d recommend a bus, unless you’re traveling with Moroccans who will bargain for you.
  • Cheap “chawarma” sandwiches are the best!
  • Men are the same world over. From Latin America to Morocco, I still get the same catcalls: in Costa Rica I was “La chinita,” here I get “Ni hao” and “Konichiwa.” Dangit, I’m not Chinese or Japanese!
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