It is easy to become consumed in the addiction of travel. I LIVE for that fresh stamp smell in my passport, but that isn't the point in traveling, is it? If you don't have the time to go off the beaten path, hang where the locals hang, absorb the soul of a country, then why travel at all? This is especially relevant in today's Insta-famous world. We all want that perfect, iconic shot of us being fucking fabulous in a new place, but once you put the camera away (and you actually have to put the camera away if you're going to experience anything worthwhile), are you jetting off to another place to take another selfie, or are you laying on a sandy beach while the waves lap at your feet? Traveling is about experiencing a new culture and as far as I'm concerned, if you don't make the time to do that, you should have your passport stamp revoked.
That being said, if you have the time to explore a new place and also experience another, go for it! I'll never forget the sinking feeling in my chest when I realized that after flying 18 hours to Singapore, I wouldn't be able to see anything other than Singapore. After 18 hours in a flying tin can, I deserved to take a 30 minute flight to Thailand, see China, even Australia was a short flight! I feel like I had wasted my time and I only got one stamp! #butthurt
I had already been to Amsterdam a few times, but Spain was a new stamp for me. I wanted to take it all in, but I became tempted by a delicious travel idea. You can sail to Morocco from the south of Spain in only 30 minutes. I had been to South Africa, but never North Africa. Check that shit off the bucket list! I could already smell the spices, taste the couscous, feel the camel carrying me into the sand...
We docked in Tangier and disembarked. Ian and I traditionally get lost in any new city. It's fun to just wander around and it's a great way to ditch the tourist traps. As soon as we were outside, we were surrounded by people, desperate to be our drivers, our guides, whatever they could hock to make a dollar. We pushed our way through, saying, "No thank you" and "Maybe next time," but when we saw the city ahead, it was pretty confusing. We are adventurous, but not ignorant. This is an ancient city and we were in the old section. There was a big highway to cross, but then tiny, sharp turns and alleyways where a tourist could easily get lost. I pulled Ian to the side and we decided that maybe, under these circumstances,a tour guide would be our best bet.
This is me, trying to get my husband to take a photo where I don't look like an idiot, and there is also something historically significant behind me. There's me & a drain, me moving, and me looking dumb, but the mosque is actually in the photo! I love the man, but the struggle is real, y'all!
At first, having a guide was a great help. A man passed us with a wooden cart, full of bread and we bought two rolls for 10 dirham (about 1 penny). Most bread is vegan and I assumed this bread would prove no different. It was still warm!
The guide showed us around the old city and through the souk (market). The souk had baskets full of spices, dried herbs, nuts, and dates but he assured us that these were no good and he had a private supplier he would take us to. The guide took us through the meat market and we saw some pretty crazy things like sharks, snakes, whole cow heads...Every imaginable animal. I tried to not be one of "those vegans" but holy shit! Even if I wasn't vegan, I would have been freaked out by the sights and smells of that place.
As we walked up to the kasbah (which means highest point in the city), I noticed that the public fountains all had hoses attached to them. The guide explained that the water from the fountains is free, so people just run hoses to them and use them in their house. Clearly, poverty is an issue here.
I can't relate the housing in Tangier to anything I've seen in America. The houses are almost like one giant apartment complex, but all different colors and building materials. There is no road or street per se. It's like a thin sidewalk that also varies in material, width, and incline. Our guide whipped around a corner, into a dark alley, and we had to duck underneath a frame , which opened into a single room with black and white tiles, full of buckets of water, and a man, who appeared to be coming out of the floor, standing in front of a fire, baking bread. There was a good 4 second window when I was confident we were getting robbed, but once inside, it was really cool to see! I mean, sketchy and dirty, but really interesting! Apparently, this guy just stands in this room and bakes bread all day while people in the neighborhood buy the bread, and walk around selling it. In hindsight, this was probably the highlight of our trip. This is the local stuff that they don't show you in the guide books.
We reached the kasbah and took in the view of the straight of Gibraltar while a boy tried to wrangle a goat into a leash just a few yards off. The next stop was the "spice shop" which was complete bullshit. We were lead into a florescent room with mason jars lining the walls. The spices inside lacked color and scent. They were clearly old, but we were made to sit and listen to the proprietor. This poor guy barely spoke English (which is fine, except that clearly this was part of his pitch) and he went through every single item for us to buy. It was a complete scam, but we felt bad for the man. Obviously, money is a problem here and I really hate supporting countries like this, but I felt bad. We purchased some amber, spices, and argan oil. He kept punching numbers into his calculator and charged us Euros instead of dirham. We left with about $4 worth of items and we paid over $100 for them.
Then, our guide took us to a rug shop and we uncomfortably danced around the fact that we have 3 dogs, our house is being renovated, and why the fuck would I spend $1000 on something that the dog will rub it's ass on? The guy running the shop was super sweet and if I ever have so much money that I could light my money on fire to keep myself warm, I would STILL use it to help people, and not buy a fucking rug!
The next stop was lunch. The guide said, "You aren't vegetarian, are you?" Hahahahaha Eat a dick.
I said, "No! We're vegan." Feeding vegans is actually not as difficult as people think. If you have a potato, you can feed a vegan. If you have Moroccan spices and a potato, or broccoli, or literally anything other than meat, eggs, or cheese, you can feed a vegan and they will be happy with what you give them! All we want is to eat something that doesn't taste like styrofoam, and not be instrumental in killing animals.
The restaurant was adorned in traditional Moroccan garb, which is a big red flag for being in a tourist trap. However, our guide had left us to eat and would return in an hour. We didn't have a lot of choice. Plus, our server seemed kind, even though we never received a menu. Somehow, I assume that our guide had already warned him that we had euros and could pay whatever the bill was.
Our meal was as follows:
-Cucumber, tomato, onion, and corn "salad" - Why the fuck is there corn in Morocco? Tomatoes and cucumbers were fine.
-Tomato Soup - This was literally Campbells tomato soup with corn in it. You could taste the can. Disgusting. Also, more corn?!?!
-Boiled Vegetables - Potatoes, carrots, and onions, boiled in water with no seasoning or herbs. It had no flavor or color but I was hungry and I ate this.
-Boiled Vegetable Couscous - I love couscous! Oh wait, no. I love couscous with lemon and herbs like parsley and mint. This was just couscous without any flavor, topped with the same boiled, flavorless vegetables that we had just eaten. Ian ate his because he was starving but I couldn't have any more.
-Fruit - The only thing worth eating!
We were so disappointed. We own a restaurant. We LIVE for food, exotic flavors, and spices! We had experienced none of this. The check came and it was about $80 because, we were charged in Euros. This is exactly why I don't travel to Mexico or the Bahamas anymore! The government is corrupt which leads to a poor quality of living for the citizens, which creates a need for these vultures to scam tourists, and none of the tourist money is even getting to the people who need it. It just makes me sad. And not to beat a dead horse, but one of the top tourist attractions in Morocco is riding camels and if the people aren't being taken care of, you can only imagine how poorly the animals are being treated.
Ian and I decided that Tangier was not for us and there was no point wasting any more time there. I am glad that we took the ferry over because now we know. Imagine if we had wasted a whole plane ticket on the experience! We only had two more nights left before heading home and we decided that we'd rather spend them in Spain or Gibraltar than Tangier. We paid our guide and boarded the ferry back to Spain.
The whole experience just left a (literally and figuratively) bad taste in my mouth. I would love to go back to Morocco, maybe somewhere like Marrakech and see if we can find a more authentic experience, but I'm not in any rush.
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