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Marrakech

22 Jan

When I told people I was going to Morocco, EVERYONE suggested Marrakech, and they were all right. (Everyone also said not to spend too much time in Tangier, and they were right about that as well. Haha!) Marrakech is beautiful! It looks like an oasis amongst the dusty landscape with gardens and palm and orange trees everywhere.

Just off of the (overnight) train and it's already prettier than Tangier!

Marrakech was the only city where we hadn’t pre-booked a place to stay, so after taking care of that we explored the medina and the souks.  The souks were pretty cool! They have everything from knock-off bags, shoes and clothing to Moroccan fabric to spices and pastries for sale. The streets of the souks are all covered by a thatched roof and are somewhat organized in little “neighborhoods” off of the main street according to what’s being sold. The medina in Marrakech is much bigger and cleaner than the old medina in Tangier.

Shopping in the souks.

The main plaza of the medina at night full of food, people and performers.

We honestly could have spent one more day in Marrakech to see some of its big, famous gardens and a few other sites, but we did get to see some interesting things while we were there! First we went to the Badi Palace ruins, which used to serve as the king’s summer residence and was used for royal events. Our favorite part of the palace was probably getting to walk through what we think were old dungeons.

Looking down into the open-air pavilion of Badi from the top of the wall.

Wandering around in underground hallways.

Next we went to a mosque. Yes, we got to go inside a mosque…one of the only ones non-Muslims are allowed into. It definitely wasn’t what I had expected, not that I had any previous idea about them anyway. It had a large, open courtyard with a pool in the middle and rooms surrounding it. Above that there were tons of rooms that people used to live in, almost like a monastery (this was the part I wasn’t expecting). It did NOT have a dome. In fact, none of the mosques we saw in Morocco did. I really could’ve sworn that domes were typical of mosques and Moorish architecture but clearly I was wrong.  

Medersa Ben Youssef mosque

Checking out the different rooms.

We also checked out a palace that had been restored and turned into a museum and another site that had been fairly recently excavated. Even though we both loved Marrakech, we were excited to get back to Europe. Mostly to eat some familiar food!

XO

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NYE

21 Jan

I thought New Years Eve deserved a special mention all its own. Not because it was the best party of my life or anything. Because it was…interesting.

First let me explain one of my observations about Tangier. There are men everywhere! Not people, almost only men. It is especially noticeable when you stop in one of the many cafes, which are also everywhere. They all have outdoor seating, they all primarily serve coffee or tea with fresh leaves in it (maybe a few pastries), and they are all full of male patrons that will only sit facing the street, somewhat creepily watching people walk by all day. (Sometimes there may be a couple or group of women, but they usually sat upstairs.) Beau and I ventured into a couple of these and it was perfectly fine…just different.

That little bit of information may make more sense of our NYE experience in Tangier. We walked down the boulevard by the beach to pick from one of the clubs there. They were all fairly expensive (40 euros, no drinks included), so we decided on one that ended up letting me in for free…but then required both of us to buy a drink at 10 euro each. Some deal, right?! But whatever, it was New Years.

At around 12:30 we noticed that it was still mostly men in the “club” and that the entertainment, 3 overweight belly dancers, hadn’t gotten any better. We had also noticed a lot of younger girls showing up all dolled up (I guess that’s the best way to put it), so we figured a change in dancers would come at any moment. It didn’t. These younger girls took off their coats, checked in, then made their way to seemingly predetermined tables.

That’s right, they were working girls. Needless to say, we left a little over an hour later and despite how cute my NYE top was I ended up keeping my jacket on the whole night. After all, I didn’t want to be confused as a working girl, ha!

A "club" throwing a New Years Eve "party" Tangier style...(I guess, ha!)

Anyway, we both decided it would definitely be a NYE we wouldn’t forget…and at least we got to spend it together!

XO

Tangier

17 Jan

I think the very best way to describe Tangier is culture shock. Of course, I read a little about it before going and expected it to be different, but reading and being somewhere is never the same! Tangier is very metropolitan, crowed and obviously hasn’t been preserved the way other cities I’ve visited in Spain (aka kind of dirty). However, it definitely has improved and still is. Not to say we didn’t have fun and enjoy being in a new place! It was just different.

Brushing up on Tangier during the ferry ride. You can't go wrong with Rick Steves!

Anyway, we arrived to Morocco at a port a little outside of Tangier. Driving through the countryside into the city was breathtaking! The coast and mountains are right beside each other and the weather was perfect. Entering the city of Tangier was an abrupt and drastic change. First, you drive by the newly built and still-being-constructed condos by the beach and then into the city. There are suddenly buildings everywhere! Some are more modern and typical office-looking buildings and others are old French colonial style. The sidewalks were either wide and packed with people or non-existent and still packed.

The first night we were pretty exhausted from traveling all day and it started to rain so we walked around near our hotel, ate dinner and crashed. The next day we visited the medina, Grand Socco and Kasbah (the oldest part of the city). This was my favorite day! There are great views from the Kasbah, which used to be an old palace located on the top of a hill in the medina. The palace has been turned into a museum and it, as well as the area around it, is painted white with splashes of color and keyhole doors and arches.

Grand Socco plaza before entering the old medina

Houses near the Kasbah.

Beau and I in front of one of the many mosques in Tangier/ the medina.

View from the old city's perch. So pretty!

However, getting up to the Kasbah from the old medina was almost an ordeal. From Grand Socco we walked through a keyhole arch to an area with an overgrown plaza and a lot of French colonial buildings. We THOUGHT this was the old medina. It wasn’t. We passed through another arch onto tiny, labyrinthine streets (most of which weren’t labeled) with a few odd smells. Shortly after a group of teenage boys began herding us toward the Kasbah, at which point I was sure they would get us lost then try to mug us.

Well, needless to say that definitely didn’t happen. After I made it very clear that they needed to back off (aka freaked out a little), two of the boys, who ended up being good kids and charged us for the unofficial, unsolicited but definitely needed tour, became our guides for the day.

The next day we had to wait around for our train to Marrakesh. The extra day in Tangier wasn’t really needed, but I did get to ride a camel!

Yay!

Off to Marrakesh! XO