morocco - marruecos

gods elevator, ¿going down?

After we left Mustaffa we had an incredibly good and cheap meal near the port while we waited for our bus to take off. there was a row of restuarants and we ate at the only one with tourists. not only that, but all the other restaurants were full of men and only men. men are scary. its even scarier to be the only woman. plus i had just been hissed at, so we stuck with the tourists.

the bus was surprisingly modern and cushy, just like the buses we take in spain. we got to fes (fez?) late-ish and the bus driver led us to a taxi driver who spoke only french and arabic. so we made up a few words in french to let him know we had no idea where we were going. we just wanted a hotel that had a shower. Now, we're not being picky tourists in the sense that we want a shower in the room, we just wanted a shower in the building.

the cab man took us to three before we found one that had rooms left... the room scared the bejuses out of me - there were stains on the beds and the tub was scary and dthere was no shower curtain and no towels.

so we went walking around to look for another one and within 5 minutes a 'guide' found us and took us to two hotels - one was full and the other was a 4 star hotel!!! and it was affordable! $40, i think. woo, it was fancy. we even ordered room service because we were too nervous and lazy to go out onto the street at dark.

when the bellhop brought our bags up to the room (i mean, really, it was a 4 star hotel!) jose was trying to ask him where he could buy cigarettes. even though the word in french is 'cigarette' we couldnt get the idea across. we even put on a quick one-act-play to demonstrate buying cigarettes and the guy just didnt get the idea. jose accompanied him downstairs to the receptionist while the bellhop explained to the receptionist that he thought jose wanted to buy hash! somehow jose got it all straightened out.

the next morning our 'guide' from the night before was waiting for us outside and he took us to his 'brother' (they didnt look alike at all) whose spanish was not too good and his english was even worse. he did a much better job as tour guide and took us to a really cool factory that makes porcelains and tiles and mosaics. it was really cool and they do it all by hand. of course we couldnt afford to buy anything...
but he also took us to some stupid rug store, a store that sells traditional moroccon dress at tourist prices, and a cool but touristy restaurant at tourist prices. of course at all of these places, our guide gets comission if we buy something.

while our guide at lunch, his other 'brother' took us to see an open air factory where they have sheepskins and they put the wool in one place and they take the skin and soften it in big clay things. the whole place smelled so awful and the people were so dirty from working there. it looked like a really large and flatened out honeycomb. on our way in we saw a man in his underwear washing himself in a public water thing and on our way out we saw a store and a side street completely full of sheeps wool. do you know how much wool it takes to fill a store?

back with our regular guide, we made him understand we didnt want to go to anymore 'traditional' stores because we had no money to buy things and that we wanted to see the market. it took a lot of convincing but he finally took us. woah. it was so nerve racking and it was bustling with people and donkeys and cars and people yelling and donkeys hee-hawing and wheezing and cars honking and there was so much to look at. there were women covered in henna and men selling live snails out of wheelbarrows and stalls full of shiny silver teapots and anything you can imagine and lots of things you cant.

moroccan bathrooms

lets start with the basics:
1. running water is not always available. each town (in the old part, because the modern part of town in pretty modern) has running water available to the public and people take buckets and bottles to fill up there.

2. when running water is available, do not expect it to be hot. we had hot water at 2 of our hotels. one of those hotels was a 4 star hotel (we felt like kings! i jumped on the bed! we washed our clothes in the tub! we had air conditioning! and heating!) and the other hotel only had hot water in the morning, meaning before 11 a.m. So i got to shower with hot water but jose didnt.
The other shower problem was that none of our hotels, except the fancy one, provided towels. We ended up buying one to share and we had to leave it behind because it didnt smell very nice after using it twice a day, rolling it up and sticking it in the backpack until nighttime at the next hotel.

3. since running water is not that popular, sometimes toilets are not toilets. they are holes in the ground with little plastic grooves demonstrating where you should place your feet. sometimes these 'bathrooms' are clean, sometimes they are not. again, because of the water issue, there is no sink. instead, there is a plastic bucket with a ladel inside. because people dont use toilet paper, you wipe with your left hand and then ladel water onto your hand to rinse off.

4. NO, i didnt wipe with my left hand. whenever it was possible jose and i would steal loads of toilet paper. there is only one toilet paper company in morocco and their toilet paper is crappy and pink. its one-ply and its not rolled very tightly onto the carboard roll. i'm not sure why its pink.

5. every time we went into a new building we would always check out the bathrooms. is it poop-able: is it a hole or a toilet? does it smell bad? is there toilet paper? is there a sink or a bucket? is there soap? at one rest stop we went to, instead of having soap, they provided laundry detergent. and i must say, it worked just fine. Our first day in Morocco we ended up buying a bottle of shampoo that we carried around with us to wash our hands.

6. most bathrooms are unisex.

Gods elevator, going up?

jose and i have this problem where we don¿t bother trying to plan things ahead of time.
for example, we knew we wanted to go to granada a day or two after chrsitmas. so the day we wanted to go to granada, we took our luggage to the train station and tried to buy a train ticket. oops, they were all full. the buses too.

so we went to valencia and arrived around midnight. we walked around for 45 min before we found a hostel. it was in a fun part of town and we had lunch near the market. it was one of the best meals i've had in spain. 3 courses for 6 euros. it was a tiny little place and we were the only foriegners there.

that night we took a night bus to granada and stayed there for two days. i really like granada. valencia was better than i remembered it too. we didnt do anything touristy in either city, we just walked around.

we were in granada for new years. the town hall puts on a party and tehre was a really good local rock band playing, and lots of fireworks. the plaza was full of people - 70 year old men wearing afro wigs, little kids with santa hats, tourists, preps, hippies, families, all until about 2 a.m. The plan was to go to sleep around 2 so we could catch an early afternoon train but we ended up going to a bar and not getting back to the hotel until 7 a.m. I fell asleep with my shoes on.

We got to the train station 10 minutes before teh train left and luckily there were still
seats left.

On the train we met this man, Pepe, who was also going to Morocco, but he was going to Ceuta, a spanish owned city on the coast. So we talked with him for 4 hours and he gave us a coke and a pastry.
He told us great stories - his grandpa was a spy during the spanish civil war for Franco and his other grandpa was killed by the reds (his family was pretty pro-franco). then this old senile man got on the train and jumped into our coversation. i was kind of scared of him and he just spent the whole time making fun of Pepe (who kind of deserves it) and talking about how things were great in franco's time because of corruption. and he actually said, 'Listen to me! I am a catholic and I dont lie.' that almost made me crack up. He went on and on about how he used to be a chaufer for a marine captin who worked at customs in Ceuta and could steal whatever he wanted and one time the captin gave the chaufer a radio. THen Pepe would try and butt in and explain that things aren't like that anymore, that things are more democratic since Franco died but the old man wouldnt have it.
Then before teh old man got off the train, a crazy guy got on and started telling us jokes and was talked about 15 feet long snakes and lions that walk on two feet. jose and i were cracking up but it really pissed Pepe off. He was like, 'come on, now. there is no such thing as a lion that walks on two feet.' he was really serious about it. then the crazy guy asked if jose and i were married, he kissed my hand and then he left.

When we got to Algeciras, the super south of spain, next to Gibraltar, Pepe ran us to the ferry (we almost missed the ferry too, just like the train and the bus...) and then we were off to Morocco!

on the boat, there were two elevators labeled in english. one said PersonElevator 600 kg and the other one said GodsElevator 1200 kg. We couldnt figure that out. We also didnt know why it was written in english when everything else was in arabic, french and spanish.
When we got off the boat it was dark out and we were scared and we didnt know what to do or where to go or even what language to speak in so we kind of let this guy Mustaffa (we think thats his name) hustle us. He took us to a hotel, took us to a restaurant and then came to get us in the morning to be our tour guide.

Mustaffa really gipped us. First, our hotel had no hot water and the bathrooms were kind of scary. And they only had toilet paper at night time. Mustaffa took us to his friends restaurant which was more expensive than most food places (although for a 3 course meal for 2 people it was $25) and then he took us to his friends rug store! We had heard about these rug stores but it seemed more like a myth than reality. Nope, they sat us down, brought us mint tea and gave us this huge demonstration: authentic berber rug, made with camel hair. you like? i give you student price, not tourist price... and on and on. we got suckered into 3 or 4 rug stores before we left the country.
Jose really didnt like Mustaffa because M didnt pay any attention to J. He only looked at me and he only talked to me, even when Jose would ask him a question.