Monday, July 23, 2012

Tangier - fully updated

I can officially say that I've been to Africa. It was only for a day but still, it was amazing! The ferry left Tarifa at 9 am and came back at around 7pm. The ferry ride only took about 25-30 minutes to get us from point A to B which was really awesome. My passport's also kinda funny since there's a stamp showing me leaving Spain on the 23rd, another of me entering Morocco, leaving Morocco, and then me coming back to Spain that same day. 4 stamps in one day. The guys at customs were like "WTF?" When I came back in the evening.

I knew I wanted to go to Morocco while in Tarifa since it's so close to Spain! I wasn't sure at first if I wanted to buy tickets and go or do a tour. I am so glad I went with a tour. For starters tickets alone to get there would have cost me between 60-70e euros. The tour cost 55 euros and it included the ferry ride (there and back again), a Moroccan style lunch, an actual tour of Tangier (the medina, bazaar, etc...) Plus they took us to Hercules' Cave just outside of Tangier. So. The tour was worth it. Plus it saved with the confusion in the port and how to get to the medina.

Tangier is 2 hours behind Spain. We also arrived on the 3rd day of Ramadan so we were told that the streets would be relatively empty. The tour started with the guide introducing himself. His name was Rajesh and the driver was Abdul. They were both super nice and friendly. Most of the other tourists were German, though there were a few Spaniards, Austrians, and Australian's there too. Everyone was super nice. After getting onto the tour bus we were given a quick tour of Tangier from the bus as we headed to Hercules's cave. On the way we stopped off at the top point where you can see both the ocean and sea at once that was pretty neat. I took a video of it. We then go to ride camels! Yes, I rode a camel today. It was super uncomfortable when it stood. I definitely felt like I was going to fall off. But I didn't and I survived the camels. Afterwards we went to Hercules Cave. This place isn't that big and it's flooded with vendors but it's still gorgeous. There's an opening leading out to the sea which makes it really, really nice.

Afterwards we headed back to Tangier and were dropped off for a walking tour. The guide took us through the main gates to the ancient city (known as Medina) and down some winding streets. One of the first things I noticed that I thought was really unusual were crates of baby chicks. These chicks were colored various colors such as blue and pink. I was able to grab a quick image of some of them but it didn't turn out the best sadly.  Our guide explained a few things as we went. He then took us to see a snake charmer. It was pretty neat. There were three men playing music and the fourth was with the snake. It was interesting. Afterwards we kept walking and eventually stopped at a place where they bake bread and the guide gave us a few loaves to split amongst us. He kept calling us his family so we share bread like a family. The bread was still super hot. It was fresh and was absolutely delicious! We broke off pieces and passed it on. The bread is thick and round resembling a pizza. I think in the end I ate almost an entire loaf to myself since people kept giving me more bread. There's an image below of it. While making our way through the streets we eventually started to head towards the markets. The smell was amazing. I could smell tumeric, cumin, cinamon in the air as we ventured forth into the city. We were taken to a covered bazaae where they sold tons ans tons of fruits/vegetables. Some stalls had chickens hanging in front of them. It was very different but very neat. This was one of the busiest places that we were, there were tons of people trying to haggle over prices of vegetables and chickens.

Afterwards we went to lunch. The place was absolutely gorgeous. So the restaurant was decorated in a traditional style and it was so gorgeous! The patterns on the wall and the decorations. There were even people playing traditional music (with instruments) as we ate lunch. We sat down and since I was traveling by myself on the tour the waiter placed with me a group of German tourists who basically spoke German to each other the entire lunch but the people at the table next to me were speaking English so I kept jumping into their conversation. They didn't seem to mind since they saw that it was clear I couldn't speak/understand any German. After we sat down they asked us what we'd like to drink Cola or water and then they gave us another loaf of bread! This one was pre-cut a little so it made it easier to grab pieces. After a few minutes a waiter came out with a giant bowl of soup and placed some in the tiny bowls in front of us. The soup had a curry-esque taste to it but it really wasn't spicy. It was delicious! I wish I knew what it was called. I ended up dipping some of the bread into the soup.   After the soup they brought out some fried beef (I believe it was beef, tasted like it) on skewers and then a few moments later they brought out giant platters. We were expected to spoon out what we wanted from these platters. Under everything there was couscous with the same type of seasoning, some chicken, cabbage, carrots, chick peas, and raisins. It was amazing. A mixture of sweet and mild spices. It was seriously a perfect mixture of flavors. I ended up filling up my plate three times and I could have done it a fourth or fifth it was that good. I was surprised by how much I ate considering all the bread I had eaten shortly before that. It was simply amazing. My mouth is watering as I'm thinking of the taste of the food again. I would fly out to Morocco just to taste the food once more. It's honestly that good. Probably some of the best food I've ever tasted in my life, anywhere. After the huge meal we were given these semi sweet cookie things with some mint tea. The tea appeared to be hot water with actual pieces of mint leaves in it. It too was quite tasty. It was a nice way to end the meal. Needless to say the smells in the street before with all of the spices really added to the enjoyment of the food afterwards.

After lunch we ventured forth once again through the maze of streets and found our way to the bazaar once again. We were taken to a bunch of various out of the way stores and there were some demonstrations in some of them. The first place we were taken to was a carpet store (that also sold pottery, jewelry, and other stuff on the lower levels). I wanted to buy a rug so bad but these ones were a fortune. The cheapest rug I saw was worth 1,000€, which was insane seing as it was a tiny thing of nothing. But they were so pretty! I found out near the end of the tour but a girl we were traveling with was offered 3,000 camels for her hand in marriage. When she refused he brought up the offer to 15,000 camels. She still said no. Said she was flattered but no. We asked our guide about the price of a camel and they can range from anywhere from 5€ to 5,000€ per camel depending on the breed and it's health. There was potential to being rich but what do you do with 15,000 camels?

After the carpet place we went to a farmacy which also sold a bunch of spcies. I ended up getting some spices that I'm told is used in virtually every dish here. It's a pre-mixed package and you just have to add a bit to the food you're cooking. It was buy two get the third free so I got two of them. These spices are in part a gift for my brother since I know he loves to cook and I expect him to be the one to use them the most. At least I hope he'll use them. It's why I bought so much. After the farmacy we went to a shop that produced handmade scarves/bags/blankets, they were all so gorgeous and reasonably priced too. I didn't buy anything here because I do still want to be able to carry my bag home. While moving from shop to shop we were followed/pestered by vendors and kids trying to sell ietms to you. I actually missed out on a great deal  because of my frustration with them. I was trying to haggle in the carpet shop for a necklace and a hat for my brother but the guy wanted 50€ for the necklace alone! I was like no, that's way too much. He brought it down to 30€ in the store and I was still like "no, that's better but still way too much. I only have 10 euros on me" (total lie, I had 50) so later in the street he came back and offered both the hat and necklace for 5€ but since I was in my just say no to anyone trying to sell anything to you mode that I refused that offer! He brought down my 50€ necklace to 5€ and included a hat and I missed it! Graggle! It was a lovely necklace, he beads were all greenish blue stones. But it's something that I asked myself how often would I actually wear it. My mom's made me tons of gorgeous necklaces before I left that appeared to be in the same fashion. I felt bad at not getting the hat for my brother. It was one of those short white hats that everybody there was wearing. There were little embroidered designs of palm trees all around it. Guess I'll have to return some day to get him that hat and to eat the food. That's a good reason to return some place, right? Hats and food.

After the bustling markets we were taken to a lovely building where I'm told they filmed Casa Blanca and one of the James Bond movies. It was absolutely gorgeous! We were told we had an hour to sit there and relax or we could venture forth once more into the town. I relaxed for the hour and chatted with the others on the tour (this is when I found out about the camel thing). It was really nice and relaxing and a great way to end the day. We were driven to the ferry which was maybe 500 meters away and went back to Tarifa. Yet again we had to go through security checkpoints and customs to get out of the country and back into Spain. (We had to do that to leave and go into Morocco as well). I've never done intense customs lines twice in one day. Once is usually enough,. There were also quite a few people on the way into Spain that got detained by the local police because something flashed wrong with their passports. One of them was this really elderly lady traveling with young kids. I didn't stick around long enough to figure out what was actually happening because surprisingly I was starving and wanted to eat once again.

When I got back to my hostel I met some new roommates, two guys, Sergio and Antonio. They're both from Madrid like two other girls in the room. The noisy spaniards had left and I guesse their age accurately. I figured they were 16-17. They were 17 and had just graduated from high school. Apparently the other guests in the room were annoyed with them as well so we were all quite pleased to have these two hansome men in our rooms. We chatted for a bit and then I went to make my dinner. More pasta. I made enough for lunch/dinner leftovers today. I should have just enough pasta sauce left in my open container for the meal as well. If not then I'll have plain pasta with butter and grated cheese. There's free use cheese in the fridge. I don't want to open another container of sauce for one meal. I also have another unopened package of pasta and one that's been opened. I believe I'll be bringing home some pasta and sauce as well. The sauce is actually really good, something called Tomato Frite and basically tasted similar to tomato soup. I love it. I just pour it on the noodles cold and it's good to go.

After dinner I showered (to get all of the sea salt off of me) and started to write up the blog, added the photos and then got kicked off the computer. The computers/lounge/kitchen all close at midnight. I hadn't realized that it was so late at night. So I tried to keep writting my entry on my phone in bed but I just couldn't do it. I was way too tired and eventually crashed at a little past 1 in the morning.

I plan on taking it easy today. I'll browse through some of the shops, on the first day here I found this one store that sold these gorgeous bracelets for 5€ so I'll see if I can find that store again (there were matching necklaces but those were 20, it was a little much). I also plan on seeing both castles and exploring the beach. I brought a swimsuit I plan on using it, maybe. Relaxing by the beach for a few hours this afternoon could be wonderful. I'll also have to start packing up my things once more to head back to Algeciras tomorrow because I have an afternoon train to Madrid to catch.

Guess that's about it for now. Gonna go gather my things and explore the city some more!

First views of Tangier from the ferry.

A view of the Atlantic Ocean....

A view of the mediterranean sea from the same vantage point...

Me on a camel! I'm in the back.

Just for Michele...A camel! This one's a baby.

A view to the sea from inside of Hercules' Cave

Me inside of Herculeas cave, my head is blocking the view of the sea. As you can see I'm looking much better. My face is red because it's boiling, it's not sunburnt again.

Some street in Tangier. Most streets looked like this or were even more narrow!

Temple of some sort, I can't quite remember....

Snake Charmer!

We were given tradtional loaves of bread to split amongst each other. They were so good and hot!

The bazaar.

More bread! this time it's with lunch.

First course was this soup.

Then there's this.

Desert. Tea and a cookie?

Carpet making

More streets!

Some guy making a scarf

Inside of Casa Blanca (or the house used in filming Casa Blanca)

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