We had called for a 7:30 wake up but what we got was a 6:15 wake up and we were rushing about before we realized the time. Our phones refuse to be on Morocco time so a wake up call seemed like a good idea. Oh well. We had time to get read and have a bite to eat and stroll over to Deck 5 to meet with the group. Unfortunately I left the tickets in the room so RAN back, went the wrong way and was gasping for air by the time I got back to Carolyn. She was chatting with Irene and Bobbi, sister-in laws who we enjoy talking to, when they are not bickering and sniping at each other. The four of us had our canes out as we walked a pretty long distance to board the bus.
On the bus we saw our dinner companions Linda and Larry. We sat behind them and enjoyed chatting now and then. Also on our tour was a very tall man, he had been the main reason we did not lose the tour in Barcelona, cause we could always see him, surrounded by his wife and kids. Also, Nicky, a Costa crew member was with us.
On the bus our guide began to talk, only in English, which was nice and he talked and talked. He used the word please as a punctuation mark, it was both funny and charming. He worked very hard at convincing us that Tangier is a very happy, diverse city where Jews and Arabs and Spaniards and everyone gets along. It was obviously important to him that we not be afraid and we go home to spread the word. He always pointed out the various religious buildings from synagogues, to churches to mosques. As I have always believed, when you look at these people, they are like us, with jobs and families and pets. Speaking of which, we saw at least 30 street cats. Unlike ours back home, they are not at all shy and lie in the sun and wander wherever they please. Most look sleek and well fed. I did see a dog on a leash but it was in dreadful condition and I quickly looked away. It was filthy and seemed very unhappy.
Tangier is a very pretty city, many white houses on hills, like in pictures from Greece. He kept comparing Tangier to California; the weather, the beaches, the American cars, the fancy homes of the rich, it was all California. We Californians were pretty amused.
Our first stop was the Kasbah. Unlike an Aladdin movie, this place is simply where people live, mostly poor people. He showed us the public fountain because most people do not have running water or electricity. This was picturesque and interesting and the walking was reasonable. I enjoyed this first time with my cane, not for balance, I was going pretty slow, but it was nice for up hill. I need to get a strap for my cane to put on my wrist.
Next we went to the Medina, the SHOPPING!!! Here was the part I both looked forward to and was afraid of, where the peddlers are in your face. It was fun, sometimes you had to say NO! in a loud, angry voice but mostly a few regular no and no thank you’s would suffice. I wanted to make a purchase from a peddler so I bought a bracelet for 10E and $2. I also bought a surprise for my sister Candy, so I can’t tell here.
But I must talk about Yasene (this is how he said it, spelling? No idea). He was always at the back of the group and became a personal guide for Carolyn and I. He never let us get far behind and he carried things for us and he was a darling. Yes, we know he gets cuts from the stores, but so what? He was incredibly helpful and kind. He made the trip perfect!
One of the nicer homes we walked past had been owned by Barbara Hutton and was currently owned by Margaret Atwood. We also passed a book shop and the owner was kind enough to step out so we could take a picture. They do NOT want their pictures taken. Yasene laughed and said just take it quick and rush away, but Carolyn and I did not bother people.
We stopped at a spice shop and one of the items was REAL Moroccan argon oil, I bought some as well as some Orange Blossom oil and a spice to stop snoring. The spice shop man also showed us a spice that takes off 10 pounds in 20 days, but I don’t think anyone bought it. Carolyn also made some purchases, but they are a surprise.
We then walked through a food market, lots of olives and skinned animals hanging from the racks. I saw, for the second time that day, a tall pile of very large, round breads, about the size of a medium pizza. “I want that” I said to Yasene and he bought it for me, called it a present. It was delicious, I offered it to many on the tour and we tore of hunks and munched as we walked. I could live on that bread, mmmmmmmmm!
The next stop was a very large store that sold a wide variety of quality items and accepted credit cards. Upstairs I was tempted and splurged on the purchase of a lovely Moroccan carpet, Carolyn who is familiar with these carpets knew it was authentic and that the price was very low compared to what it would be in the states. They packaged it in the most amazing way, it is heavy but so small and a young man sewed the package closed with a big needle and string. That alone was fascinating.
By now we were pretty tired, we had walked a long way and were “attacked” by peddlers every step. Irene said NO in a way that really sent them scurrying. I began saying “I don’t like it” to everything I was shown, that made the peddlers sad.
The money thing was odd because the peddlers will take anything, dollars or Euros or whatever. We had no need of Moroccan money.
We finally got back to the bus, after almost 3 hours, but we were not done. We exchanged a fond goodbye with Yasene, and tipped him very well. He had been carrying all of our purchases and handed them off to the tour guide so we did not need to carry them to the bus. Such a great guy. He seemed to know everyone we saw and when I asked him, he said everyone knew him, he was like coca cola. He also said he is a friend of Rick Steves and is in his books. (Every time we briefly lost sight of Yasene, Carolyn was sure he was off selling our stuff, but of course he was not).
We went on a drive through the “Beverly Hills” of Tangier to admire the beautiful homes. We saw camels by the side of the road but they were only there for tourists and we did not stop. A lot of this drive was along a beautiful coast line, off the Atlantic. We could see the Rock of Gibraltar in the distance. We had a very brief stop at a high point for pictures but the ocean looks pretty much the same from everywhere. Unfortunately my camera ran out of battery, darn me for forgetting to charge it, and though Carolyn still had some battery life in her camera, it is not a fast shot. I missed some photo ops but it had worked most of the time.
Our next stop was a cave that Hercules built, or so they said. It was a steep downhill with a climb to come back so Carolyn stayed in a small side place and watched some drummers. The cave was especially interesting because it had the ocean water of different countries that had flowed into it. Depending on where you stood in the massive cavern, you were in a different country.
Our final stop was a beautiful hotel called ________. Out by the pool they had real Moroccan tea for us and cookies. The tea was warm and very sweet, I loved it. The cookies were ok but they were gobbled up. There were also very nice, western style bathrooms for us. We sat around a lovely pool and enjoyed the respite. If I were to stay in Tangier, which I doubt I ever will, this is the hotel for me. The big downside is the strong smoke smell, but they probably had smoke free rooms for westerners.
And then, back to the ship. The guards at the harbor gate actually looked under the bus with mirrors before they let us through. In spite of this the busses are not allowed too close to the ship so we had a long walk. My carpet is very heavy and I was glad to get to the room and drop it.
Carolyn and I went to the buffet, which they had kept open because the busses were late. I had a drumstick and a few potatoes and Carolyn had a salad and we both had a few bites of pizza (bleh). The ice cream machine is still broken and though we should be grateful to avoid the calories, we are not! Then goodness for ice cream for dessert and I brought jujubes which we both snack on.
Carolyn is in the room, on the balcony reading and enjoying the sunshine. I went to the internet café to send yesterdays blog. I am now sitting in a salon where there is usually dancing. While I type they are playing quiz games. The first was a geography one and then a cute on where they showed pictures of people in traditional costumes and the participants need to guess the country. Sitting near me are two men I waited in the long excursion line with. They speak no English and I no French but we became friendly anyway. They are playing the game and I guess along with them.
Tonight, after dinner, we are done! We need to rest up for Casablanca tomorrow and I need to download our photos.