Sunday, November 7, 2010

Morocco Tanger Fes Rabat

We arrived from Granada to Morocco for two days. A rastaman with bus painted in graffiti took us to the port in Algeciras. When we reached the port we were immediately attacked by people selling ferry tickets, hashish and whatever they can. They offered us different prices for the ferry, it was already nightfall and we did not even know where we were going  to - Ceuta or Tangier. Finally we managed to catch the ferry to Tangier for 20 euros per person - our first ever paid transportation. We traveled across Europe only by hitch-hiking or walking. (we have not even used the public transport or subway). We arrived in Tangier at sunset and we were surprised that we actually arrived earlier than we started. The ferry left from Spain at 18:30  and arrived in Morocco at 17:30. The reason was that in Morocco they don’t have winter and summer time and now they have two hours difference with Europe. On leaving the port taxi drivers offered us a ride, but we were confident that we will go on foot and we continued walking with our backpacks along the road. It turned out however, that Tangier is 40 km away from the port! Just when we thought to sleep near the road, a car with Moroccans coming back from Spain stopped and took us to Tangier and we were not even waving. Thus our first lucky hitch-hike in Africa began. 

in Fez goods are transported by donkeys 
In Tangier we immediately dipped into the madness of the Orient. Even late at night all the stores and shops were working - you can buy everything - from shoes to plasma TV or washing machine at 10 o'clock in the evening. But we did not need anything other than shelter. There was no plan, the hotels were expensive and sleeping outside looked pretty dangerous. We sat down exhausted on a bench, when an adult Moroccan talked to us. He ask us if we have food and shelter and when he heard that we were hitchhikers, he was happy to explain that when he was young he was hitch-hiking in Europe for six years. He showed us where we can eat cheaply and we parted. In our first attempt to eat we understood that we don’t understand nothing. Two helpful Moroccans took up to translate for us and when we explained that we want vegetarian food they brought us to another restaurant nearby where there was only fish:)), we gave up to explain that we do not want fish and stayed there as they helped us to order salad and rice. 

Later that evening we met another good Moroccan who was not trying to sell us anything, but just to talk to us. He said he lived four years in Europe - France and Spain, but he was deported from there because he had no documents. Traveling in Europe for them was tough. He himself had passed Gibraltar hidden in a truck.Sometimes you have to swim under the boats. Yet now he waited in Tangier for an opportunity to return to Europe. 'I have to suffer to succeed'- he said. He knew Spanish, French, English and Arabic and want to learn German to go to Germany. He knew a lot about people, countries and life. He showed us beautiful places in Morocco and Africa and gave us valuable advice for our trip. 'You are so lucky to be born in Europe,' he said 'because you have the freedom to travel'. Not for the first time we heard these words and thought about how unequal people are from their very birth. We are not born equal. From the place where you’re born depends your freedom. 'In Morocco everyone is welcome. No one needs a visa even if the Chinese '. We talked with pleasure all night and the morning we decided to continue to Fez. 
with so many satellites you can catch a signal from aliens ... 
On the road early that morning only taxis stopped and after one hour of waiting a guy with a bowl on his head (quite popular hairstyle in Morocco) came to us and began to hitch-hike with us. He spoke something in Arabic and laughed at us. Then he talked to a truck driver, loaded us back into the truck and get on in front. We drove to the exit of the city and then he continued with us - walking, waving and speaking in Arabic. We could not understand why he goes with us and where he goes. We managed to escape by claiming that we are going to eat. After 15-20 minutes waiting a car took us to the next town 45 kilometers away and then almost immediately an old man took for us for Lareche. We stop along the way to get some melons, which proved to be very tasty. With several cars we came to Fez and in the evening put our tent in a forest near Fes. Camping is quite difficult in Morocco. There are almost no forests and everywhere is full of people. 

The donkeys in Fes are so heavily loaded and beaten that sometimes their tongue is hanging out

Camel safari or camel head - you can buy anything here...
As a whole, Maroccans don't respect animals...for them they are inferior creatures created to serve us (or to be served on the table)
Cafe Clock - one of the most atmospheric places in Fes with free wi fi

In the morning we drove to the center of a Fez with a Moroccan who actually was going to Spain. It was in the opposite direction - to Tanjer, but for us he went back to Fes, and even gave us some orange juice. When getting off the car we were immediately attacked by people offering us hashish, hotels and whatever else they can ... It was only the beginning of the madness in Fez. Once we entered the medina (old center, surrounded by walls) we could not breath for 1 minute from annoying vendors and guides. Everyone is offering something - buy that, eat from this, come there ... everything was "best quality" and "best price"  - expressions which, after the 10th time provoked suspicion and finally laughter. The small streets were literally like labyrinth, many of which deadended. Crowds, shops, animals all places looked the same and getting lost was inevitable. One boy was trying to be our guide and kept saying all the time "for free", but of course eventually he asked for money. When we said "for free" he replied: "Nothing is free. In Fes everything is commission. " 

Famous  tanneries in Fez - or where the leather is colored with natural dyes 
Moroccan fashion
It seems that the first words that children learn here are: "One dirham, please". When they see us some children even start running and shouting: Money! Money! Money!. As if we were a walking ATM. We remembered one girl that warned us before: “For them, if you're white means that first, you’re stupid and second, you've got a lot of money. For the first time we felt that racism and really felt discrimination. Everyone was asking us: Where are you from? If in Europe they ask all the black people on the streets: "Where are you from" it wouldn’t be  very polite ... And after we say Bulgaria, most of them looked perplexed. Some asked:Hungary? Other asked: This is south or north America? Few were those who had heard about Stoichkov and knew about Bulgaria. Stoichkov was famous here everybody watch football. 

Medina in Fes
Typical Maroccan breakfast

We stayed in Fez couchsurfing for a few days, we got lost in the medina, tried local foods and floated on the rivers of people in the small streets. Fes was not a place for relaxation and rest. Even when sitting in a cafe with our Moroccan host, people constantly tried to sell to us handkerchiefs, CDs with terrible American movies, or just wanted money. On top of this constant stress our Moroccan friend was trying hard to make us Muslims and even recited us passages from the Koran. He promised to teach us to fly. We could not make him stop in any way and had to listen patiently.
Strange neighborhood in Fez, with a lot of garbage, where everyone is looking for something useful. 

a horse stumbling under the weight of a ton of carpets

We set out from Fez to Rabat where we had to pull take visa for Mauritania. This time we took the highway, which was paid and used by rich people ... and practically was almost empty.
First two guys took us to Meknes, they knew English well and would go to study in London. Immediately after them (we waited less than s 5 minutes) we hitch-hiked the craziest trucker in the world! He did not know any language but was singing, dancing, increasing the music to the max, blowing the horn with the music and banging on the wheel so hard that we thought he would either brake his hand or the wheel. He was driving with elbows, with knees, sometimes forgot to drive at all and the truck moved in  zigzag on the two-lane highway. We were lucky that there war no cars at all. We had nothing to do but sing and dance with him and hope we will get to Rabat alive. In the same time he was filming us with his mobile and after he played the movie and laughed. He also called many people who he believed that speak some language and gave us the phone to talk with them. He wanted to call our host in Rabat and we gave him his phone number - a mistake that will not repeat. Except that he called him 3-4 times along the way, after he called him every day asking about us and wanting to talk to us. He was trying to invite us at his parents' house, then he said he would quit his job and come to Bulgaria ... He told us how once he picked up four French guys in the truck and every time we saw hitch-hiker on the road he slowed down. But when we approached and see that is Moroccan hitch-hiker, he said "noooo, is Moroccan! Attencion! "We understood that hi didn’t trust Moroccan hitchhikers and thought that maybe just for us hitch-hiking here is so easy.
We arrived safe and sound in Rabat and remained there with Andrew – an American who studies the politic parties in Morocco.  Compared to Fez, Rabat was pretty quiet town. There was also media with all sorts of small streets and shops, but nobody bothered us and we could walk undisturbed. We went to the Bulgarian embassy to ask advice and talk with perhaps the last Bulgarians on our trip in West Africa. After waiting an hour or two we just got the answer "this is not part of our job” and what you want from us. In Senegal embassy they were much kinder to us saying that the way in Mauritania is not a problem and we need to go to Casablanca for Senegalese visa. Mauritanian Embassy, did not work on Friday (like all true Muslims) and we had to wait until Monday in Rabat. We changed several hosts until Monday and eventually stayed with a nice Polish and her husband - Berber, who we met on the street. They said they are from hospitality club and offered us their hospitality. We felt the warm Slavic temper and felt like at home. 
time for prayer 
In the medina of Rabat you can find all sorts of things second, third and fourth use. . 
bathroom shop
hanged mannequin

Typical Moroccan kettles, in which they make Moroccan whiskey (tea) 
Waves in Rabat are sometimes quite big and the beach is full of surfers 

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