31 July 2009

It Began In Africa

I figured it would be silly to come as far south as La Costa del Sol and not duck across the water for a quick trip through Morocco.

I fell in with a bunch of Irish lads and lasses I met on camp and set off along the Spanish coast to the ferry terminal in Algeciras. That turned out to be a bit more complicated than we realised, and after changing trains and finally negotiating our tickets across the strait, we didn´t arrive in Tangiers until about half past nine at night, even after picking up and hour through the time change. We were quite worried about finding a hostel, but right at that moment a friendly Moroccan man appeared out of nowhere and offered to show us around. This basically consisted of him taking us to all his friends´ shops and trying to con us into buying ridiculous looking 'traditional' Moroccan outfits. Finally he escorted us to possibly the dingiest, most over-priced hostel in North Africa, and asked us to make sure we told all our friends about him.

So consider yourselves informed; if you meet a smoothe talking Moroccan man named Mohammad in the port of Tangiers, head the other way.

The second day was much nicer. We got up early and got the hell out of Tangiers, on a train bound for Fez. There, by way of karmic restitution for the previous night's debacle, we met a helpful tourism official who set us up with a nice hostel and a proper registered guide for the afternoon. The guide took us through Old Town Fez (Medina) and showed us the workshops where they made all the local handicrafts; pottery, bronzeworking, weaving and leathergoods. We finished up with an extremely satisfying traditional Moroccan cous cous.

The Medina of Fez was fascinating for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was mind blowing to see people living and working in the same place and manner as their families had been since the 12th century. The Medina is heritage listed by UNESCO to preserve the crazy time-machine effect you get when you walk in there.

Secondly, it was bizarre to see the way the 21st century would occasionally sneak in through the cracks. The image of the day as far as I was concerned was a donkey carrying a load of vegetables up the narrow cobbled streets to the market, closely followed by its owner, who was carrying a laptop computer.

Our journey out of Africa was also a little more involved than we had planned. We had known from the outset that we were going to be pushed for time as we trained it back to a ferry stop in Melilla, which is a colonial town on the African mainland, but under Spanish sovereignty. We were quite pleased with ourselves as we arrived with fifteen minutes to spare, only to realise that we had reverted to Spanish time, and were therefore forty-five minutes late for the last ferry out. So we spent an extra night away and got the ferry back to Malaga the following afternoon.

So here we are then; back in Europe and ready to get moving again. Next stop: Granada!

Far from home

Garry with 2 Rs
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