Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Marvelous Morocco

So I've decided to borrow the theme of my blog titles from Justin's facebook albums because I like the alliteration, and Morocco was indeed marvelous. Also, there aren't going to be any pictures for now until maybe South Africa because it's easier to upload photos in an internet cafe, and less expensive. We actually had one less day there than originally planned, which no one was too thrilled about. The seas were rough when we were trying to bunker (fuel up) in Gibralter, so we had to wait an extra day. This did mean that we got a pretty clear picture of the Super Bowl, even though it was on a German network.

We actually got into Casablanca around 8pm the next night, but we weren't allowed off the ship until the next morning. Coming in to Casablanca was pretty fun. We basically had to make a right hand turn into the port which meant that the stabilizers had to be turned off and there were huge swells because of the wind. The ship was rocking side to side a lot, like beds and dressers sliding around our rooms, bunches of people falling out of their chairs, kids hurting themselves because they thought it would be cool to slide around on the hardwood floor and then they ran into things. But the next day we were finally able to get off the ship.

The same group of people from Spain (me, Jill, Conor and Ben) plus two other girls named Rebecca and Alex were traveling to Marrakesh by train, along with what seemed like half the ship (and it very well may have been). Right when we got out of the port area, we were swarmed by Moroccan cab drivers (who were all men) and were trying to negotiate prices with all of us. It was fairly overwhelming at first, but we were all definitely used to the bargaining by the end of the trip. We finally made it to the train station (we realized we were ripped off later, but just didn't know the prices at that point) and got first class tickets to Marrakesh (125 dirham, about 15 dollars for a three hour train ride), which meant that we got our own seat in a compartment. The three hour train ride through the Moroccan countryside was beautiful and it was a great way to see a lot of the landscape in a short amount of time. 

When we got there we needed to make our way to the old part of the city called the Medina, though the train station was in an area of the new part called Gueliz. In my broken French (though my French I professor would have been proud) I was able to ask people where it was and navigate us there. We eventually made it to the central square of the city called Jemma El Fna. It is one of the coolest places I have ever been. I will definitely post pictures of it later. In this huge square are food stalls, orange juice stands, story tellers, snake charmers, and women doing henna who will grab your hands and just start drawing if you aren't careful. Along the edge of the square are restaurants and then the souks start and form a huge maze behind the main area. The souks are a huge market full of stalls selling everything: shoes, shirts, lamps, carpets, pastries, jewelry, hats, and so much more. And all for cheap prices that you are expected to bargain down. I'm sure we were still getting ripped off from a local's point of view, but everyone did improve their bargaining skills. 

Our hostel overlooked this square and had an awesome roof terrace where you could get a 360 view of the city. We hung out in the square and just in the sights, walked around the souks and ate delicious Moroccan food that is a lot of meat, vegetables, and cous cous. I had the best orange juice ever from one of those stands for 3 dirhams which is about 35 cents. The next morning we woke up the next morning and had delicious lattes, mint tea and croissants and then walked to the Saadian tombs in the rain. The tombs were pretty with lots of tiling and cool patterns, though we got ourselves stuck behind a huge group of Asian tourists, and MIT students know how that goes. Then we wandered back up to the square and shopped and hung out for the afternoon. I bought many cool things in the souks and am going to have major problems getting all the stuff I collect back home. 

That night we took a train back to Casablanca and slept on the ship. The next morning I went with Conor and Ben (Jill wasn't feeling well) to the mosque Hassan II, which is the only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims (especially non-Muslim women) can enter. The building was gorgeous with beautiful tiling and ceilings and chandeliers everywhere (will definitely post some pics), though it felt like a tourist attraction. It was really neat to see, but I didn't feel like I was really experiencing a mosque. Then we went to Rick's Cafe (from the movie Casablanca) and had a delicious lunch of salad, chili, and rolls. The whole restaurant was basically the ship, and the AV guy from the ship was playing guitar. Then we headed back to the ship and just waited to leave. 

Since then we have been at sea and we get to Namibia on Saturday. I'm going on a safari and I am super excited. We have been having classes again, which was weird at first, but everyone has gotten back into the ship routine. The weather has finally gotten hot, and we are actually going to cross the equator today. We had Neptune Day yesterday, which is a celebration of crossing the equator, which I will write more on later. Right now our Global Studies class is starting, so I should probably pay a bit of attention. 

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