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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Whew! We made it back to Morocco!

We awoke at 6:40am and decide to get moving.  After a quick shower, Melissa puts on her watch which now says 6:00am.  What the heck?  Immediately she realized that our phones had automatically switched to the time in Spain (1 hour later) because they locked onto the Spanish cell network.  So it was an hour earlier than we thought.  That probably turned out to be fortuitous.

Back in the car we find the Moroccans are already pouring into Ceuta.

We get to the boarder and are the second car in line!  Whoo hooo!  Despite this, it still took us nearly 30 minutes to get through because the one and only Moroccan immigration officer was handling two car lanes, plus pedestrians who were crowded around the booth yelling at him.  He was yelling back that they had to wait their turn.  Meanwhile we sat shaking our heads at the craziness.  The same guys were there doing the fence jumping bit already.  Whew!  Its 7am and we are back in Morocco!  We looked back to see that cars were already piling up.

We head west down the coast to Tangier.  The port is enormous.  This is a car off loading area:

We made the hour and a half drive and found our hotel.  We had called them last night to let them know we wouldn’t arrive till the next day.  As they welcomed us in, we told them we had gotten stuck in Ceuta, and they said that they used to go all the time and shop, but that its gotten so crazy they would rather pay the higher prices for things than take the time.  Once they had to overnight in their car because sometimes the Moroccans close the boarder back at night.

The view from the deck at La Tangerina is gorgeous.  And ironically is what we imagined we might find in Ceuta looking out over the Mediterranean Sea.  We sat and had a nice breakfast.

And the view from the private little deck off our room has a view of the city.

For lunch we wander out and find a restaurant overlooking the city and beach.  We noticed that the prices were like being back in the US – it was nearly $50 US Dollars for lunch – three courses each, but still.  We mentioned that it seemed like Tangier was more expensive than other places in Morocco to the owner back at the hotel, and she asked where we had gone.  She rolled her eyes.  “That place is a scam!”  Apparently there is a kick back to the tour guides who bring tourists in for lunch.  No surprise as we saw all the tour guides sitting around the restaurant lobby eating when we came in.  Oh well.  We did enjoy the view.

We made reservations for dinner at the Morocco Club – Trip Advisor said it was #3 out of 200 restaurants in Tangier and it was next door to our hotel – so we couldn’t resist.  But we had not brought any clothes for a fancy restaurant, so Melissa heads out to do a little shopping.  In the square next to the hotel she finds a designer clothing shop – one of a kind pieces that are handmade, and buys a dress and a lace shawl.  Both exquisite.  Hard to tell from the picture – but the dress is made from a ton of scarf like pieces that all drape.

As Dave was feeling like hanging out at the hotel, Melissa headed out to go shopping again in the souks.  She’s gotten comfortable enough here to wander the streets alone.  She haggled with a couple of scarf vendors for some scarves to match her new leather jackets and to take home for gifts.  The first one – the guy offered the four scarves she wanted for $52 US dollars.  Melissa just laughed and offered $30.  He came down to $50.  She laughed again and said, “I can see three other scarf vendors from where I am standing”.  He came down to $45.  She stepped out of the store and offered $30 again.  He came down to $40 and he starts bagging them up.  Melissa offers $30 again.  “You’re killing me” he says.  She shrugs.  He offers $35.  Ok, she says.  Then he relaxes and asks her where she’s from as she gets out the money.  Seattle.  “Hey – I have friends there!” he says.  Everyone here says this.  What it means is, “I sold something to someone else from there once.”

She walks down to the next scarf shop and picks out another 4 scarves.  This vendor having watched the prior exchange offers them for $35.  But these are not silk.  So not worth as much.  Melissa offers $20.  He says $30.  She says $25.  Sold.  Ok, might be getting the hang of this haggling thing.

She heads out and the third scarf vendor who had been watching comes running up and says, “you must come to my shop next!”  Melissa heads over, but the types of scarves he is selling are not the type she wants, so she heads out.  He chases her out the door complaining that she bought from the other two but not from him, and how its not fair.  She just keeps walking and says he doesn’t have what she is looking for.

By now she has wandered so far that she has no idea how to get back to the hotel.  No sweat.  The markets in Morocco are all made up of winding twisty tiny alleys and its near to impossible to keep track of where you are if you are not a local.  But there just isn’t a reason to even try – because if you just keep walking eventually you make it to a main entrance where there are a line of taxis.  So when she finds the taxi line, she asks how much and the answer was $2 to get back to the hotel.  Easy peazy.

The rest of the afternoon we hung out on the hotel deck and watched the sunset sipping some nice rose wine.  We engaged the owner of the hotel in an interesting conversation about the wine.  We commented how we were surprised to find wines here that are really very good – given this is a Muslim country where the population doesn’t drink.  She laughed.  “Oh, no, this is the perception, but the reality is very different.”  She went on to explain that technically it is illegal to sell alcohol to a Muslim.  And you are Muslim if you are born to a father of a Muslim – whether you practice the religion or not.  Her husband who is European, had to convert to Muslim to marry her in Morocco.  And hence their children are Muslim regardless of their beliefs.  But if you go down to the Tapas restaurants on the beach that serve wine – the majority you see there are locals.  So the notion that the local population doesn’t drink is not accurate.  Fascinating.

Then we headed out to dinner.  And sure enough, the food was fabulous.  They had a lamb and barley couscous.  Melissa has been bummed not to be able to eat couscous while we are here.  But she can eat barley!  She askes the waiter if the couscous is really barley without any wheat.  And he askes her if her issue is gluten or a food allergy.  Melissa’s jaw dropped open.  There are very few waiters in the US who understand the difference, and here in morocco – food allergies are unknown.  We’ve been told there isn’t even a word for it in Arabic because no one here has any food allergies.  (Begs the question of why!)  But regardless, to find a waiter who knew to ask because barley does have gluten in it was a total shocker.  The dish showed up and was amazing!

Melissa also bought Dave a nice Moroccan shirt to wear.  Fun!

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