Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Europe Travelogue #8 From Morocco
May 30, 2006
Dear Friends and Family,
Hello from Morocco where I am having a somewhat difficult time typing this because the keyboard is French. Being here has been an amazing experience so far and we are quite enjoying every moment.

Let me start from the beginning. Friday morning Lori, Mitch and Maddy drove us into Seville where we caught the bus to Algiceras. Arriving at about one, we had hoped to be able to get a ferry right away, as they usually ran every hour. This day however, the weather was bad with very high winds and the fast ferries were not running. We had to wait until 4 PM, and after loading up on time, that one didn’t leave until 5 :30. The turbulence was enough to cause quite a few people to be sick, but luckily not us. We got our passports stamped on the boat, and already there were signs about the restrictive culture, as there were separate lines for men and women. Once we arrived in Tangiers, we learned that although we had mostly traveled south, we had gained 2 hours because of the time change. After changing some money, we took a taxi to our hotel. This was a pretty nice one because I screwed up the name while booking it on the internet, so we stayed at the 4 star Intercontinental instead of the 2 star Continental. By this time, we were hungry and the average meal cost at the hotel was about 100 dollars, so we walked around looking for a place to eat. Nearly every place was filled with only men. Finally we found a pizza place and got some food to take back to our hotel. This was sufficient until the very excellent hotel buffet breakfast the next morning. It was included in the cost of our room, as seems to be the case here.

We took another taxi to the train station and bought tickets to Casablanca, a 6 hour journey. While we were waiting for the train, I tried to talk to the conservatively dressed Muslim woman sitting next to me and a guy working there came over and severely reprimanded her for speaking to me. She gestured to us that she couldn’t speak to me anymore and then turned away as if she was embarassed. The train journey was interesting because we shared a compartment with an Iraqi couple who are both PhD’s living in England for the last 20 years, and who are very knowledeable about the situation in Iraq. He was asked to head the Ministry of Justice after Saddam was removed but he refused because our government was not following any of the recommendations made by the institute he worked for with regard to policies for
the new government. It was also interesting because we got to see lots of Morocco terrain. This country reminds us of Mexico in many ways. There are burros and horse carts, people harvesting fields by hand, sheep and goats, areas of cactus borders around the fields, small villages with a mixture of brick buildings and mud houses, and always with a minaret. There were good crops too : grains, vineyards, trees, orchards, and vegetables.

Once we arrived in Casablanca and caught another taxi to the hotel there, we were pleased to have a very nice room overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There was a nice promenade along the beach and we had a very nice walk there for several miles. I twas Saturday and there were tons of people there but we never had any hassels from anyone, as we had heard that we might. That evening we met part of our tour group and our leader, a young Aussie woman named Jessie. There are only 8 people in our group. One young Swiss girl, 1 young guy from New Zealand, 1 young Aussie girl working in England, and a New Zealand couple about our age traveling with their 26 yeqr old daughter who is also working in London. Everyone is very nice and very well traveled, so we hope to learn a lot from them and get lots of travel tips.

Unfortunately , because we have been doing so many fun and interesting things, we don’t have time right now to tell you about everything in the three days since Casablanca. And tomorrow we leave early for a long day’s drive down to our Berber tent camping experience down near the Sahara. So when we next have internet access, we will try to catch up. Sending hugs and hoping that all is going well.
Love, Mary and Elaine

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