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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Morocco to Tunisia

Hi! Just a (very) brief update. Am now in Tunisia, have been for a couple of days, and will be for another week before heading onto Turkey. After that...? No idea, but I think my parents are despairing of me ever coming home... ;)

Met up with Liz in Casa just fine, we then headed south to...

Marrakech - everything that you expect from Morocco's most tourist town. It honestly felt a little Disney, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the Dar el-Fna or the 17th century hammam. DID, however, keep me from getting too close to the live cobras and monkeys on the square...

Essaouira - LOVELY town, shitty men. Seriously. I actually elbowed one idiot in the sternum because he got too close to me to whisper 'sweet nothings' in my ear. Jerk. Of course, his friends thought it was the most hysterical thing they'd ever seen. Hmf. City was very pretty, on the ocean, with really good seafood. Walked on the beach and took pictures of this neat stranded boat.

Casa - hung out with some friends of Liz' friend.... Moroccan men are...? Don't think I could stay there that long but the flattery was appreciated...

Rabat - wandered around the old parts of the city, couple of nice museums, including one housing all the stuff they'd pulled out of Volubilis in the north. My favorite was the neolithic carving of a human surrounded by waves and circles, but the Roman goodies were also fun.

Then on to Tunisia at disgustingly early in the morning. So far:

Carthage - OMFG. You can walk in/on Carthage. It's huge. And the Romans certainly knew their real estate - the portions of the site are plop in the middle of the area now used to house ambassadorial residences (yes, yes, I think the timing was the other way around... :P) Seriously, though, beautiful sites on the water and then on the hill. We spent an entire day just poking around. Good stuff

Dougga/Bulla Regia - just got back from a couple of days wandering ruins over in the northwest of the country. Beautiful but cold. Dougga was definitely the more imposing of the two, perched on a hill with the capitol and huge amphitheater still standing, but Bulla Regia had some neat murals and a few larger structures of its own still standing.

And now it's freezing and my fingers are icicles and Liz and I are off to brave the cold (and jerky men who think that western women must == prostitutes, I blame the western media...) to find some food.

Ma'sallama (sp??)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Marhaba to Morocco

So, let's do a brief catch up:

Peace Corps decided that, in light of growing security concerns, to boot my stage out of the country a bit early. Screwed with everyone's plans but we dealt with it, and so now I'm out into my COS trip, starting in Morocco. At the moment I'm all on my lonesome but Liz'll meet up with me in a few days and we'll continue on through Morocco then Tunisia, then Turkey.

So, Morocco so far: AMAZING. I love it here. I could totally live in Chefchaouen or Meknes. But I digress

Day 1: get into Casa, immediately hop the train for Tanger (not a mistake, that's how they spell it here...) Get into my hotel - Hotel Mamora. Simple, but clean and nice. Wandered around the mostly-closed medina (it was Eid al-Adha, feast of the sacrifice), got some dinner on the Grand Socco, and crashed

Day 2: Morning again on the grand socco drinking hot tea and snacking on the ubiquitous fruit. Hopped a bus to Chefchaouen just as the rain came in. Pulled in to Chefchaouen in late afternoon, still raining, but huddled in the hotel's common room and drank tea with a couple of nice Dutch women. The hotel was Hotel Mauritania, right next to Hotel Suika (which has easier-to-follow signs). It's a great little place with bright tile and nice staff (and one super cute desk guy, but I digres...) Then I braved the rain to head to a hammam. Fantastic! I don't know that i've ever been so comfortably warm and clean in my life, for all that I provided grand amusement to the women also using the hammam. Having spent 2 years in Niger, I'm used to the 'look at the strange anasara behavior' so it was fun.

Day 3: Wandered more around Chefchaouen, alternately hanging out with the Dutch girls and poking around on my own. It's a beautiful town - painted blue and white. Kind of like I think greece must look like with the whitewash, but blue. Everything blue. Poked around my first kasbah and had my first shopkeeper give me mint tea. A good day.

Day 4: Sadly must eventually leave Chefchaouen, this time for Fez. This trip sucks. It's 4 hours by bus through the mountains, and requires me to take 3 drammamine. I get to my hotel, Pension Talaa, which is clean but very institutional. I get a cell on the roof that would be great if it were summer, but unfortunately it's winter. The blankets are thick, though, so I figure no problem. Then I hit the medina. Problem. It's beautiful. Everything you think of when you think of a 1001 nights medina. Carvings. Mosaics. Neat little alleyways filled with shops selling everything. Unfortunately it's also home to 1001 rude men. I'd gotten used to the attention elsewhere, apparently Moroccan men like curvy, large-bottomed women. A whistle or two, no problem. No, these jerks follow you. And continually harass you. They don't stop. 'Hey sweetie...' etc. Infuriating. I finally rounded on one guy and told him he had no shame. Ah, Hausa. For all that Fes was lovely I couldn't enjoy it because I felt I had to duck and cover to get away from the @$$holes. So, the next day (yesterday morning) I packed up and headed to Meknes. I haven't looked back.

Day 5: Having escaped Fes I immediately collapsed in my room in Hotel Maroc. A great hotel. Very warm. Clean. And, at 90Dh per night, a steal for a double bed single. I slept until 1pm under nice warm covers, then braved the city. SO much nicer than Fes. I wandered around the main square, Place el-Hadim, had a sandwich while staring at the big gates (Bab el-Mansour (Question - if Bab is gate than was the Tower of Babel somehow a gate to Heaven that was being closed??)) then succeeded at getting myself lost in the medina while attempting to follow the guide's planned walk. In this medina, mind, I was only called after a couple of times and NO ONE hassled me, let alone followed me. In fact, when I did give up, after seeing the tomb of a saint on the outskirts whose followers are apparently immune to snake bites, and asked someone directions, he went out of his way to show me back to the main square, free of charge. Nice guy. Snagged tea in a cafe overlooking the square then dove into the covered market where I was unable to resist more olives and sweet pastries (yah yah...). Back to my room and out like a light

Day 6: (today) Began the rainy morning early with my fingers crossed hopping shared taxis to Moulay Idriss. From there I hiked the 5km or so down to Volubilis, a set of beautiful Roman ruins. Apparently it used to be the capital of their Mauritanian province. Wandered for several hours as the sun came out over the hills, taking lots of pretty desktop-worthy pictures, then began the hike back up. Somehow it was easier going downhill... BUT! A nice couple picked me up about halfway and dropped me at the base of Moulay Idriss' hill, saving me a good couple of k, then Omar, this random guy who'd walked the last few hundred meters down to Volubulis with me, miraculously appeared in a car with his friends, and carried my lazy self up the steep part in comfy asian compact style. Thence to the main square, where I intend to return and have an overpriced tajine, and then back to Meknes. A good day, even if it can't decide whether it's going to rain again or not.