- Posted October 15, 2011 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Morocco: From surf to Sahara
Morocco's Big Adventures
I was visiting my friend in Belgium and we wanted to go somewhere fun and special. She has traveled extensively all over Western and Eastern Europe and I really wanted it to be fun for her, so I suggested somewhere she hadn't been. We got cheap tickets from Brussels to Fes, Morocco and I looked it up on the map and saw that Morocco was in Northern Africa. I thought Africa and envisioned tribal Africa with animals. My friend and I decided to do a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants trip to Morocco, so we didn't plan anything before arriving except our first nights stay in the city of Fes. We arrived in the airport and I thought we got on the wrong plane-- the surroundings was more of what I thought the Middle East would look like, say Iran or Iraq, certainly not Africa.
We went to rent a rental car and they were "out." But the guy in the little airport office told us his friend had a rental car business, but not located in the airport. He called him for us and then he summoned us out to the airport parking lot, where the other guy was going to meet us. There were guys sitting in jeeps wearing uniforms and holding machine guns positioned all around outside the airport. I am six feet tall and blonde, and the Moroccan people usually reacted like they saw an apocalypse when they saw me. We went to meet the guy and signed a form and were then told in order to rent the car, we needed to give the rental car guy our passport, and the agreed upon amount of money. My friend spoke French so she did all of our speaking and translating well I towered over her and all of the Moroccan people and stared blankly, not speaking a lick of French. It was sketchy. We didn't know what we should do. People spoke of a bus to take around the city, but at this point the thought of getting on any mode of public transit or trusting a cabbie seemed out of the question. But then again, being stuck in Morocco not being able to leave the country because we no longer had passports seemed even worse. Well, we did it anyway.
We had no map but asked for the closest gas station. The little stick shift two door car was on E and didn't move very well. We did a few laps of the area and finally found the gas station, where we bought the essentials: a 6 ft by 6 ft map (the only one they carried), "Fa" deodorant (to this day the best deodorant I've ever seen) and the biggest size bottled water they sold. And so it began.
Our destination was something like seven miles away. Needless to say, it took us over three hours to navigate the Moroccan streets, alleyways, and sidewalks to actually find our myriad (hostel). We were sweating profusely in our little two door car and so lost about half way through that all I could do in the passenger seat was take pictures of my friend asking for directions. We probably stopped 30 times and asked in French for the area of Fes, the name of the street, and our hostel. Everyone looked at us like we were nuts. I am sure they were wondering where the big tall blonde girl came from and how in the world she fit in that car.
I could write a book about our travels in Morocco- I have backpacked and traveled extensively and it was by far the most scared I have ever been on a "vacation." I put vacation in quotes because most of the time we were sweating, lost, and paranoid that we were being robbed, followed, or getting ripped off by locals. The adventure made the trip memorable. Highlights of the trip were spending the night in the desert and enjoying a traditional dinner made from the locals who also taught us how to drum and ride a camel. Camping in the desert didn't exactly turn into a good nights sleep (I was really paranoid about bugs in my bed). Everywhere we went, we were served tea and it was lovely, it made us feel like princesses. The mint tea was the best tea I've ever had in my life and it represented such a nice tradition rooted in hospitality. Other highlights included being naked and getting scrubbed at a hammam, a traditional bath house. I would suggest anyone up for a wild trip to go to Morocco, but make sure to pack deodorant because its hot, an empty suitcase for the market treasures, and an appetitive for the unknown.