Sevilla & Morocco
Today, I was supposed to visit Cuenca, a city about two and a half hours from Madrid, but bus tickets were sold out, so instead you get a flood of updates from me! If two posts count as a flood, that is.
Morocco was a place I thought would be very cool to see while I’m in Spain, but having heard that it can be dangerous, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever actually make it down there. Fortunately, in December, I did, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go. Jessica, Sara, and I did this trip together, and I’ve said this already, but let me reiterate that it’s really awesome having two of your closest friends since the age of 6 and 12 with you in Spain and available for fabulous trips like this.
Because we had heard how sketchy Morocco can be, we decided to take a guided trip there, and we wound up going with We Love Spain. The tour left from Sevilla, so Jessica and I headed there from Madrid the day before so we could check out the city a bit before leaving for Morocco the next morning. I had spent a day in Sevilla in 2006, and Jessica had recently gone with her study abroad program, but it was still great to see again. It’s a really lovely city, definitely one of my favorites in Spain, and I always said that if I could have picked anywhere in Spain to study, it would have been Sevilla. I wound up in Madrid because there’s no UC EAP Sevilla program, and I’m glad I did because there’s so much more to do here, but just to give you an idea of how much I like Sevilla.
There, we got settled into our hostel and then wandered around the town, seeing the cathedral, the Giralda (a bell tower), Barrio Santa Cruz (the Jewish quarters), and visiting a bunch of chinos (the stores I explained before as being kind of like 99-cent stores). It was a nice, relaxing night, and I really liked our hostel.
The Giralda and cathedral.
The next morning, Sara came in from Córdoba, and we met up with her and the rest of the We Love Spain group at the Torre de Oro. We were surprised by how huge the group was — probably about 80 people or so. I had been expecting some small tour group of maximum 15, but this was fine. Most of the group consisted of American students. We then took a bus to Algeciras, a coastal city near Gibraltar, from which we took a ferry to Ceuta, a Spanish autonomous city on the northern tip of Africa. Seeing Africa across the water getting closer and closer was pretty awesome considering none of us had ever visited Africa before. A whole new continent!
Our view of Africa from the ferry.
Once in Ceuta (Africa, yay!), our trip gave us what they called a “panoramic tour” of the city, in which they drove us around Ceuta and let us out to take photos overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar. We then proceeded to Tetuan, our first stop in actual Morocco! The bus had to go through customs, which was a slow process, and the border reminded me a bit of the border in Tijuana. They took us to our hotel for a bathroom stop and then into the main part of Tetuan. I remember feeling kind of overwhelmed, trying to soak in this new country and all the people while they took us through the city. A Moroccan guide showed us the city, bringing us by a palace and taking us through a marketplace. Most of the city was very modern and didn’t have a distinct Moroccan feel to it, but the marketplace area had tiny alleyways, a variety of Moroccan products, and goats just chilling in people’s doorways. We were taken to an herb shop, where we watched a presentation on herbs traditionally used in Morocco for medicine, cooking, and other purposes. Back at the hotel, we had dinner that consisted primarily of fish (boo) but also included rice and vegetables, and during dinner we met some girls on our trip who were studying in Sevilla.
Old Tetuan marketplace area.
Our first destination the next day was the small town of ChefChaouen, my favorite Moroccan city we visited. There, all of the buildings are painted blue, and the stucco houses and twisting, hilly streets reminded me of the Albaicín in Granada or Frigiliana. Definitely an adorable place. They took us to a rug shop where the owners presented us their goods, and then we were given free time to visit the shops in the main part of town.
More of ChefChaouen.
For lunch, we went back to Tetuan, where we had lunch in a restaurant that had been converted from a palace. We were greeted by musicians, belly dancers entertained us during the meal, and a henna tattoo artist was available for tatoos. Jessica and I each got one. The restaurant was very cool looking, and our lunch of typical Moroccan food was pretty delicious.
Our henna tattoos.
After lunch, the bus took us to Tangier. We stopped at a viewpoint overlooking the spot where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet, and we were supposed to ride camels at this point, but it was already dark, so we continued to our hotel. There, we had a dinner celebration in a cute tent that included a horse show, dancers, musicians, camels, delicious typical Moroccan food, and more. Kind of like a luau, Moroccan style, and therefore very fun.
Our third course: cous cous and chicken.
After dinner, we were taken to a discoteca connected to the hotel for music and dancing. It was fun for a short while, but we got bored and were tired, so we went back to our room to sleep.
The next morning, we visited the Caves of Hercules, seaside caves that were pretty cool-looking. We then rode camels! We each had a short, bumpy ride, and, okay, I guess riding a camel isn’t much different from riding a horse, but it’s still fun to say we rode camels in Morocco. And there ended our trip, so we drove back to Ceuta, took a ferry back to Algeciras, and then returned to Sevilla.
Caves of Hercules.
Me on a camel!
When we arrived in Sevilla, there was some kind of parade going on for who knows what (Spaniards seem to love their parades), and later there was another religious-themed parade, so we watched those, said goodbye to Sara, and then settled into our hotel for the night, ready to go to Granada the following morning. Granada round three will go in a separate entry, though, since this one’s already absurdly long.
I’m very glad we did a guided trip, because we didn’t have to worry about safety concerns, transportation, getting ripped off, food, etc. and got to see some places I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, but I learned that you definitely get to know a place on a much deeper level when you’re exploring it on your own at your own pace. A lot of my trips while I’ve been in Spain haven’t included strict itineraries, so we spend a lot of time wandering the streets and discovering the places for ourselves, and I really like it that way.
Overall, Morocco was a very cool experience. I loved visiting a country so different from Europe and North America (though I did see a lot of similarities between Morocco and southern Spain, which makes sense since part of Morocco was owned by Spain until the 50s/60s), and even though I didn’t really get a good feel for the culture, I enjoyed getting a quick glimpse into it. Plus, I just had a fantastic time hanging out with Jessica and Sara. So Morocco trip = yet another traveling success!