One of the places I wanted to be sure to see while I was in the southern part of Spain, was Morocco. All of the travel books recommend taking a tour or hiring a guide to ensure ease of border crossing and avoidance of hassling from the peddlers. As we were unable to get a hold of any of the recommended guides from our books, we booked through a travel agency in Gibraltar.
We were told to be at the port by 8am to ensure we caught our ferry on time. We understood that to mean the ferry was leaving at 8, so we all rose long before the sun to make the just over an hour drive to Algericas.
Unfortunately, nothing is open at that time of the day for grabbing food on the way, but we arrived with plenty of extra time and were able to find some morsels at the cafe in the port station. When we checked-in, they told us to meet at the information booth at 8am.
8am came and went – no one arrived. I assumed that Spanish time was perhaps like Peruvian time – fluid. So, I suggested we wait until 8:40.
8:40 came and went – no one arrived. Where was Miguel?? The name of a person we were told to wait for.
I went back to the ticket counter and was informed that our ferry wasn’t leaving until 10, so we should meet at the ticket counter at 9 to meet up with Miguel. WTF?!
We went for more coffee as our patience was wearing and irritation increasing. At 9, we walked to the ticket counter. They walked us back to the information booth. ha ha. We met someone, presumably Miguel, who took our information, gave us a sticker and told us to wait until almost 10 when our ferry would leave.
After a bit more trial of our patience, we managed to get on the boat to Ceuta. It was almost 1.5 hours (not exactly as fast as we had thought it would be), but upon arriving in Ceuta (Spanish owned on Moroccan soil), we met up with a larger tour group and got on a bus. Our guide for the day was Ahmed and he took us through the borders of Spain and Morocco heading first towards a local town – Tetuoan.
Tetuoan was a small town where they showed us the local market. We walked through the walled market streets, had a Moroccan meal – yum! -, were taken to some different shops including carpets and trinkets.
Ahmed had a colleague join us to help with the tour who followed up at the back of the group to ensure that everyone made it safely. Mohammed decided that my mom was an easy target to ask her to tip for his services to which she said No. He kept asking her and I noticed that he was patting her on the back, making her very uncomfortable. At one point, she stopped and shook her head -NO- and then he moved on to my aunt. I asked what happened and once she told me, I went up to Mohammed and explained under no circumstances was he allowed to touch my mother and he was not getting any money from us. He tried to pretend like all was well, but we had arrived at the bus and I again explained not to touch my mother and said NO looking him in the eye. I also looked straight at Ahmed to ensure that he was aware there was a problem. Later, on the bus, Ahmed asked what had happened and apologized saying this had never happened before – a running theme throughout our tour.
Our next stop was Tangier. It was about 1.5 hour drive through the country, which was interesting to see. I always enjoy seeing the land.
Tangier reminded me greatly of Abu Dhabi, but dirtier and sketchier. The city was quite small really, but there were more local streets and people to take in. We were still asked for tips by the local guide there, but at least it was a better situation. No one really seemed interested in buying anything though we had thought it would be a good shopping place. I sat at a cafe and had some cafe con leche waiting for the others to shop. It was there that I got the sense that I would like to go back and see some other parts of the country that would probably be a better sample of the culture and people.
The ferry ride back was fairly uneventful, but only 45-minutes, which was much better. Our long day ended with some frustrations in trying to find food at midnight and all of us being tired. So, perhaps not our best day, but I was happy to have made the day-trip.
Just a couple more days to go!