first of all, it should be stated that everyone in Morocco wants to be your tour guide. we were well warned about this by guidebooks and friends so on our first day in Casablanca it came as no suprise that we attracted some hangers-on wanting to show us the sights (well, sight) in Casablanca, the 3rd-largest mosque in the world. they were so insistent we would never find our way to the mosque without them, which was a hilarious notion because it dominated the skyline. it is sort of like being in DC and not being able to find the Washington monument. except even easier to locate. whenever one of us managed to shake off a potential guide, the other one would enquire, but how will we find the big mosque? somehow we found it, and it was supremely beautiful and absolutely immense. but i intended to make you a list, so here´s some bullet points for ya...
1. they are pretty ill-equipped for cold weather. at least, as cold as it was while we were there. apparently we caught the tail end of the cold front that´s currently assaulting Europe. much colder than the typical Moroccan winter. so it turns out everyone else was just as cold as we were, but not complaining about it. as much as we were.
2. "fruit salad" is a lot more of a dessert there than it is in the US. think a multitude of tropical fruits, pudding, almonds, dates, and a piroutte on top. amazing. (yes i photographed one.)
3. Morocco was the first country to officially recognize the United States as an independent country. i learned this during a visit to the American Legation Museum, which is less about US-Moroccan history and more about Moroccan history. but they did have this really funny letter written by the first diplomat living in Morocco about how the Emperor basically forced a pair of lions on him as a "gift to Congress" because US laws forbid the President or the diplomats from accepting gifts. The Emperor´s man was so set on him accepting the lions (because if he didn´t they would cut off the messenger´s head) that he posted guards at either end of the street and told the diplomat if he didn´t want the lions to set them free. the letter ends with the gentleman lamenting the cost of hosting 2 fully grown lions and the rumour that the Emperor is preparing some horses as a gift to "the American people." the ALM also had some awesome dioramas depicting 2 historic battles. and lots of maps of Tangier, which apparently has been shot to bits quite a few times.
4. "Medina" means city in Arabic. we saw 4 different medinas (a city surrounded by a stone wall, very medevial) while we were there, by far the largest being in Fez. over half a million people live in the medina in Fez...talk about cramped. luckily our first night was spent in Casablanca, where the medina is much smaller so it wasn´t that big of a deal that we got totally lost and took awhile to find our hotel. these walled cities are little more than giant stone labryinths to the untrained eye, where the business and shops seem to repeat and there´s no shortage of young boys who may or may not be lying when they say you´re headed towards the outside. afterwards we stuck to hotels in the villa nouvelle, or new city, where landmarks are a bit more distinguishible.
5. Chefchaouen was incredible and nothing the guidebook pages we tore out (oops) about it really seemed to be correct. anytime there was a "nothing to see here" comment we found another breath-taking vista. i will post pictures as soon as i find the facility. the other aspect of "nothing to see here" in Chefchaouen is not only does everyone want to sell you hashish (an unappealing offer when all you want your hostel owner to do is turn on the gas for a hot shower), they are also trafficking it with each other. there were a few occasions where i almost inadvertently photogrpahed a drug deal. it is illegal there, but apparently there´s another case of culture and law disagreeing.
after Morocco, we crossed the ferry to Spain. it must have been an unusually rough day on the water because everyone was using the seasick bags the staff thoughtfully passed out to those who looked queasy when the ferry started pitching. i managed to escape with my breakfast but not everyone was so lucky. at one point there were probably 15 people simulataneously tossing their cookies...a odd experience, being in a room with so many people retching. one i hope never to repeat. from docking we went to Gibralter, which i´ll tell you all about later because it´s about ten pm, Spanish dinner time. Ciao.