4:30 AM: the hotel rooster crows.
Sorry sir, but you are severely confused. It’s absolutely not morning. Nice try though, you’re only about three hours early. Side note, what kind of hotel has a rooster?
Luckily I went back to sleep and slept in (ha ha not) until 6:00 AM. Another very early day with CIEE, my study abroad program that organized the Morocco trip. The second day of our trip was technically our only full day in the country, and we were headed to Tangier.
The first stop in Tangier was a factory visit that the program had organized. I wasn’t looking forward to it all since it was a business thing for my business study abroad program and I’m not a business major (long story, don’t ask). But it was actually really cool and eye-opening to see the inside of a factory.
Morocco is a very popular place for companies all over the globe to outsource production, and many big-name companies, like Coca-Cola for example, make parts of their product here. We didn’t go anywhere as cool or well-known as Coke though. My classmates and I went to a factory that produced many different car parts for car companies like Fiat and Jaguar.
I was expecting to find a sweatshop-type of factory, but from what I could tell it actually looked fairly safe. And all the people there were smiling, but they might have just been fascinated by the group of 30 funny looking Americans in their workplace. Either way, it was definitely very interesting, and made me thankful that I have access to a college education. Although the factory certainly didn’t look like a bad place to work, it made me glad that I’m fortunate enough to have options when choosing a career.
Before visiting the factory, I never realized how much work goes into something that seems so simple, like the creation of a steering wheel. I never imagined that they were all stitched together by hand. There were some automated machines in use, but it seemed like the majority of production was done by hand. I didn’t take any pictures cause I wasn’t sure if it was allowed, but it really was intriguing to see the processes of the factory.
After the company visit, we hopped back on the bus and drove to the Caves of Hercules. These caves are carved into the side of a cliff by the beach, and are one of the closest points of Africa to Europe. We had a tour guide that spoke Spanish. Surprisingly a lot of people in Morocco speak Spanish, but with a Moroccan accent so sometimes it was a little tricky to understand. So all of my info might not be totally correct.
Our 70 year old guide dressed in traditional Moroccan robes led us down into the “caves,” which are apparently man-made. They used to mine stones for mills out of this area, so there were a bunch of circular markings on the walls.
The coolest part of the cave was the opening to the ocean. Supposedly, you can see Europe on a clear day, but of course it was foggy the day that we were there. Our guide called the opening in the cave the “birthplace and entrance to Africa,” because it kind of looks like the continent flipped backwards, complete with a Madagascar island and everything. It’s missing South Africa, but that’s located in another part of the cave.
The South Africa part is where things started to get fuzzy. Our guide got real metaphorical and tried to explain how different parts of the cave represented different geographical landmarks. Something about the circles on the wall being waves, and on one side they went one way and were the Mediterranean Sea and the other way was the Atlantic. And then something about a giant crying eye where he splashed cave water at us… Yeah I was really lost at that part. Not that I didn’t understand the Spanish words he was speaking, I just had no idea what his similes and metaphors were supposed to represent.
Quick plug: this is Bridget. She’s in my program and has a hilarious, study abroad related blog. If you like to laugh, follow her blog at jajaspaing.wordpress.com.
Eventually we left the cave, had a short photo-op by the ocean. There wasn’t really much of a beach, but there were some cool cliffs and rocks to climb on.
Then, the moment we had all been waiting for: CAMELS.
We were apparently only supposed to get to ride the camels if we were good on the last day, like a reward system for kindergartners, but we rode them on the second day so they must have given up on using it as an incentive. I had already sat on a camel in Egypt, so I was an old pro of course.
When we got to the camels, it was actually pretty sad. There were five or six camels tied together by maybe five foot long ropes, sitting on a patch of concrete. And three baby camels were tied to the ground by one of their feet, on very short leashes. All of the animals looked pretty dirty, and the men in charge of the camels kept manhandling them pretty harshly. I’m not exactly sure what the definition of animal abuse is, but if this didn’t fall into that category it was certainly very close.
I almost didn’t ride the camel until I realized that my program had already paid for all of us to ride them, so me boycotting the ride wouldn’t hurt their business or discourage their actions at all. Plus…. I really wanted to ride the camel. So I rode one.
DON’T JUDGE ME GUYS.
I know, I’m a bad person. I’m ashamed and have very mixed feelings because the conditions of the camels made me very uncomfy, but riding them was really fun. If I would have had to pay for it, or if it hadn’t already been paid for, I would not have supported the conditions of the sad camels.
Anyways, lets forget how unethical of a person I am and talk about food, obviously the most important part of the day.
For lunch we had these little chicken cakes with cinnamon hearts on top. I’m not really sure how else to describe it other than cakes, but don’t think of dessert cakes. We also had a full apple and banana for dessert, plus cookies and MORE mint tea. The obsession with mint tea continues.
Our restaurant was on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean, and had some of the most beautiful views. There were also mountains right by the ocean. I wasn’t expecting there to be mountains in Morocco, or for the land to be so green and lush. To be honest I thought I’d be in the middle of the dessert.
Once lunch was over, we visited a local university and made friends with some Moroccan students. All of them spoke English to some degree, and most spoke Arabic and French fluently. Whenever I meet people that are multilingual, or even completely bilingual, it makes me feel like such a helpless American. It’s really sad how few languages most Americans speak in comparison to many people in the rest of the world.
All of the students we met were super nice, and we talked about everything from soccer to school with them. They even told me that the Henna on my hand actually said my name in Arabic! I was pretty sure it said Sally, or something very far off from Kennedy, but apparently it actually says my name.
Our next stop was the market of Tangier, but our new friends didn’t want to leave us so soon. We only had two open spots on our bus, but we piled on 15 extra people anyways. We split up into little teams when we arrived at the market, each group with a Moroccan student to help with bartering.
Pretty much the only thing you can’t barter for is food. What I learned about bartering is to start low. Start so so low. The prices they’ll give you to start really aren’t all that bad to start from an American’s point of view, but they will drop the price a lot. Also I’ve heard if you speak Spanish with them and don’t seem American, they’ll give you a lower starting price.
We walked into the first store, and the salesman very aggressively tried to sell us every single item in the whole place. Luckily, we had our new Moroccan friends to help us out. I got a knockoff Longchamp bag for 12 euros. It looks real enough to me, so I was satisfied.
We said a bittersweet goodbye to our new friends, and got on the bus back to our hotel in Tétouan. I again, did not rage. I ate dinner, failed to find another American rom-com to watch, and passed out for the night.