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What happened to Africa? – The Tenacious Travelers

What happened to Africa?

October 23, 2010.Cameron.0 Likes.0 Comments

Location: Fez, Morroco, Africa

October 23, 2010

A feast for the senses was what I was about to experience when I arrive in Marrakesh, so many possibilities of things to do, eat and see. It was also the point where my path finally connected with that of the main tourist one so once again I found myself surrounded by lots of weird white people.

The hostel I stayed in was fantastic, an Arabian style house with four floors around a central open courtyard. The roof was open and contained places to sit and chill, plus a tent full of cushions to relax one. I ran into a few guys here from various places and since it was dinner time we headed out to find a bite to eat. The street food was fantastic, I had pita bread stuffed with sausages, salads and a spicy sauce and I was more than full.

We then headed to the famous square Djemaa el-Fna which is a fantastic sceptical, there are the food stalls with their eager salesmen trying to get you to taste their wares, performers playing music, or telling fortunes, while jugglers and magicians drew large crowds. There were some funny games being played, like people fishing for bottles of pop with rings hanging on strings from fishing rods. We spent a few hours just watching the squares action play out and wandering around the market streets before heading back to the hostels. I was very glad to be sleeping in a bed again and I was out like a light in no time.

The next day I went to the Jardin Majorelle with the guys, it’s famous for the plants and art deco and while it was nice it wasn’t particularly spectacular, maybe I missed the point. After that we tasted some more delicious meats combined with spices and sauce to make a great meal that we shared and spooned up with flat bread. After we retired back to the hostel and sat in the tent on the roof. The hostel provided you with all you can smoke shisha and mint tea. The hours slipped by as we puffed the apple flavoured smoke through the water pipe, sipped on the sweet mint tea and talked about everything and nothing.

By this time, it was only Charles and I left on the roof, half napping half awake. We decided we were going to visit a hammam which a public bath house. This was going to prove to be a weird experience. The purpose of these baths is to provide local people with a place to shower with warm water as it’s not common in most people’s houses. You can either wash yourself or be scrubbed by one of the workers.

We were taken by one of the guys who worked at the hostel, we choose to go the full experience and be “scrubbed” by one of the workers so he set it up. We headed to a public hammam, not a tourist one just an average citizen one. They are divided into a men and woman side and they each have an area to get dressed and undressed, and then three chambers of varying heat and humidity where you go and sit and wash yourself.

So, we entered the men’s side and stripped down to our boxers (you don’t go in naked) and the guys who worked there took us into the hottest chamber where they told us to sit down and then poured warm water over us and told us to wait for 10 mins. Then started a very weird experience, the men came back in and began to rub us with black soap, and they scrubbed hard. Again, we waited and then came the weirdest part, they began to scrub the soap off and entire layer of skin came with it. We were washed down, and it was over, we were left feeling squeaky clean, very soft and a lot lighter in colour then when we went in. It was overall a great experience.

After this we spent time wandering around the souqs, the narrow market streets where you can buy anything and get incredibly lost. Walking past the piles of spices of various colours, gorgeous fabrics and rugs, all the while being greeted by eager shopkeepers trying to convince you they have just what you’re looking for and of course it’s always for a “good price”. The evening was spent around the square having a few drinks with people from the hostel and then relaxing up on the roof smoking a little and doing nothing but relaxing.

I really liked Marrakesh and really would like to go back and stay longer. The next morning though I had to leave and board a train heading to Fez. The main train stations of Morocco I was to discover are very new and impressive, all composing of modern design infused with classical Moroccan styles. The trains were very nice and much better than I was expecting. The trip took five hours and past through Casablanca and Rabat.

Fez was a lot like Marrakesh with a large walled Medina and fantastic souqs and old Arabic styled architecture. I spent the day much like the ones in Marrakesh wandering through narrow streets, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of this very different world. I sat in a cafe and just watched the world pass by, donkeys loaded with good were led through the streets passed me, carpets slung over shoulders bobbed along, aromas of spices wafted along.

This was how my time in Fez passed. Morocco is a country to explore a lot more of as I only had such a brief look. The next afternoon I got on a train heading for Tangier where my time in Africa was to end. I got off in the port of Tangier and found I needed to be in the Tangier-Med port, but there was a free transfer bus, so I took it and by 22:30 was finally where I needed to be.

I had booked a ticket on a ferry going from Tangier to Barcelona, which left at midnight on Saturday and reach Barcelona around 8:00 Monday morning. I had booked a chair for the voyage but in a rare occurrence I did crack and upgrade myself to a bed in a four-person room, it was only an extra 20 Euros, and I’m glad I did.

I boarded the boat and it set sail and I looked back and said goodbye to Africa which had been my home for a year, but I was happy because I knew I would be seeing it again in just a few weeks.

The voyage was an easy one, a comfortable bed, food, lounging around on the decks or chatting to other passengers made the whole thing a piece of cake. It was hard to imagine how I had been traveling just a week prior and sub-Saharan Africa felt a world away compared to this environment and the Moroccan culture. When Barcelona came into view Monday morning and the cold of Europe enveloped me I felt a mixture of feelings and as I stepped off the boat and put my foot in Europe I had feeling of “what now”.

Categories: Africa, Morroco

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