First taste of Morocco – Tangiers

4 May 2014, Sunday

Surreal. I can’t describe how ecstatic and thankful I was to be in Morocco. It was a decade long dream of mine to travel to Morocco.  Watched tons of documentaries and movies filmed in Morocco, I really couldn’t believe it finally happened!

A rather surprised Said welcomed us.  Apparently, he thought his guests would be a husband and wife, not 2 ladies! I must say we clicked well after a few minutes of conversation. From a brief introduction of Singapore to his hometown to religion and culture.tangier3Tangiers was not in his proposed itinerary but we requested for a night’s stay, which he obligingly agreed to.  Driving through the streets in the city brought me to the scene of Jason Bourne’s (Matt Damon) frantic chase in Bourne Ultimatum. Haha!

I was eager to reach the riad.  Wondering if it would it be as pretty as it looks on the website?  Front door was deceiving (which I realised in this trip).  La Tangerina is such a gem!  I fell in love with its homely interior and of course, the stunning view from the terrace where we were served our first authentic Moroccan mint tea and their traditional sweets.

tangier1We were left to explore Tangiers on our own. We walked out only with Euros, forgetting that it was a Sunday.  A boy brought us down to the souk, which worried Nihla quite a bit. Along the way, I saw the makam of Ibn Battuta, the known Muslim traveller.  I gave the local boy a Euro and he scurried away, probably searching for new customers.

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I love the atmosphere at the souk. The fresh fruits and vegetables, the freshly baked pastries, men watching soccer at the coffee shop.

We entered a pastry shop and asked if we could use our Euros. Sadly, we couldn’t.  I was famished!  The pastries and sweets were calling out my name! I did a quick scan deciding which pastry to get later when I am back.

We dreaded climbing up the steep slope again. Lucky thing the staff had some Moroccan dirhams for us. Went down the slope (wished I could roll down) and rushed to the pastry shop. I think I had a self-satisfied smirk on my face (having dirhams now!) which made the bakery’s employee smiled at me. Wished I snapped a photo of that shop.

This was taken near our riad. I think he was asking mint leaves from the house owner. A cute looking door isn’t it?

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Nihla and I spent the night chatting away over tuna (leftover from our halal ration in Spain) and delicious pastry. It was only after 10 days that I found out she was neighbours with my late uncle’s family. What a small world!

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The next day, we had breakfast at the terrace. To be greeted by the view of the blue sea was therapeutic. We were served msemmen (Moroccan crepes) which got me excited as they tasted like our local prata. We happily ate the slightly sugared msemmen with the jam and butter.  Brings me back to my childhood days.

I wanted to visit the souk again but I guess Nihla was tired, thinking of the slope we have to climb!  😦 So we just took photos around the area.  Said fetched us at noon for our next destination, Chefchahouen.

My greatest regret – no photos taken at the souk with its patisseries and side stalls. I was too tired after the journey from Spain. I don’t mind coming back here again, with more photos!tangier7

Europe to Africa

4 May 2014, Sunday

Boarding the Tarifa-bound train was a breeze. No strategic whispering on how to get to the luggage compartment first before other travellers…HAHA. I even had 2 seats.  At every stop, the train staff would go around checking tickets of every new passenger. Never seen him without a smile. It was a therapeutic ride through the quieter villages. I enjoyed the caffeine boost I had in the F&B carriage (to cool down the nerves).  It was a precious me-time for each of us, I believe, as we would have another travel partner in Morocco. Our guide and driver, Said or whoever the agency sends to us.

Nearing Algeciras station, other passengers were all by the door eager to alight. 11am sharp. RENFE trains are always on time. I was prepared with the information we needed to get from the train station to Port of Algeciras which is about 20 minutes away. The streets and the landmarks we will pass by.  We must reach the port as fast as possible, as we had to collect our ferry tickets and board the complimentary bus at noon to Port of Tarifa.

Knoalgeciraswing how hopeless (at times) we are at directions, we decided approach a woman in hijab. She doesn’t speak much English.  Thankfully, she was taking the same route right up to Tangiers back to her hometown. Alhamdulillah! One thing for sure, she walked amazingly fast with her luggage. I had to catch up with her and keep a lookout for Nihla who was behind me.

I am glad we booked the ferry tickets online from FRS.  The ticket costs EU35 per adult.  We collected the tickets with our new friend (sadly, I forgot her name and no photos taken).

We waited for the bus and we had cualgeciras3rious Moroccans asking if we were Emiratis (as our luggages had Emirates tag!).  Our new friend told us not to board until we ensure the luggage compartment is finally locked and closed by the driver.

The journey was longer than expected. It took more than half an hour and I was worried if we could board the ferry on time at 1pm.  But again, it wasn’t our fault. They won’t leave their passengers, right? All kinds of thoughts in my head.

Alighted from the bus, rushed to the port. It was a long queue, filled with tourists from all over the world! It was a relief after the immigration. Rushed in the huge ferry to dump our luggage where you could see many cars parked, all ready for their adventure across the Straits of Gibraltar.

Thought we could finally sit ferryin peace in the ferry. But NOOOO. We had to queue up in the ferry to get a card that tourists must fill up. Sat down for probably another 10 mins, and guess what our half an hr ferry ride was over. No time to chill or even take photos. Our friend signalled to us to collect our luggage.

Naively, I imagined the ferry terminal to be like Singapore’s ferry terminal i.e. straight to the immigration hall.  I was in for a shock when I saw the steep slope up to the terminal. I wish I had an extra hand to snap a picture. Struggled but successfully managed to drag my luggage. Our friend did not leave us even for a minute. She was always on the lookout for us. Once we exited, we hugged and asked if we knew anyone here. She was worried we were alone. At about the same time she asked, I saw a man holding up my name. I assured her that our agent will be driving us to our hotel.

Alhamdulillah.

*credits to Nihla for all the photos in this post