My Long Lost Brother

Trip Start Dec 16, 2009
1
14
25
Trip End Jan 09, 2010


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Where I stayed

Flag of Morocco  ,
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Heavy rains in Chefchaouen a short while ago have caused problems with the town's water supply for the past week, so there were some issues with water availability this morning. There would be good water pressure for a few minutes, but then it would drop off to only a drizzle, and it would take several minutes for it to build up sufficient pressure again. And whatever water was available was pretty cold.

There wasn't sufficient pressure for the shower head to be activated, so I basically squatted the whole time and cupped my hands to collect water out of the faucet in the shower stall, and splashed it over myself to wash off the soap. Needless to say, this was a very uncomfortable shower that took a lot longer than the average one! Mary took a shower shortly after me, and somehow got full water pressure and hot water. Bad timing for me!

Breakfast - we decided to pick up some breakfast and bring it back to eat on the lovely rooftop terrace. We grabbed some breakfast sandwiches and also some juice at a tiny little shop. The sandwich shop shortchanged me probably 2 dirhams, but I didn't care, since the worker was a nice enough kid, so I said nothing.

The guy who later sold me the juice also shortchanged me, this time 3 dirhams - I politely asked for my change, and he told me that I didn't give him 10 dirhams, that I gave him exactly 7. I told him no, I gave him 10 and was owed 3. He told me I was mistaken and that he was positive I had only given him 7 dirhams, even showing me 7 dirhams that he had pulled out of his change box that was full of coins, so that was hardly a reliable method of proving himself. Let's keep in mind that 3 dirhams is a very small sum of money, but it's the principle of it all!

I know that I had given him exactly 10 dirhams because the only change in my pocket this morning was 5 dirhams, and I received another 5 dirhams when I was shortchanged at the sandwich shop. I didn't mind the young guy there shortchanging me, it was a very small sum and I ended up considering it a tip. But the juice guy? When somebody points it out and calls you on it and you still lie about it, that's not cool! You suck!

So breakfast ended up costing us 30 dirhams, and Mary didn't even get a juice out of it, as she didn't want one. The funny thing is that we could have had a full-on Moroccan breakfast at a restaurant, including bread, jam, cheese, juice, coffee, etc, for only 40 dirhams! Of course, breakfast wouldn't have included eggs or meat like we had in our sandwiches, but it's still kind of funny.

Over to a little waterfall located just outside of the medina's walls - along the way, we ran into Hamou. The guy's definitely a good talker, which we witnessed firsthand again today - he's extremely good at what he does, and surely gets top dollar for all his souvenirs. He mentioned that beyond the waterfall, you could do a short hike up to a ruined mosque, which offered great views of Chefchaouen.

Back to town to quickly use the Internet, before grabbing lunch on Plaza Uta el-Hammam at Ibrahim's place, Restaurant Al-Janah. Another day in Morocco, and another chicken tajine for Mary, and another kefta sandwich for me. Since we are soon leaving Morocco, we can't break with our Moroccan traditions, can we?

As our meals came out, Mary told me to "Take whatever you want from me." I had to decline, as I had already agreed to sell her to Hamou for 1,000 camels, so I didn't feel right doing as Mary asked. But of course, I haven't yet received those 1,000 camels, so the deal's not official yet ...

The plaza is a great place to chill out, but we needed to get going to Tetouan, and it was also getting quite hot sitting outside under the midday Moroccan sun. We returned to the hostal for our backpacks and walked over to the where the grand taxis to Tetouan were located.

Grand taxis are used in Morocco for travel between towns that are located relatively close to each other, and function almost like buses without schedules - the taxi leaves when it is full, or if you agree to pay for the remaining seats. A Spanish couple was also waiting there, and we were told that the fare was 30 dirhams each person. We were then told that we could each pay 15 dirhams more to cover the remaining seats and leave immediately.

This reeked of a scam, because there is no way that they would cram four people in the back of the car, and two up front. Well, we later found out that we were wrong, because we saw numerous grand taxis drive by absolutely packed with four in the back, and two in the front! We were definitely glad that we ponied up the extra bit of money for so much more comfort.

It was good preparation for Spain, chatting with the couple in Spanish, and also some good practice for them, as they tried a bit of English.  Both are students, Edouardo studying in Alicante (but from Barcelona) to become a phys ed teacher, and Barbara studying public relations, I think, in Segovia or Valladolid (but from Palma de Mallorca). 

We got to talking about the extent of the economic crisis in Spain; apparently there are currently four million unemployed people in Spain, compared to just one million before the crisis.  They also gave us a bit of an insight into the economic problems that Spain has had for the last couple of decades.  When Spain joined the EU, they had a mid-level economy, not as strong as that of Germany or the UK, but stronger than that of a country like Portugal.  For that reason, they were never given any economic assistance, which in some ways held back their economic growth.  The fact that Spain is such a popular tourist destination has also been a double-edged sword, as increased tourism has driven up prices.  The problem is that locals don't make as much as tourists, but end up paying the same prices.

We arrived in Tetouan, and called the Riad Dalia to send somebody to walk us there - it's a free service they offer, because it's usually very difficult to locate any place in a medina.  The Riad is a former Dutch Consul's house, and was built some 300 years ago.  It's a little more rustic than other Riads we've stayed at; those had been completely renovated, whereas this one has pretty much been left as is.  

Off to sightsee - there isn't much in Tetouan for tourists, so most people skip it.  We're passing through because it's on the way to Ceuta for the ferry to Spain, and we were tiring of Morocco's bigger cities, so we cut Meknes out of our itinerary and came here instead.  We eventually ended up at a cooperative that Tetouan set up for its local artisans, where they can work, and their goods are sold at fixed prices.  Who knew that fixed prices existed in Morocco?

Over to the Ensanche (the extension), the Spanish part of town, and Tetouan's pedestrian zone - Tetouan used to be the capital of the Spanish protectorate, and the Spanish influence can definitely be seen in how the city was laid out.  The pedestrian zone was reminiscent of ones in Spain, as were some of the wide open plazas.  Here, we came across a rather annoying tout, Said, who at first came off as just a nice guy, but he was very pushy about having us go look at a Berber cooperative and the goods they produce.  He followed us around for about 15 minutes, and followed us almost all the way back to the Riad.  In hindsight, we were too polite, and just should've told him to buzz off right away, so it made it tougher to get rid of him later on.  

Today was a market day, so it was extra hectic in the medina - we ended up losing our way back to the Riad because we were too concerned with getting rid of Said, and making sure that he didn't keep following us.  We ended up asking a couple of police officers for directions, and they ended up telling us to follow a local guy who took us right to the Riad's doorstep. 

We relaxed for a bit before heading out to dinner - our room wasn't very comfortable or welcoming, but the Riad's common areas are.  A nice selection of music was playing, both pop and instrumental Spanish guitar.  Being our last night and with dirhams to burn, we decided on having a palace-style dinner, a very touristy Moroccan experience, complete with music and belly dancing.  We were quite positive that we would get lost trying to get there, so we asked the young guy working at the hostel for directions, but he instead offered to walk us there.  

We walked over to the restaurant, but it turned out that the restaurant was closed for a wedding, so we ended up returning to the Riad with the guy.  Chatting with locals makes you realize how good we have it back home, once the conversation came to food prices.  Oranges are super cheap here since it's the season for them, sometimes as cheap as one dirham for a kg of them.  He mentioned that potatoes are one of the main staples here, and said there would probably be rioting in the streets if their price increased significantly.  A little while ago prices of some basic foods went up, and it was all people could talk about.  For us, if the price of potatoes goes up, we either buy something else, or likely just pay the higher price without even thinking twice about it.

From the Riad, we decided to look for something in the new town, and he suggested that we could come back to the Riad for dinner if if we didn't find anything suitable.  We soon ended up back at the Riad, because we had difficulty not only finding a suitable restaurant, but just finding a restaurant that wasn't serving only shawarma and pizza!  It was actually a bit strange, the lack of restaurants in town.  Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising, as it sounds like Moroccans don't eat out much, so an untouristy city like Tetouan wouldn't have many restaurants, as most of them in other cities cater purely to tourists.    

The Riad's dinner menu was pricey, at 100 dirhams for a set three-course meal - but that's still only about $16 CAD, so we can't complain.  There was a group of Italians eating next to us, and they asked where we were from - when we replied "Canada", they all went "Ahhhh!!!" in unison.  It was quite humorous, as they made it sound like it all made sense, but they were likely surprised at the answer, probably thinking it was Japan or China.  They were all from Milan, and two of them had visited Canada before to see their brother in Edmonton, and had actually gone to Calgary and Banff, as well.

The owner of the Riad started chatting with all of us, and explained to the Italians why he spoke perfect Spanish - during the days as a Spanish protectorate, school in the morning was conducted in darija (Moroccan Arabic), and the afternoons in Spanish.  The older generation taught their kids how to speak Spanish, and the kids taught the grandchildren, so it's now commonly spoken here in Tetouan and other northern Moroccan regions. 

The owner had four kids and now has eight grandchildren - it's quite the international family, as each of his children married different nationalities.  He has Moroccan grandchildren, as well as Dutch, German, and Spanish ones.   

His daughter earlier picked us up, and couldn't speak any English so she chatted with us in Spanish.  First seeing her today, it made me think of a conversation Mary and I had early on in the trip - many Moroccans have very beautiful eyes, and the daughter was no exception.  In fact, she was flat out beautiful, as many of the women in Tetouan are - Tetouan is my favourite Moroccan city in that regard, so far :)

The meal was supposed to come with mint tea, but they never brought any out, and we didn't ask since we were so tired and full.  Traveling in Morocco is very draining!  
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