Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Agadir, Morocco

Agadir was the second stop on the cruise. This is the location of the runaway panhandlers and the frightening marketplace where you could get just about anything (and see exactly where it came from).

Here are the obligatory "riding camel" photos. Alexa's was at tourist trap on the top of a small mountain or "scenic view location." She wanted to ride the camels as soon as she saw them. However, she changed her mind after being placed upon one by a local and when the camel stood up! My picture was taken at the place where we were designated to ride camels. Needless to say, Alexa did join me this time. There was also a show that included a belly dancer, acrobats and men riding horses and shooting rifles repeatedly:

This is a sample of the marketplace. Multiply this picture by 500 and that will give you an idea of the size and variety. We didn't dare buy anything because the place was very crowded and hard to navigate. The goal was to stay close to the guide and cover Alexa's eyes when appropriate!

This is Alexa in front of the pharmacy/spice store. We got a "demonstration" that quickly turned into a sales pitch. Tracy was anticipating this and made it worth the store's wait - they couldn't give us enough little extras in thanks!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Morocco Pictures - Rabat and Casablanca

One thing I didn't mention in the last post was the large number of cats roaming Morocco. This was a nice thing for Alexa, but a not-so-nice thing for Tracy who was worried about what Alexa could catch if she petted them. I visited Israel several years ago and saw the same thing. I'm not sure what it means, but I'm bringing it up because you will see a cat in this picture of the Royal Palace in Rabat.

Next, we visited the ancient ruins at Chellah -built by the Romans. The interesting thing, other than the ruins themselves, were the large birds who had nests on the newer towers. Also, there were about 30 cats gathered near a man-made pool that featured a couple of violet fish, which might have been eels. Unfortunately, we could never get an explanation so I'll just call them "eels" since that is more interesting...

In contrast, we also visited the largest mosque in Morocco located in Casablanca and completed very recently - Hassan II Mosque:
This picture gives you some idea of the size of the mosque as well as its detail and beauty:

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I really enjoy going to new countries - and the more exotic sounding the better! However, as exotic as it sounds to go to Africa, Morocco is about as tame as you can get on that continent. It is a very peaceful and accepting country that had plenty of Western touches. Still, there were enough third world reminders to be seen.

The big drawback in shore excursions with large groups from a cruise ship is that you find yourself in tourist traps. When you combine that with a country like Morocco, you come in contact with very pushy peddlers of nonsense. Add in a 4-year-old, and Daddy got a wee bit PO'd! That came to a head in Agadir (our second stop).

The next to the last straw occurred at the top of a "scenic view" mountain at the beginning of the tour. Alexa knew we were riding camels that day and became very excited when she saw them so soon. The guide warned us that this was not the stop with our included camel rides, but we could ride if we wanted. He also warned people would be trying to sell us things - that was an understatement... While Mommy and Daddy were engaged with some peddler, we turned around to see Alexa wasn't there! We quickly spotted her - BEING PLACED ON A PRONE CAMEL BY SOME LOCAL! I almost lost it, but my tune changed when I saw Alexa's excitement and knew the ride was inevitable. For those of you that haven't ridden a camel, the part where the camel stands up is pretty disconcerting. You're rocked forward pretty violently when the hind legs come up, and then jerked back when the front comes up. Alexa did not enjoy that experience and was close to crying most of the ride. After she got down, the real fun began. (side note: Norwegian is an American cruise line that primarily uses US dollars as the currency. Unfortunately, we were in a part of the world that used Euros and rarely took dollars. As you will shortly see, Morocco was more flexible on this issue) For those of you who know Tracy, you would never call her passive or indecisive - while I might resemble those labels. For some reason, we switched roles in Morocco. After the impromptu camel ride, it was time to pay. I think the guide had suggested something like five Euros, but we didn't have many and the money wasn't that organized. So Tracy is struggling to get the money out and first the peddler doesn't want US dollars when he sees them come out. Then a couple people join him asking for more money. Tracy gives him some Euros and before I know it he is pointing to a $20 bill and saying that will do. I'm trying to stop this transaction but the guy is too quick and Tracy is too frustrated to want to deal with it. I believe that scary ride cost us something like $35.

The previous story plus being continually barraged by people pushing things on us, led to what I'll call: The Henna Incident. Our group is walking through some nice, cute part of town and a lady approaches Tracy asking if she wants a henna tattoo. Tracy says "no" three times but, undaunted, the lady grabs Tracy's hand and just starts putting henna on her arm. I'm standing behind watching this as steam must be starting to come from my head. Money is asked for and Tracy repeats that she didn't want it. The lady goes another direction by quickly putting some on Alexa. The trick is then to say Alexa's is free but to please pay for the adult's. After another 15 seconds of haggling, I finally step into the picture and simply say "NO!" pretty loudly, which can be effective with my voice. At that point, the lady gave me a quick glance and then scooped her henna back into the container (off both of my ladies) and makes her exit. The lesson was clear: Moroccan peddlers go after women very aggressively - or possibly loud, crazy Americans scare Moroccan women!

I don't mean to paint Morocco in a bad light because we did enjoy the visits and found the people nice - at least the ones who knew they were getting our money beforehand;) There were clearly more affluent areas where Europeans had homes, but the general population seemed to have a pretty good standard of living. I do though have to tell a quick story about the marketplace we visited. If you are squeamish, you might want to skip the next paragraph...

It wasn't a good sign that outside the marketplace, someone was holding up a dead chicken - I assume to sell. Before leaving the bus, the guide warns us the marketplace is crowded and we should try to stay close. Remember we have a 4-year-old and Tracy doesn't eat much meat or anything that still has any bones in it. So, we go inside and the guide immediately walks us through...the meat section. Now, I'm a pretty carnivorous person but I was totally grossed out. There were more feathered chickens strung-up. Then came various displays of internal organs. But the piece de resistance was, I kid you not, a complete cows head displayed prominently with blood dripping off of it! Luckily, Alexa had so many other things to look at and many taller adults blocking her view, because I didn't even want to try to explain that to her. At that point, pretty much all of the tour started walking faster and really enjoying whatever there was to see in the other direction!

We're back to the G-rated part of the post. For those who skipped the previous paragraph, you can uncover your eyes and stop saying "la-la-la-la I'm not listening to you."

It's getting late so I'm going to stop now, but I'll add another post tomorrow with a bunch of pictures and hopefully a few positive notes.