Thursday, June 25, 2009

Africa Hot

aka A Tale of Two Cities.

I was really excited for our day in Seville. It's a long drive from here -- 2.5 hours each way -- but I love cities, we love cities. As it turns out, I didn't so much love it. Seville has a few things going for it: it has the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and it also contains what I thought to be the highlight of our day: Christopher Columbus' grave. The cathedral is absolutely stunning as you can see from the outside, pictured at right. We also saw the 100-meter-tall tower of Giralda, which is a minaret built by the Almohads from 1172 to 1195, just 50 years before the Christian conquest.

Two days later we did the last checkoff of our trip: Morocco. We got up at the obscenely early hour of 7:45a, caffeinated and drove two hours south to Tarifa. There we caught the hydrofoil to Tangier, a 45 minute ride with a one hour time change. The boat was much nicer than we'd envisioned, with plush seating and food and drink, and the kids even played hide and seek on board.

The whole customs process was quite involved, however, and when we finally returned to Spain that night we had four new stamps in our passports and had filled out quite a few forms.

All the guidebooks say to watch for pick pockets and to avoid being taken. They make Tangier seem like a pretty scary place. We didn't find that to be the case although we did keep the kids very close to us at all times as the old city was a maze of 600+ narrow cobblestone streets.

In the end we did end up with a guide, one who had lived in Los Angeles for 8 years, and who was both interesting and funny. We really lucked into him as we were seriously fooling ourselves to think we could see everything in just a day trying to navigate those streets. Our guide took us to a spice shop (at Sara's request as she was in search of saffron), and also to a shop which had very nice Western-style bathrooms and rugs displayed on its rooftop (see picture at right). Mostly we saw the sights and admired the architecture. Oh yes -- we also saw a snake charmer, which the four Littles were fascinated by and which the two Bigs stood many meters away from, horrific looks on their faces.

Tangier is on the northernmost tip of Africa and has 2.5 million people in the greater metropolis. It is nine miles south of Spain and the Mediterranean there is the most surreal shade of turquoise.

Two languages are spoken there: Arabic and French. It was a relief to be in a country where I could speak and understand the language again, albeit briefly!

We did get hounded by the hawkers some but our guide kept them mostly at bay and The Pinks just bought a few trinkety things: bracelets, coin purses. I tried to shoot some pictures of Berber and Moroccan women but many believe that photos steal their souls so I gave up after a while, respecting them. Thom did get the one shot, above.

I really enjoyed our brief foray into Morocco, and North Africa, although I don't think I'll be returning anytime soon. And now we've been to a new continent!


Neeracha T. said...

Ooh, makes me wish we'd done this. Although it's not like we had any extra time!

Thom Singer said...

Tangier was a wonderful experience. Thanks for the photo credit plug ... but now you make me sound like I was out stealing souls. :) All the photos you used here were great! (and mine!)