Category Archives: Semester At Sea

Today we had a slower start and made our way up and out of the Medina to see if we could find breakfast. We had found a bakery yesterday that had tasty treats and made our way back there. While everyone was picking out what they wanted, I noticed a stall across the street with a bunch of people in front of it. I went to investigate and I guy was frying dough in the shape of a donut with a string tied around it. You then could dip the donut into sugar and cinnamon. It was more like the fried dough you get at a fair then a donut, but good none the less!

Blue Gate

Blue Gate

We found a restaurant that was open for breakfast and some of the group got eggs. I was still full from my donut so had a mint tea the specialty of Morocco. And damn they load the sugar in – its more like a dessert. The restaurant was on the 3rd story in a covered porch area so we had a great view of the medina and the blue gate, one of the doorways to the medina.

Some of our group had to head back to the ship so they headed to the train station while the rest of us decided to wander around the markets more and try to find the tanneries we’d heard about. Depending on which “street” we went down we could either see the food market, with camel heads for purchase or lots of tourist shopping items. We headed down down down into the Medina and after about 15 minutes we saw a sign to tanneries and a guy who decided to lead us. AKA we had to pay him at the end but it was only a few dollars.

Drying pelts

Drying pelts

We got to see where they were dying yellow (Turmeric) and the leather pelts that had been dyed. It was neat but smelly. I didn’t get too close.

We then got a bit more of a tour of the Medina including a super skinny streets and also a place where a guy was throwing wood chips into a fire to heat the water for the bathhouse next door. He just sat there and did that for hours. Crazy!

A couple more people were coming in to stay the night so we met them and then led them through the medina to our place. From there we decided to split up – some wanted to go into the mountains and a couple of us wanted to stay in the medina and explore some more.

Nathan and I stayed and went out to lunch before heading back into the medina. We had another great view of the Medina from the top floor and had a delicious lunch.

Next we made it our goal to find the bigger tanneries waaaay in the medina. 25-30 minutes of walking down and down we started seeing signs and finally let a guy lead us to his shop with a balcony looking over the pits. Luckily he gave us some mint to hold to our noses to mask the smell. It was an amazing site with lots more pits than before. I guess every few days the color changes, today it looked brown/red. We looked around the shop as I was looking for a purse and maybe some shoes. I didn’t find anything but Nathan got some sweet shoes and we headed back up stopping along the way in more shops.

Dying pits

Dying pits

I found a nice lined, leather purse in one of the shops and after haggling got it for $20 which I was happy with. Also got some cheap slipper shoes for the ship. After shopping and walking it was about time to meet back up with our group. We ended up going to a western bar that also had hookah. It was great to sit on the roof, have a beer and smoke some hookah. The rest of the group met us there, we got some snacks then moved on to a place for dinner.

Another roof top place where we order some tagines, but it took almost an hour for the food to come which was annoying. We destroyed it and then headed back to our place to enjoy some wine and hang out.

We were up early to take the 9:15 train to Fez and after waiting on the platform for 30 minutes and then having to move to another platform the train arrived. We paid a few dollars extra to be in first class with more room and air conditioning. It was a 3.5 hour train ride through the countryside and Rebat and finally ending in Fez. We first started walking to where we through we needed to go, then realized we need a cab. There were 6 of us so we split up in 2 cabs and then met up with the guy who had the place that we were staying. We ended up renting a home in the medina off AirBnB. We didn’t realized the Medina (meaning old city) was a labyrinth of “streets” aka walking paths. It took us about 15 minutes from the main post office where we met the guy, and 15-20 right or left turns to get to the house. Insane! The whole way all of us were thinking how the hell were we going to get back out.

When we finally got to the house it was a 3 story place with an open air terrace on the roof. The view of the whole medina from there was amazing. The stairs were crazy and about 2 feet tall and super steep. The stairwell could just fit a person, not with your backpack on. Really cool place.

Cous cous

Couscous

The guy we met then asked if we wanted Couscous and we said of course! Couscous is only served on Friday the holy day. He left and 20 minutes later and he brought back a whole plate with 6 spoons for us. We ate it on the roof and it was delicious.

We then decided to explore and try to figure our way back to the top. The Medina is lower in elevation so thats a good way of knowing where to walk. Uphill – out. Downhill – in. Jess had the great idea to take photos at each turn with one of us pointing the way back to our place. We got turned around a couple times, but made it back out!

We wandered to the market/shopping street which we later realized is a massive part of the medina. Lots of shop owners asking us to come in a look as they are a bargaining society. Side note – its hot and as a woman I needed to be more covered. I had on pants and a button down long sleeve shirt. Can’t wait to wear a tank top.

We wandered into a hotel to use the internet and also noticed they had a bar. We had a local beer which was a very light and $5 each. Damn!

We found a place for dinner, Snack Omar, which was recommended on Wikivoyage and totally rocked. The Tagines were only like $4 each which its plenty for 1 person and we ordered a few of them so we could share. So delicious and cheap!

It was also interesting to be eating and see the owner/waiter putting a mat down in the middle of the room and do his evening prayers towards Mecca.

We made our way back to the place, not getting to lost and stayed up talking and relaxing.

I didn’t really have a plan for today, other than getting some money from the ATM and wandering around Casablanca. However at breakfast I head about some folks going to a beach just south of town to go surfing, which sounded like fun. It took us a while to be cleared so we had lunch on the ship. Then took the shuttle to the edge of the port and wandered around trying to find a working ATM which took about 20 minutes. Next was a cab big enough to carry the 5 of us who were going.

40 minutes later we were down the coast and to the beach, yay! I rented a boogie board and my friend Megan a surf board. The water was decently warm, but the waves were a bit rocky so we were riding the white wash. The only disappointing thing was the amount of trash that was on the beach and in the surf. They needed a beach cleanup crew. We stayed there for a few hours then made our way back to the ship.

Showered and met up with some other folks who were interested in going out to dinner. We had to walk through the port as the shuttle was taking a 2 hour dinner break. We decided on La Sqala a tourist restaurant but great. It is located in an old fort and we nicely decorated. We sat outside and it was a beautiful night. We got a bunch of dishes to split including a few different tagines and other local specialities a couple featuring lamb. Of course no alcohol though, being in a Muslim society. The food was delicious and it was fun eat with a group and be able to sample a bunch of different dishes. And the assorted dessert plated finished off the night.

Tomorrow we’re taking the train to Fes, exciting!

We didn’t have any classes today, just many seminars on Morocco. Students also spent most of the day laying in the sun. I did some more planning for Morocco (think I’m going to Fes with a group) and hand washed some clothes because there wasn’t enough time to send your laundry in and get it back.

Tomorrow morning we’ll be in Morocco!

The Rock

The Rock

I was up early for a ride to The Rock aka Gibraltar. We had about a 2 hour bus ride there to meet up with our British guides. In case you didn’t know Gibraltar is part of the UK and you have to cross the border between Spain and Gibraltar, showing your passport. Our Spanish bus was not allowed to cross, so it dropped us off and we cross the border on foot.

Our 2 guides were great women, Karen and Julie. We had to split the group up as the roads are soo narrow they have to us smaller busses. Seriously I’m not sure how the driver did it especially with a stick shift. Every car and walls had scrapes because its so narrow and I doubt the clutch lasts more than 3 years the roads are so steep.

So when crossing into Gibraltar you actually walk across their airport runway. That was the only place it could fit, and there is a posted schedule of when the planes arrive and take off so you know when to not be crossing. There are alerts and all traffic stops. We were in the second group for the bus and because of the traffic near the airport it took us 45 minutes to start our tour.

Looking out over Spain

Looking out over Spain

First stop was the WW II tunnels that are built in to the rock – over 30 miles of tunnel! It was thought that Hitler would want to take the island as it has a strategic location in the Mediterranean. Luckily that never happened, and most of the tunnels are still reserved for the military. Only a small bit is open to the public but it was really neat to see. They had a whole city inside the rock where 30,000 people could stay if needed. It is said that there are more tunnels than roads on Gibraltar.

Next we went to the Great Siege Tunnels that were finished in 1779 and were built to defend the rock from the Spanish. There were big rooms that had spaces for cannons to shoot out of the harbor.

It was in these tunnels that we finally met up with the other group! At the entrance of these tunnels were the Barbary macaques (apes) that are on the island. They are pretty cute but apparently can get annoying. They are really good at stealing food which we learned later.

Ape!

Ape!

After these tunnels we were off to St Michaels cave one of the many natural caves in the rock. It was here while we visited a snack shop that someone had their sandwich stolen right out of their hands by one of the apes! I kept my snack bar close and ate it fast, lol. The cave was prepped as an emergency hospital in WW II and now is used as an auditorium with seats built in. It was really neat.

We were then brought back down into the town where we had 20 minutes to browse around before having to walk back across the border and get back on the bus to Cadiz. We were a little late to on ship time but it worked out. Relaxed the rest of the night.