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Last Day In Morocco

We are spending our last full day in Morocco, and it is making us sad. This has been a great place to spend almost two weeks drifting through.

Our stay in Essaouira was really great. We arrived there with our nerves frayed, and within a few days, we again felt happy to be in Morocco. We were both feeling a little under the weather after sleeping out in the desert, and a sleepless night in the hostel due to techno beats pounding through our pillows at 3 am made me a grumpy boy. Possibly due to my late-night arrival at the party below ("Do you have a problem, sir?" "YES, I have a problem!"), as well as Jess seeming very tired and ill in their lobby the next morning, the hostel folks felt bad and moved us into a private room, and our stay in Essaouira dramatically improved. It is a very laid back town, probably because it is on the coast. We spent our days there strolling along the beach, drinking orange Fanta at the seaside cafe, and eating the best harira soup in Morocco each evening. The fish market was a marvel; most fish markets we have seen around the world seem to be so tame and clean, the fish laid out on displays of ice. This market was chaos; the fishermen brought their catch out along the street to lay it on sheets of newspaper. Guts and head flew as they cleaned and prepared the fish, and the screaming seagulls above competed with men shouting in Arabic about the price or the species of fish, which among the many species included eel, morays, sharks, and crabs and fishes of all kinds and shapes. Above all, the stench was enough to singe the nose hairs; it was a place that stimulated all senses, a true characteristic of the African experience.

The market street was also great, filled with people at all hours of the day, from the morning until even past 11 at night, when we headed back to the hostel. The only break in the crowds of people was during the Breaking of the Fast, being that it is Ramadan; the people, after fasting from early in the morning, would rush about in a spurt of energy to buy food, then desert the streets entirely as the call to prayer began to sound over the city, leaving the streets empty save the Tokens (tourists). At all other times, the markets were filled with all sorts of wares, from toilet paper to pencils, from vegetables to whole sides of beef hanging on meat hooks (usually beside a pastry shop, disturbingly enough). You had to watch your step, to avoid not only the bags of grain and buckets of eggs but also for the goat heads and the cow feet stacked outside meatshops. The combined scent of fresh meat, pastries, and mint leaves created an aroma unique enough that we will always remember. As bustling as the market and all of the medina were, there was a refreshing lack of touts and beggars that characterize larger cities like Marrakesh. Essaouira was a much needed escape, a breath of (mostly) fresh air. The icing of this cake was the beach, because nothing calms the spirit like the sea.

We had yet another epic travel day waiting for us when we left from Essaouira; I guess we should get used to them. We caught the mid-afternoon bus to Marrakesh, a three hour trip. After waiting in the train station in Marrakesh for a couple of hours, we caught the night-train to Tangier, which took 10.5 hours; fortunately, we managed to sleep a long portion of the trip, thanks to the marvels of Benadryl. Our only distractions on the train ride were the fellows who smooth-talked Jess for a long time, and then the ladies who came in our compartment at 4 am and made themselves at home, essentially taking over the seats that we had been sleeping on; they gladly left after 45 minutes or so. Once in Tangier, we had to wait about four hours for a bus to our current location in Chefchaouen; being Ramadan, the bus station was insanely packed with Moroccan travelers, like any station in the US on Christmas Eve (tomorrow is Eid, the end of Ramadan). We couldn't find any restaurants open, so our only nutrition from 6 pm the night before until 6 that night was a bag of chips, cookies, and a couple of Cokes I found in the only shop open in walking distance. Finally, we arrived in Chefchaouen after another 3.5 hours, only to find our hostel was straight up the hill a couple of kilometers. A hostel bed never looked so comfortable or such a relief, and food hasn't been so good in a long time.

Chefchaouen is yet another very relaxed town, like Essaouira in the mountains. It sits on the slopes of a high peak, which today was shrouded in clouds. It is a very compact city, of about 56,000 inhabitants, and its medina is a tight complex of passages that have mostly been painted an incredible blue-white. It makes for fun exploration, if only because it is small enough that one can't get lost for too long. Today we are relaxing and wandering around, planning for our trip to Granada in Spain tomorrow (another long day for traveling). Tonight we will have our final Moroccan tajine meal, with mint tea, a comfort to our palate, and a memory to add to the many of this trip. Au revoir, Morocco, it has been an adventure.

Until next time, be safe.


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