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Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2006
Subject: heiko in Tangier 27June Hi, this has to be a group email because the keyboard here is weird (French layout); sorry about the spelling and its late: My first reaction to Tangier, Morocco was THIS PLACE IS SOOOOOOO COOOL its so ME so alive; so OTHER
I walked out of the ferry to the hotel: nice + cheap; clean w bath and "Heiko price". The little streets winding literally like a maze or an intestine in its convolutions - hundreds of tiny shops - nuts; the food; the atmosphere;::: its like yea this is what Ive subconsciously always missed: its similar to (if one can ,miss something one has never seen - I know one can):
I could rave on but this this will have to do for the time being: keyboard too hard to use::: getting hungry ! love to you all - write to me; its great to get mail heiko
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006
Subject: heiko - observations in Tangier 2 some more thoughts on Morocco, writing them like this helps me get perspective and creates a diary for myself as well as for others - so here it goes. In the Medina (old quarter): men in traditional garb stopped and welcomed me to their country, they were not touts or hustlers, but would move one without asking for anything else... it sounds strange, that an ordinary citizen would do this,I can't even imagine it in Australia, (people would burst out laughing) but it just shows the different atmosphere here , that this happens and that I even feel awed by it.
I was warned about many touts and beggars... not as bad as I feared, better here than in Thailand and Asia.
The Medina (the old city) is like the old quarter of Hanoi, only MUCH bigger and even wilder and convoluted. Hanoi has a grid system, these places are like the convolutions of a brain, or an intestine, zig zagging all over the place. the only way I navigate is with a compass surreptitiously concealed in one hand so I know the general direction 'out' or 'in' and it gets me there. After a while one learns the turns and it becomes familiar with them, ....sort of...
This is a tea drinking country, no alcohol (well not much at all) and it adds something special - for me at least :-P . Pardon all the drinkers, but for me normally its like being a non smoker in a smoker's world and suddenly discovering a country of non smokers.... where the unthinkable (not drinking alcohol) is normal, and the exception is to drink. A nice reversal though I'm not sure I want to buy the whole religious overlay that makes it so, he he he :-)
When you bargain they respect you here, for driving a hard bargain (with a smile) and they can come to see your point of view as much their own...eg: the guy at my hotel offered to change money for me, I declined and went to the bank, got $2.3 USD more, when I got back he smiled at me and said, so you got 661 Dirham for your $100 USD right ? "Yes, that's right, but its not a big difference " actually I got 662.4 but didn't tell him. "that's right its not much but its a diff" he said. Then with real sense of respect he said "welcome to our country" with real feeling. I fet no resentment more a sense of respect because I had played the game well (in this case, certainly I don't that well normally, not by a long shot :-) Earlier on he'd asked me to move rooms. I thought I'd try to use it as an excuse to reduce the daily rent and got 10%off. all in good fun, all in the sense of 'lets give it a go, if yes, that's nice, if not that's ok too, no big deal... so now I pay luxury level for a Heiko: 180 Dirham, divide by 6.622 to get USDollars for a nice ensuite room, with fresh paint and view of atrium courtyard. I'll change to my standard rate of 50 Dirham soon don't want to spoil myself now do I ? and I need to conserve funds.
... a very human society, people sit and talk everywhere, socialize, and have contact, its like life is also about living here. Eg. the cable-layer guys smile and talk to their friends as they pull huge phone cables in man holes in the footpath. Even work is social, its not lazy but its social, its not about constant efficiency and so on... really makes my own culture look different in comparision, what I thought was normal is just one of many many ways.... hm.... and I notice too, people are more open in their feelings: they say what they feel, raise their voice and are emotional but its not taken as a signal for a fight, its just he's expressing himself, and there is no poisonnous venom it like it would be if people talked that way in Australia. We Aussies, are much more into keeping things "nice" on the surface, and its hard to express negative feelings... well and harder for others to handle them well.
Here the people (well the men) are more touchy, hands on shoulders and touch the arms, but its all kosher and nothing sexual. In the restaurant yesterday a guy in jeans came with an issue to see the boss, the boss was friendly but firm, don't know what they talked about, but it was all, nicely handled business. the niceties don't mean they are not sharp as razor blades and the boss still made his point 'nicely'.
Over breakfast I had a variety of different pastries, the owner 'forgot' to give me the 3 Dirham change, I just smiled and waved my open hand, and he 'remembered' = all part of the game ... Sure, they'll take advantage of you, teach you to be careful... that's part of the game, everyone to look out for a chance and everyone to take care of themselves... but its different somehow not vicious, hard to say in what way its just different.
I love to see in a society: kids running about playing, screaming, happy, part of the lives of adults and the daily world of market and shops and the city... call me old fashioned but that's what I consider 'normal', healthy
-ok that's it for now.... I'll head off for Fez either tomorrow or the day after and then to Magreb and Marakesh etc.... no clear plans really take it as it comes... the way I love to travel... and don't worry this was the last of the reflections for a while... cheers Heiko
Date: Sun, 2 Jul 2006
Subject: Morocco travels contd... a few of you asked me: why to do I write so much when travelling? shouldn't I be out and exploring ? Well yes, if I'm not writing stuff like this, I am out full time, full on. Writing in an internet cafe is my chill out time, reconnect with friends and the world I left behind. I tend to need a little bit of it every day or so,
After 5 days now, I've noticed myself relaxing and getting more confident about this strange culture and country I don't walk ridiculous distances in the heat anymore , I feel ok hopping in and out of taxis, and name places I want to go to, (before that I would walk everywhere, even if it took and hour longer). The first few days I lived off stuff I bought on the run, now I can spot a reasonably priced restaurant of hole in the wall variety and eat for 20Dircham. +++
people ask me, "have I met other travellers ?" no, not really, don't see many of them around. but haven't really tried to be honest, I tend to just do my thing, hang out with the locals, sit in cafe's writing, walking taking pics, and chatting with locals, (which always means distinguishing between the disinterested local and the 'I want to sell you something' local).
In Fez I dropped myself into this labyrinthine old city and using a compass navigated myself out of it 2 hours later...phew... it was full on. kids running beside me, teenagers wanting to be guides, smooth talking con men, etc.. the works.
One guy was evtremely sticky (a bit deranged I think) and had a yukkie energy, he kept crowding me and talking in a loud voice some arabic words - either way the sense of them was ugly. in the end I stopped looked at him, pointed my finger at him and said something about it being 'enough!!!!!!!!!!' in a clear voice. He stepped back and didn't follow me after that. After that I walked away and felt a lot freer. By the time I got back to the new city, the " Ville Nuveau " I'd been walking for so long (4 hours) I was starting to get dizzy. Gulped an orange juice, a tonic water, and had a good feed of shish kebabs,... now I'm ready to rage again... :-)
The people esp the women in Fez are different from Tangier, much more open, western, both in dress and body language - no they don't behave provocatively, its just that they don't walk round like ships at sea plooughing along in state, all wrapped up and with a blank bored expression on their faces. Fez as a city comes across as younger, more boistrous and vibrant: more like a young upward coming man. To him looks matter, he thinks he's the ants pants and he will make it BIG...and well he might. Its more 'cultured' the Medina of Fez is MUCH bigger, takes hours to walk across. A compass or a human guide is essential.
In comparison to Fez: Tangier is the old Madame of the Establishment, who has seen it all done it all and knows it all, to her nothing is really new, she's been ambitious, got there and fallen a number of times. But she'll pour you a cuppa and get YOU to pour your heart out patting you on the hand, and you walk away feeling things aren't really THAT bad after all.The Medina at Tangier is more convoluted, intricate delicate and not as rough or klutzy, smaller too of course. Guess which city I like more he he he
Ok, I've travelled to Meknes now, 3rd of the Imperial ancient cities: below is an excerpt to a friend of mine who warned me about the women:well, yes, the women here can be DANGER, not because they are especially tempting, but because they are bait for all sorts of things. My hotel seems to have a surreptitious Bordello aspect to it, all behind the scenes, - its the frist time I've seen it in Morocco, or rather smelled it, its only a sideline I suspect. A good "looking chick" (yes genuinely good looking) just now tried to cotton onto me, pretending to be a french tourist looking for a travel partner... yea. sure... I pretended to be visiting my expat friend in the Capital Rabbat, and was going to elaborate how my 'friend' works for various police type of people, but I think she worked out that I was not going to travel with her. It didn't help her cause that she had some local dude in tow and that they talked amongst themselves, and that this dude later talked to a rather shady character on the street. OK enough on women.
Yes I'm cruising the souks and old bazaars, its like something out of a story book, so amazing, take it all back 200+ years or so. Just had lunch with a lot of Moroccans, all in a tiny room the size of 2 toilet cubicles (smaller than a Tokyo Restraurant even), that includes the 'kitchen' and we crowded in there, about 5 people all in all., when they left , some very modern girls came in, 3 of them, all amused to see a 'foreigner' in the heart of the old quarter, in the tiniest of tiny nooks, right at the back.
Travel as a single foreign woman would be hard here. Though: Strangely enough the Morrocco lonely planet book is written completely by 4 women ! Shit, what is it in this city ? as I write this email, a helpful girl in the internet cafe changes computers to sit closer to me and gives me a wink when I look at her...arrrrghhhh.... get these girls back under the veil !!! (only joking). this never happened to me before. On top of it this one looks like a normal 'nice' girl, nothing of the professional about her at all. Just someone interested in practicing English I suspect. Perhaps this is the place where they finally discover my truly devastatingly handsome good looks, ??? yea sure... dream on buddy...
The guide book says this city (Meknes) is more laid back than Fez, yea sure, this morning I arrived to a demonstration in the streets right under my hotel room window, (took snapshots from 1 st floor window), cops all around, shouting and placards etc.... it calmed down after an hour, not that big only about 30 to 50 guys and very orderly.
The internet has penetrated the old quarters here too, there are tiny convoluted staircases that one has to climb at the end of which is a big domed room with a whole lot of people busily typing away, all locals. I haven't met many other foreigners for some reason, as I said earlier.
After today: Volubilis, the old Roman ruins, then Marakesh, Rabbat and back to the old jaded "Lady Tangier". It was after all a picture of the port of Tangier looking in over the Medina (like the one below) that gave me the final push to come to Morocco.
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© 2006 heiko