Back in April, I had the rich luxury of going to a third world country! Yipppeee! Living less than 20 miles from North Africa had its perks, and one them was the ease of hopping a boat on over there. I was having a visitor during April and we planned some lush getaways, with Morocco being the first of them. Many people do day trips from Southern Spain to Morocco but we decided to take advantage of both the opportunity and proximity and planned a two-night stay in a random pueblo along the east coast of the region. We hopped a quick bus from Cádiz to Tarifa and walked to the port where we had reserved tickets on the ferry that operated between the two continents across the Gibraltar Strait waterway. Once docked in Tangier, Morocco, we were hawked by the locals offering taxi rides, hotels, souvenirs and a guide to food. If any of you have entered a port in Mexico off a cruise ship or anywhere near a tourist entrance, think of a tirade 100x more annoying, and you have an African tourist area. I had done my research beforehand and politely ignored all requests until we walked a bit away from the ship. A young Moroccan boy approached us and asked if we needed help. I read that the kids just try and earn a few bucks and have “contracts” (verbal agreements, basically) with restaurants and shops to lure tourists to their businesses. We were starving and I trusted a child’s guide and followed my instincts, while remaining very firm and aware of the surroundings. He brought us into the medina, which is name for the distinct central district in a North African cities. The word medina simply means “town” or “city” in modern-day Arabic. We knew we had to get there anyhow because we wanted to see a bit of the Tangier medina before we headed to our smaller, more remote town where our hotel was located. Our little friend took us to an upstairs restaurant in the middle of the medina after climbing up about five immense hills and winding alleys. One look at the menu ($14/person) and our fellow customers (white, white and more white tourists) I declared it a trap and knew that we were supposed to find a delicious traditional Moroccan meal for under $6/person. As we exited, our buddy found us and I told him I understood he had a deal with the owner and offered him one last chance and informed him of my conditions… Lower menu price without the scams. He obliged and took us a few minutes away to a quaint little place that was closer to the price I discussed with him and we were too famished and lost to really care. The meal was excellent, complete with way too much tempting bread, Moroccan mint tea and ample flavors. It’s interesting because we discussed and bargained the price of the meal as we were handed the menus, which felt very rewarding in a weird touristy way! Gotta love it when you’re not scammed in a poor, war-driven country. Winning!
The journey continued to Asilah, Morocco, where we had a small hotel room reserved. Trip Advisor’s page for this tiny town is entitled, “Four Things to do in Asilah.” We found that to be a bit of an exaggeration… there were two, tops. But we knew this going in, because I purposely picked a small coastal town where there would be no traffic and a peaceful view. Those things were delivered and more (including a lovely puppy-sized cockroach in our hotel bathroom). We had a restful night after we arrived, relaxed on the rooftop patio and awoke for an unknown, unplanned adventure the next day. Breakfast was included in our motel/hotel, which was set in the managers apartment on the floor above. It was decorated in typical Moroccan fashion and the meal was served by a local Moroccan lady who was so sweet. The manager ended up being a Cali girl herself, who moved to Spain and eventually ended up in North Africa. We enjoyed a nice walk along the “boardwalk,” a rocky beach path, the market (medina) and of course a stop for more Moroccan tea was a must after a hearty lunch for two, running us dry at $8 total. The language barrier was a bit of a struggle, as no one here spoke Spanish or English; only French and their local dialects. Silly me, I kept forgetting that I was in a male-dominated country. This was understood numerous times when I began to barter or order at a restaurant, and as they couldn’t understand me, they immediately turned to my male travel partner and directed the communication to him. Regardless, we made it through. The highlight of our African rendezvous, as is almost all of my adventures, was food-related. This specific delectable memory took place at an exemplary 5-star French restaurant. La Perle d’Asilah was astonishing inside and only kept improving as the night went on. There was one other Spanish family inside before we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. Duck, sunfish, almond torte, wine and unbeatable company. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end such a culturally, mind-boggling experience.