Friday, February 17, 2017

Morocco, between past and present - The Wandering Writer

Whoever had ever seen the movie Casablanca, surely remembers the nostalgic images of the city remaining almost enchanted, not only by Humphrey Bogart and the unforgettable Ingrid Bergman, but also by the exotic colonial times of Morocco, which seemed to bond the cultural heritage of Morocco with the one of Europe.
But Morocco is not just Casablanca, and even if those times are gone, the cultural heritage is not forgotten, and in a country as diverse and fast growing like Morocco, you can find it everywhere.
Tangier has been our destination, this time, but I am seriously thinking to visit the Country in a more thorough way, visiting not just a small piece of it, but all the historical places that make the nowadays Morocco.
As we arrived in a very warm summer afternoon, we had the first touch with what is to be feared the most, the taxi drivers/tourist agents. Those are hunting unsuspecting tourists to get a higher fare on whatever trip, either to the hotel or to some tourist site. If you are looking for a tour guide, they might be the right people to seek for, but if you are looking just for a ride to your hotel, stay away and, as usual, agree on the price beforehand, be prepared to bargain and enjoy.
We reached our hotel and as the first thing even before settling in our room was to ask the reception about the best way to book a taxi or to get a tour at reasonable prices. In this way, we had already solved the main issue.
Being Morocco, a Muslim country doesnt mean that people have to wear burqas, or being fully covered and also local women are dressed following a more European fashion. For this reason, there hasnt been any trouble for me to walk the streets in shorts. Nevertheless, the restaurants have dimmed windows, for the alcohol policy. Certainly, you can consume alcohol ad buy alcohol in the shops, but you are not allowed to be seen consuming any sort of alcoholic beverage.
The following day we had a walk in one of the most characteristic places in Morocco, the Medina, which is the old town found in many Moroccan and generally in North African cities. Those are old walled parts of the city where the traffic with cars is restricted or forbidden and are characterised by narrow streets.

The Medina is absolutely lovely, a must see and a place also where you can make a good bargain if this is the scope of the trip. Even though that was not my main idea, it was absolutely fun to visit the different artisan shops and have a chat with the people there. It didnt really matter whether we were interested in buying something or not, the main point was to get to know people and have the unique chance to have a deeper insight of the culture and have a cup of the best tea you might have ever drunk.
Most of the tourists come from Spain, but from my point of view, you cannot really call them tourists as they might come there to spend one day or every weekend. They might come to Tangier with the ferry in the morning to get better prices on certain groceries and return back home in the evening. For this reason, it is not uncommon that the personnel of the shops can speak Spanish. Being my French a bit rusty, (I totally ignore the local language) and Spanish closer to my mother tongue, this was indeed a great advantage.
For the lovers of sunbathing, this can be considered a real paradise, as there are the most wonderful beaches you might desire.

However, one thing was worth to be seen were the caves of Hercules located in Cape Spartel, close to the summer residence of the king of Morocco. There are many legends about the place, and the most interesting one is that, according to which those caves do not have a real end. They are partly natural, and partly man-made, meaning that erosion from the sea produced the original cave, and the rest was carved to get millstones. Practically, that was an ancient times stone mine.
The cave takes the name from Hercules, the mythological Greek hero, and the legend says that he used the cave to rest before the 11th Labour (steal the golden apples which belonged to Zeus, king of the gods).

The place is really something difficult to describe with words, as the light inside the cave changes with the different hours of the day, giving different emotions to the beholder. Some say that the best time to visit the caves is the sunset, and even if I visited them during the early afternoon, I can easily imagine the reason why. The place is something that makes your mind drift away in the most bizarre and incredible fantasies. It is a place for dreaming and to think. You might feel suddenly brought back in time as far as your imagination might reach, from the time where the first humans in the neolithic used it as a shelter, to the times when the Phoenicians carved the opening following the shape of Africa.

Wherever is the time you are transported to, it is a place from where, once you are in, it will be difficult to come back.

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