The first visit to a country with a very different culture, religion and customs. On the one hand, it’s just popular Morocco, where excursions of retirees and hundreds of young people with backpacks come every day.
Subjectively, however, it is the first step to discovering what is beyond the borders of the Old Continent. Adventure itself. For a moment, you can naively feel like an explorer. We popped into a few memorable places and explored this “country of scents and colors” as the tourist brochures write about Morocco.
Tetuan — the city of thieves
We got to Morocco by crossing the borders in Ceuta — a Spanish enclave on the African continent.
The passage in the morning hours was shrouded in a gray mist. Crossing caused a modest feeling of being transferred to another world — before crossing we did not see what is on the other side, but looking back at the barrier, we looked in vain for the Spanish lands. I did not have time to enjoy the Moroccan stamp in my passport, and we were already flown by the famous Moroccan taxi drivers, about whom the tourist world used to complain rather than praise them.
The drivers, seeing two young, white tourists, fired like a cannon in our direction, offering unattractive prices for the course to the nearest city.
After a relatively short time of wandering around the parking lot and the virgin fair, we got into an old Mercedes paying “our price”.
Slightly scared, we drove 30 minutes to the city of Tetuan, one of the largest in this region. The city was founded between the peaks of the Rif range, it looks great from a vantage point, when you can see the edges of the city cover the lower parts of the surrounding slopes. Tétouan is not a city where many foreign trips stop — tourists are like a medicine here, even the hawkers were reluctant to bargain. The approach of the locals to tourists is completely dependent on the number of the latter. The “Daughter of Jerusalem”, as this city is said to also be called, is famous primarily for its historic medina, included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Medina is a part of the city similar in location and importance to the European old town, but completely differently organized. What does the medina look like? If anyone has been to Morocco, it’s a cliche for him, but it won’t hurt that. The Medina is the old part of the city, surrounded by walls.
The entrance to it are gates, the form of which is sometimes limited to an arch thrown over the street. Then, oblique-eyed hikers are the only ones interested. More spectacular gates can be admired in cities of considerable historical importance.
In this case, the only people who do not admire them are the inhabitants of this city. In the medina, there are shopping districts, souks (bazaars), Jewish and Andalusian (a remnant of the presence of the Spanish). The layout of buildings in the medina is specific and unique.
Medina residential area
Against the background of the Central European market square with a well and the town hall in the middle of the square surrounded by medina tenement houses, they look like a system of corridors in a huge mound of ants. Subsequent houses or workshops were created spontaneously, without a specific plan.
The result is all the charming nooks and crannies, mini squares, narrow streets, narrow passages and a labyrinthine road system. It is also worth looking carefully to see interesting details — decades-old lamps, banal arches over passages or iron decorations. Here and there it looks like a withering Christmas tree decorated with Christmas balls from the center of Rockefeller. The sight of all these things evokes admiration, and sometimes even a smile on your face when, next to the mighty, colorfully decorated gates, an Arab trades in wheelchairs or used shoes.
Along the main streets there are stalls, at first glance very chaotic. After a short walk, you will find out that each part of the shopping district specializes in something. The first episode is a place for fish lovers, in the next square, there is a bargain for clothes, and in the north-eastern corner of the medina, carpenters have their workshops. The main arteries are very crowded, emptying only for the moment when the muezzin’s voice calls for prayer. The inhabitants of the Tetouan medina worship Allah in two mosques — the Great and Sidi Saidi . Only Muslims are allowed to enter. Are you sure? We’ll see later.
Street noise can be quickly and easily converted into calm. Just slightly bounce left or right to see where one of the hundreds of smaller streets leads. I remember well the walk from the northern part of the medina — the residential one. People here look as if they didn’t care about the street noise 50 meters away.
Children dressed in clothes from their older siblings, staring at me with intriguing eyes, gave the impression that they saw a foreigner for the first time in their life. You can wander these stone paths for a long time, with which it is difficult to guess whether there is a bunch of cutlery around the corner or a stand with cotton candy. The guides use the term “getting lost in the pretty, narrow streets”. There is something about it.
A walk around the medina, along the new, elegant streets of the New Quarter (Ville Nueve — every major city has one) of Tetuan, is also good. Arabs are often considered sloppy and dirty and their cities are landfills. Again, I felt a bit silly for trusting the general public.