Monday, November 21, 2016

Tetouan, Morocco: Old المغرب تطوان

We arrived safely to Tetouan despite our driver's intentions and were met by someone from the hotel who would guide us through the narrow streets of the Old Medina of Tetouan, a somewhat overlooked city when it comes to tourism, but one that is well-worth the trip.

It was dark, of course, and we were tired, especially Chris, who struggled to keep up with the guide and me. He took us through these streets:

Despite feeling exhausted, we went to eat dinner here:

Then we crashed. At least I did.

We awoke to no water in the hotel, as I discovered when I went to take a shower about 8am. I went downstairs to ask why and to inquire about breakfast, but I discovered the hotel proprietor does not speak English. They are a couple - he speaks a little but not much. I'm not saying they should. This is Morocco, where Arabic is the official language and French is usually the second language, and on the Mediterranean coast, Spanish is often the second language. It's just been awhile since I've been to a place where English is not widely spoken. I like that it isn't here, but I'm also very frustrated at my inability to spit out coherent sentences in any language. It's more frustrating than the total lack of water in the hotel. I have tried to use French, Arabic, and in Tetouan, Spanish, but I can’t remember too many words and often can only think of the Arabic when I want French and vice versa, and sentences often come out mixed. Although I use languages at work, it is only for reading, so having to recall them when communicating with others is proving to be difficult. But I know the words, or I knew them, which is why I find it frustrating. I should be better than this. I think part of the problem is that I don’t know which language to use – I think the Moroccans are mixing Arabic and French together which is frying my brain, then we added Spanish to the mix in Tetouan, in which I also have some proficiency, though not near the level of French and Arabic. I told Chris that I’d finally feel comfortable speaking with others on the day we have to leave. I’ve noticed, though, that things are slowly coming back. But we aren’t getting to meet people because we cannot talk to them, and that's a shame.

Chris did not sleep well in the night, so I let him sleep while I wandered around Tetouan with my camera. I wandered for three hours before going back to the hotel to get Chris for lunch. I didn’t feel too uncomfortable like I had in Casablanca when wandering around, but some old man did yell at me about a box of kittens I was looking at. I have no idea what he was saying but he was certainly the only person I’ve ever seen get mad about a box of kittens.

a source of outrage for one man

I got a few suspicious looks as I wandered but mostly avoided eye contact with people because I didn’t want any harassment like the kind we had experienced in Tangier. There were no wannabe tour guides, however. I saw no other tourists, just local people going about their daily lives. The hotel proprietor had told me that in the summer it was difficult to walk through the narrow corridors because of all the tourists. We chose a perfect time of year for our visit. Chris is moving pretty slowly so I was glad to be able to go at my own pace and try to get lost in the labyrinth. But I didn’t get lost. In fact, I found it quite easy to get around. Chris was astounded when I brought him back to the hotel after we ate lunch – he would never be able to find his way back alone. I even impressed myself. 

The old medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is something a continuation of our Andalusian trip in Spain last year. It is a city of immigrants - many Jews and Muslims settled here when they fled the persecution by the Christians during the Reconquista and the Spanish Inquisition at the time Queen Isabella was chopping off heads and torturing people in the name of Christianity and Christopher Columbus was colonizing and terrorizing the new world. Unfortunately, the Muslims have forgotten their own persecution and have taken to persecuting Jews themselves. Fewer than 200 Jewish people remain in Tetouan.

This is the kind of thing I think about when wandering around the old medina. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. 

Here are some photos from my wandering:

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