First Left, No

My First Experience in Morocco

I’ll never forget that feeling. The one where you know everyone’s eyes are on you. The feeling that you stick out like a bleeding sore thumb. That most uncomfortable and most awkward feeling trimmed full of anxiety. It’s like you’re walking in a sea of men in traditional clothing as a western woman wearing a bright green sweater. It’s exactly like that actually because it’s just exactly that.

I was excited to get the soles of my beaten down Ugg boots on to the dirt of Africa for the first time. My then 3rd continent would be an enchanting Moroccan experience, nowhere near scraping the surface of Africa but just touching the edge and collecting another stamp.

A complete rookie I was to this whole “let’s go experience the world” lifestyle my travel companion/boyfriend would soon expose me to but I was ready to dive right into the differences lying in front of me. I had these dreamy expectations and I thought I was well prepared. Once we landed and made our way towards our beautiful boutique hotel which laid right on top of {Mohammad Dr.} We gave ourselves approximately no time to settle in because like every stop we were making on our 9 day European excursion, we had just one day to spend in Tangiers.

We asked our concierge where we could try some authentic Moroccan cuisine and he assured us that we wold love the “Insert American Name Crab Shack” joints off of the beach, but we insisted that we were not interested in a touristy place and were instead looking for something more “local” you know because we are already so well traveled and deep.

Through some broke french we determine that you go up this hill, first left no, second left no, third left oui! And he gestures with his hand in a quick upward motion. Yes, we thought,  “these are exactly the kinds of directions we were looking for.”  As we made our way through some smaller alleys to the unknown destination, we were talking back and forth to each other, laughing about our very helpful concierge. I was almost starting to forget that since being in Tangiers, I had only seen a couple of other women out on the streets and that every person we passed turned their heads to stare at us. Then almost out of no where, some men start shouting at us somewhat playfully yet loud enough to make us uncomfortable. The first thing we understood as one man shouts to us was “Americans?!”  My eyes shot over to Kyle and he calmly shakes his head “No.” “British?!” The man enquires again.  I look over and once more Kyle shakes his head “No.” “Ahhh Spanish…” the man affirms to himself.  Kyle looks up briefly and agrees. Ok I now know this means we will start to speak to each other in Spanish, which is not a language I speak and at this time in my life only somewhat understand.

We decide through it all to continue to walk briskly and keep going on this journey for authentic cuisine.  We were determined to find ourselves at least one dish to enjoy in Morocco. The first place we land upon we started to walk inside when yet again, we notice there are no women anywhere in sight and we don’t see much display for food, mostly just men smoking and drinking coffees. Pass. Then we stroll a little further and stumble upon an empty cafe with a display case that is showing off fresh fish, couscous, vegetables, bread and salads. This was our place. Still clinging on to our broken french and using a point and nod method, we gladly ordered as much as we could and wanted to try it all. The shop owner and his son were delighted to prepare our food and share a piece of their culture with us. It was a moment in time I will hold on to forever. We sat outside the cafe at a small table while we were served bread and olives and plate after plate. We were excited and satisfied with our choices. We tried it all and though we couldn’t finish it, we did not want to waste a single crumb. Very careful to not be disrespectful and not be wasteful, we asked if they could package up our left overs and we would take them with us. We paid our bill of somewhere around US $30 and tipped for the amazing hospitality, we were delighted to be able to give this particular family shop our business.

As we walked back out on to the alley we didn’t have much adventure left in us and to be honest, I couldn’t get myself to really feel comfortable in this city. We agreed to head back and enjoy the loveliness of our hotel and it’s beach front situation. Along the way there was a couple that was curled up sleeping on the street and we asked them if it would be alright if we left our food for them, again with language differences between us there was confusion but we found they were happily accepting of this gesture.

It was a brief encounter with Tangiers to say the least, and it left me a little unsure of whether I wanted to return to Morocco. Even covered from head to toe, wrist to ankle, I felt as thought I was walking around the city in a bikini. I just wasn’t prepared for this sort of attention and as a new traveler, it was an overwhelming feeling.

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

I would later return to Morocco, this time Marrakech and I would come to love this country, but that is of course another story.

tangiers-food

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Pen

Carly and her two year old daughter Lucy travel frequently from coast to coast and continent to continent. Carly has been to 47 countries, lived in England, Thailand and the US. She has taken her daughter abroad to 17 countries and counting, from rural China to New York City.
She writes the “Another Baby Maybe” blog on UPGRD.com, has been featured by AFAR magazine, Huffington Post and manages the popular Instagram account @LucyGoesTo. She currently calls Pittsburgh home.

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