EUROPEAN VACATION

 

 

 

MOROCCO - received April 21

(written by Steve)†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Yesterday we were sitting on the sand at Cocoa Beach watching our kids play in the sand and swim in the Mediterranean. The one thing about this place (Costa del Sol) is that no matter how many condoís they build or how crowded it gets, the scenery will always be beautiful. The most incredible thing we saw while sitting on this beach was the Rock of Gibraltar and the mountains of Africa just south of where we were sitting. As we looked at Africa we decided that there is no way we could come all the way down here without going over there, to Morocco, Africa.

So we all got up at 5 am.Helen, our kids, Maryanne (Helenís sister) and her kids (Thomas and Michael) and headed to Algercira to catch a high speed Catamaran that takes you over to Tangiers, Morocco.

 

As you head across the straight of Gibraltar, you get a clear view of the rock and Jebel Sidi Moussa (on the African side) and it is amazing how close the two are together. Did you know that this is the closest point between Europe and Africa, and it is only 12 kilometers from the Spanish coast to the African Coast?In Ancient mythology this is also where Hercules opened the waters to create the Strait of Gibraltar when he was in search of the golden apple.

STRAIGHT OF GIBRALTAR

 

Pillars of Hercules, name given by the ancient Greeks to two peaked rocks that flank the eastern entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar. They seem to have been first visited by the Phoenicians about 1100 BC. Ancient Calpe, the northern pillar, is the modern Rock of Gibraltar, and ancient Abila, situated at Ceuta on the African coast, is now called Jebel Sidi Moussa.

 

HERCULES

 

Hercules, in Greek mythology, hero noted for his strength and courage and for his many legendary exploits. Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek hero Heracles. He was the son of the god Zeus and Alcmene, wife of the Theban general Amphitryon. Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus, was determined to kill her unfaithful husbandís offspring, and shortly after Herculesí birth she sent two great serpents to destroy him. Hercules, although still a baby, strangled the snakes. As a young man Hercules killed a lion with his bare hands. As a trophy of his adventure, he wore the skin of the lion as a cloak and its head as a helmet. The hero next conquered a tribe that had been exacting tribute from Thebes. As a reward, he was given the hand of the Theban princess Megara, by whom he had three children. Hera, still relentless in her hatred of Hercules, sent a fit of madness upon him during which he killed his wife and children. In horror and remorse at his deed Hercules would have slain himself, but he was told by the oracle at Delphi that he should purge himself by becoming the servant of his cousin Eurystheus, king of Mycenae. Eurystheus, urged on by Hera, devised as a penance, the 12 difficult tasks: the ďLabors of Hercules.Ē

Donít feel bad, I did not know any of this stuff either. So after what seemed to be an eternity, we arrived in Tangiers at around 11:30 am and were ready to see the sights of Morocco. We got onboard a tour bus thinking this would be the safest way to travel through the city and have someone explain it to us as we only had one day here. Our tour guide was a cross between Rodney Dangerfield and James Brown. He had hundreds of one liners, but no one could understand a word he said, he was quite fun though. We took a drive through Tangiers, through the American, French and Middle Eastern parts of the city, it was very beautiful.We have been through many countries in the last few months and it does not matter where you are in this world, you will always find one. What you ask? An unofficial American Embassy; McDonalds.

 

 

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We drove by Winston Churchillís home and the Kings Palace and then down the other side of the city where we came out at the Atlantic Coast. We have driven through many countries and have seen beautiful coastal roads, but this coast was spectacular. I say that because it was not like the Concrete Condo catastrophe of the Spanish Costa del Sol. This place was a gold mine with its untouched beautiful sandy beaches and endless views into the Atlantic Ocean. The further we drove the more relaxing this place became; even the kids were just staring out the windows at the waves rolling up the sand.

 

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We soon found ourselves getting out of the tour bus at what looked to be a circus tent park area. There were armed guards on horses at the front entrance and camelís inside that the kids were allowed to sit on for a few bucks. After watching the camel show we headed inside to eat under the tent, along with a belly dancer and 4 Moroccan gentlemen who were playing music for us up on the stage.

 

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There were only about 20 people on this tour but we all gave the entertainers a nice applause after each show. We were served traditional Moroccan food which was Chicken, Cous Cous, fried onions and spicy meat chunks. Even though I have been burping up those meats chunks all day, it was very tasty when I was eating it. After lunch we headed back into Tangiers to the souk to try and soak up a bit of culture. I had been warned that Morocco was a crazy place and we were to keep a firm grip on the kids, so I had my back up when we first went in. Yes, it was very third world, and the peddlers were extremely aggressive, but I did not feel threatened or fearful in anyway. Just like when we were in Egypt, you did not want to let these peddlers think you were interested or else they would follow you around for blocks. So all 20 of us just followed our tour guide to 2 of his preferred stores where we got to see a whole new type of peddling. It would always start off the same and some head guy from the shop would come out and greet you and welcome you to his country and tell you how great his merchandise was. Then after he was finished the sales pitching would begin and you would get worked over until you bought something. That is the only problem with going on a tour, they take you to where they want you to go, not where you want to go. In hindsight I think we easily could have seen Tangiers without a tour and even with kids I think you would have very little to worry about. So anyways, after being paraded into a couple of shops and through the back alley ways, we ended up at our bus that took us back to the dock.We ended up pulling away from the dock around 5:30 pm, and it was a whole lot of traveling for only a few hours of sightseeing. So all in all I am glad we made the trip, but I think you would be better off to spend a night and not try to do it one day, like we did.