Its true–for as independent as I seem sometimes, I love me a good guided tour. Today after lunch we were led by a wonderful tour guide named Fatima to some of the most famous sites in Rabat. Fatima was awesome and hilarious! Like most people I have come into contact with, she speaks French and Arabic. She also speaks English and is married to a Japanese man. She said she is the only tour guide in Rabat speaks Japanese. If this is true she must get good work :)
Anyway we toured Chellah, which is the site of a fifth century Roman ruin and a fourteenth century Islamic ruin. Totally fascinating. The Roman ruin, she said is just likes ones you would actually find in Italy, with a forum, public baths, and the like. The Islamic ruin is just like madrassas you would see today.
After Chellah we toured the unfinished Hassan tower. When designed it was going to be 60m but the king died and construction was finished only at 44m tall. It was still beautiful! At the same place is a masoleum where there are two tombs of recent past kings.
Speaking of Kings, after Hassan tower we went to the palace–we were only allowed to go in because we were with a licensed, authorized tour guide. Very cool. Obviously we couldn’t go in the actual palace, but we got to walk up near it and take a picture.
Lastly we went to the Kasbah here in Rabat which is like a small city within a city with super narrow, twisty, turny roads. I am having a difficult time discerning the difference between roads, alleyways, and hallways. Actually I’m not even sure there is a real difference! Fatima told us lots of intresting things about that part of the city, like that its where artsy-types like to live, and its where a lot of old people move in so they can retire. From the outside, not only of the Kasbah itself but the buildings and doorways it seems like everything is super small and cramped but in reality once you get inside, things are quite spacious. It really is an optical illusion. And even though it may be hot outside, thick walls keep things cool inside. :)
Uploading things to Flickr is a little much for this internet to handle, but I managed to get up about 5 pictures this afternoon. Check them out to the right!
Flight three: Madrid to Casablanca: So, nice, finally I get a window seat, for the shortest leg of the journey–just an hour and a half. I tried to nap and I think i may have succeeded…. at this point the whole thing was a blur. I woke up in time to see us cross from Europe to Africa, seeing the familiar geography from the plane was actually really thrilling. At that point I thought we were close to landing but I was wrong–we flew over Morocco for what seemed like forever.
Casablanca: cut to Staci standing in line at the passport-checker-place (I am so tired right now the correct term is escaping me) FREAKING OUT because of an irrational fear that they for some reason wouldn’t let me in the country and I would just have to turn right around. My worries were exacerbated by the fact that the guy in front of me was getting hassled for some reason or another. Luckily there were no problems, I found my baggage, and I stepped out where someone from CIEE was supposed to be waiting for me–right? Wrong, nobody was there–no sign with my name on it, no nothing. I sat around and tried to look conspicuously lost and American in case someone decided to help me but no such luck. I made a couple laps around the terminal, changed a little bit of money, and sat some more. Like half an hour later (I thought waiting 30 min was a good amount of time) I bought a phone card and called the emergency contact for the program.
An English-speaking, chain smoking Moroccan guy (worked for the phone card place, I think–or was just friends with the guy at the phone card place) was SUPER helpful and without his help I might have lost it. Anyway long story short I got picked up, the CIEE guy had been waiting for me at the wrong terminal. I guess my plane got in at an unexpected gate.
Casablanca to Rabat: I got here by car, it took like an hour but really I dozed for a large part of the journey. I was awake enough to notice that Morocco is just as flat as Kansas and just as hot as Temecula. I also saw a ton of donkeys just chillin wherever they thought would be a good place to be. The houses and buildings along the road were actually pretty rustic, falling apart and whatnot, but I did see a lot of satellite dishes (for TV) the closer we got to Rabat. FINALLY I got to Rabat, checked into the hotel, called the parents and got some SLEEP!!
Flight One: LAX to Chicago O’Hare… I read like a third of “Into Thin Air,” written by the author of Into the Wild (read: one of my favorite books and movies) the narrative is arresting and the fact that he was THERE makes it more real and arresting. The summit of Everest is about the cruising altitude I am flying at right now… pretty much mind-blowing. Living in a base-camp at like 16,000 feet in tents for two months makes what I am embarking on look like a walk in the park. I guess its reassuring? Reading inspiring stories of what individuals can do makes my life look easier and my little tasks seem very doable.
Later, on a much less inspirational note I Watched an episode of the office on the in-flight TV. I listened to some baby cry (loudly) for the whole descent. The guy that I sat by during this flight looked like a weird cross between George Lucas and Richard Gere (I know, right?)
Chicago: Super short layover! I am sitting two chairs away from an attractive young man who looks like a young Dave Grohl. This is the last time I’m going to be able to text anyone in America until July 24th? 25th? I should really find out when I’m coming home.
Flight Two: Chicago O’Hare to Madrid: it has become evident that its physically impossible for me to sleep sitting up without leaning on anything. Right now I am in Madrid, unfortunately I’m not leaving the airport so I can’t really say I’ve “been” to Spain. Does spending three hours in the airport count as visiting? My gate to Casablanca isn’t announced yet so I am at my leisure to peruse the duty-free stores and smell the expensive perfume I am making an effort not to succumb to buying.
On the flight, I saw a menu in the in-flight magazine with prices listed next to it and I got all paranoid about whether they were going to serve me food or not. The announcements in the plane were made in Spanish and English, but it was so muffled that I couldn’t hear what they were saying, like, ever. So it was a mystery. FINALLY, they brought out the food–I was starving–I have no idea what time it was in any time zone but all I knew is that I was hungry. Say what you will about airplane food…. at the moment it was the most delicious meal served on Earth. Er, over the Earth.
Madrid: I am typing this update in notepad because they want me to pay 5 euros for 30 mintues of internet time… a little steep? Its the first rate I’ve seen so I have no basis to compare with. What am I supposed to do during this three hour layover? I have to report back to the info booth at 9:30 to get my gate assignment. It is 11PM California time [Saturday] and 8AM Madrid time [Sunday]. Trippy right? Time zones are so weird!
I snagged a bench where the arm rest was broken off so I essentially have a double seat. Naptime? Time to guard my valuables with my life and perhaps try to get an hour or so of sleep.
Update: that whole nap thing didn’t work out. I’ll post the rest of my journey from Madrid to Casablanca to Rabat next time… for now I should probably try to sleep.
Also, I tried to add a couple pictures but it gave my computer a heart attack so you’ll have to wait until I can find a stronger internet connection.