Morocco – Day Three: Assilah

I was privileged to experience daylight savings time twice. (Going back to Spain, I also lost an hour since it’s in a different time zone than Morocco.)

We checked out of our hotel Sunday morning and headed to Assilah, a very small, coastal town on the Atlantic only about an hour away. Our route took us along the Atlantic Ocean, and the day started out very clear. Only a couple hours later fog rolled in and you could see very little. 

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Our pace in Assilah was very laid back, and we just strolled along. It was a refreshing counterpart to the two previous days of fast-paced mountainous walks. 

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We got to do some shopping and passed by another bakery.

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The city was established 550 years ago as a Portuguese city and also had the medina where the shops were located. In Tangier and Chefchaouen, citizens learn Arabic, French and English, while Assilah is a Spanish-influenced city with no French. The city is very artistic and hosts an art festival each August, where artists come in and paint murals on the walls. At the end of the year, they paint over the previous year’s murals so that artists can paint new ones. 

We saw an old, abandoned Jewish synagogue. I’m not entirely sure how long it’s been vacant. 

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Elizabeth and I really wanted to get henna tattoos, so our guide found a couple women who could draw the henna. The only problem was timing. Once you get it, it has to dry for a while, and we didn’t think that through. We went to eat lunch right afterwards, so it was quite difficult eating while trying not to use our hands and mess it up. We both ordered shrimp not even realizing we would have to peel them. That was not the smartest move on our part. 

We made it back to the ferry around 4:30, and proceeded to go through Morocco customs before boarding the ferry for Tarifa. The ferry ride was so much better this time because we were able to sit down for the crossing instead of wait in line like our previous ferry ride. 

 We made it back to Tarifa a little after 8 and got loaded back into the car with all of our souvenirs piled in our laps and at our feet. We stopped for McDonald’s along the way, and it was the best McDonald’s cheeseburger I’ve ever had! It tasted nothing like what we have in the US. Delicious!

We got back to Elizabeth’s apartment in Málaga about 11, and I still had to pack. Elizabeth also wanted to send some things back with me so we stayed up to pack and decided there was no point in going to bed since I had to leave for the airport at 4:45

The trip to Spain and Morocco was an awesome one full of new foods, friends, and memories for a lifetime.

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Cairo – Day 14

Tuesday, we flew back to Cairo, which was an uneventful flight.  When we finally got our luggage from baggage claim, we went to meet Wael (sp?), who works with Aunt Deborah and was picking us up.  However when we stepped out of the airport, we were immediately accosted by about 10 taxi drivers wanting us to ride with them.  Aunt Deborah kept telling them no, but they would not leave us alone! They kept getting closer to us and basically had us surrounded on all sides! Thankfully, Wael came up, and they finally backed off.  Later, Aunt Deborah and I were talking about it and decided that if that was someone’s first impression of Cairo they probably would have turned right around and got back on the plane!

Once we got back, I went to the office with Aunt Deborah.  I was glad to be able to meet everyone and see where she works.  Her office is located in Heliopolis, a neighborhood inside Cairo.  The architecture is really neat and was designed, for the most part, by the same architect (Barone is the name, but I’m not sure about the spelling.) that designed the house that will turn completely.

Christian Church designed by Barone

It’s surprising how much difference 10 degrees makes! The entire time we were in Sharm, the temperature stayed around 100 degrees.  As soon as we walked off the plane, Aunt Deborah and I were so glad to not sweat immediately like we did in Sharm.  I’ve got enough dirty laundry that it will take all night to wash!

Fruit Stand in Heliopolis

Cairo – Day 13

Maisa and I before we went parasailing

Monday, Mahmoud, Maisa and I went parasailing over the Red Sea.  Maisa and I went together, while Mahmoud went by himself.  It was absolutely incredible! It was my first time to parasail, and I’m scared of heights and water. So right before we took off, I was thinking “What on earth and am I doing?” I’m glad I went though, because it was so much fun!  I was able to have an awesome view of the Red Sea.  The water was such a deep blue; it was beautiful!

Red Sea

The Muslim women that cover themselves from head to toe, also cover themselves when swimming.  I was able to get a picture of a Muslim woman as she walking by in her swim dress.  I can’t imagine wearing all of those clothes in such hot weather!

Swim Dress

That night, we walked into Naama Bay for supper.  While we were walking through, we ran into a parade for the World Tourism and Biodiversity Day.  There were people in all kinds of vehicles, and riders on horses and camels.  They also had a makeshift stage set up, where there were dancers and a DJ.  The Governor of West Sinai was in attendance, so there were Secret Service men everywhere making sure that the crowds stayed out of his way.

We ate supper at KFC.  I think the girls ate more than I did; they LOVE chicken. J I’ve drank more Pepsi since I’ve been in Egypt than I have in the States in the past 10 years! They have Coca-Cola too but not in as many places.  I haven’t seen Dr. Pepper anywhere, so that’s the first thing that I want to drink when I get back in the States!  It was a nice, relaxing last night in Sharm El Sheikh.  I hope to be able to go back one day!

Cairo – Day 12

On Sunday, we went to the Old Market in Sharm El Sheikh.  We browsed through the shops and tried not to make eye contact with anyone so as not to be hounded to death!  They had all kinds of things to choose from, such as animals made from coconuts, belly dancing costumes and spices.

Belly Dancing Costumes
Coconut Cow (For you Elizabeth)

For supper, we ate lamb chops at a local restaurant.  They were absolutely delicious! There were lots of other things that we ate, but I don’t know how to spell any of them. :/ After wards, we went to the Hard Rock Café and enjoyed the music.  I think that was the Italian place to hang out, because the DJ and most of everyone else were speaking Italian.

At the entrance to the Old Market in Sharm El Sheikh

Just to clear up any confusion as to what Shisha is, it is unfiltered tobacco that is smoked through a water pipe.  Most of the locals smoke it plain, but you can get flavored tobacco in apple, peach, etc.

Cairo – Day 11

On Saturday, I sat by the pool and relaxed with Aunt Deborah and Mahmoud’s family.  We were going to try to go to the Egyptian Dinner given by the hotel, but they weren’t taking any more reservations by the time we checked on it. I think they have it one more time before we leave, so maybe we will be able to catch it.

We ate supper at TGIFriday’s! It was delicious! The menu was very similar to ours but with fewer choices.  After supper, we went to the mall in Naama Bay to check on getting the painting that I saw a couple of night before.  The way it works is that when you are a tourist the price goes up.  So I gave Mahmoud my money so that he could negotiate with them.  They were asking for 750 Egyptian pounds ($132), and Mahmoud was able to get the painting for 380 Egyptian pounds ($67)!!! I was so excited!  It will go great with my things that are in storage at Aunt Betty’s. :/

Right beside the TGIFriday’s was a Baskin Robbins!

We then went to the Shisha coffeeshop so Mahmoud and Maisa could smoke.  While we were sitting there, some of their friends from Cairo happened to pass and joined us.  We had a really good time visiting with them.  They spoke pretty good English so we were able to communicate a little bit.  They got a good laugh at me while I was trying to pronounce one their names! I’m not sure I ever got it right. LOL  They shared some pumpkin seeds with me, which were interesting to eat.  I’ve had them in the States before, but they were quite a bit bigger and you just ate the whole thing.  Here, they are smaller than sunflower seeds, and you only eat the insides! The taste was good, but the work was too much for me!

Aunt Deborah, Haneen and Habiba

Habiba’s hair was curled into little ringlets all over her head , so I called her an Egyptian Shirley Temple!

Cairo – Day 10

On Friday, I stayed away from the pool and out of the sun, because my sunburn was so bad!  After breakfast, Aunt Deborah and I went for a foot reflexology massage, which was heavenly!  I could definitely get used to those.

After the massage, I just relaxed in the room with Aunt Deborah.  For supper, we ate Chinese, which was excellent! I tried rice chips and fried pineapple for the first time and enjoyed every bite.  We then walked into Naama Bay, where we passed a restaurant/bar that was hosting a foam party.  I wish I would have gotten a picture; it was pretty crazy!

Aunt Deborah and I

Cairo – Day 9

Yesterday (Day 9 of my trip), I spent the day in the water (very surprising for a lot of people I’m sure!) with Mahmoud and his girls.  It’s not everyday that you can say you swam in the Red Sea, though. The water was just the right temperature so that the heat didn’t bother you as long as you were in the water.  The water was very clear so that you could see all the way down to the bottom.  While we were in the water, a huge fish just swam right by us! It was crazy! (I don’t know what kind of fish it was, but it was very pretty.)

Ready for the beach

While we were at the beach, we met a very nice Saudi woman named Noor, who was here on vacation with her family.  She spent a couple of hours just talking with us and playing with the girls.  She spoke some English, so we were able to communicate.  After a few hours, the girls got tired of the beach, so we went back to the hotel pool, which was quieter.  Unfortunately, I paid for staying out in the sun so long. L I put so much sunscreen on, but you wouldn’t be able to tell if you looked at my shoulders and legs!

For supper, we ate an Italian restaurant. The girls were so tired from being out in the water and sun all day that they had to be kept awake in order to eat supper! As soon as they finished eating, they laid down on the booth and fell asleep.  We took the girls back to the hotel, where they stayed with Aunt Deborah, and Mahmoud, Maisa and I went to Naama Bay so that they could smoke Shisha.  We did a little shopping, and I found a beautiful canvas painting that I want.  I didn’t look at the price, but I might have to look at it again tonight!

Mahmoud smoking Shisha

Cairo – Day 8b

That night, we went to eat supper and were treated to a special treat.  During the meal, there was live entertainment, which included a three man ensemble, two belly dancers, and a skirt dancer.  It was incredible! The ensemble included a lute, violin, and tubla (I found the use of the tubla instrument very interesting, because it is also an Indian drum.) The music that was played was exceptional and added an extra layer of enjoyment to our meal.

Our live music

After the ensemble played, two belly dancers performed one after the other.  The first was definitely the better of the two.  She was dressed in an orange costume with lots of sequins and beading to catch the light.  (I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of her, only a video.)  The next dancer was still go, just not as good as the first.  Her costume was less flashy, and the crowd didn’t respond to her, as well. I was so glad that I was able to see a belly dancer live.

The last portion of the live entertainment was the skirt dancer.  The skirt dancer is a man that is dressed in a costume consisting of multiple, multi-color skirts.  The entire performance, he will twirl so that the skirts will flare out.  He began with what looked like tambourines without the small cymbals on the side making them into different shapes and designs that he would hold with both hands and even his mouth and head.  Next, he began taking the layers of skirts off and twirling them above his head, so that they never stopped spinning. The underneath of the skirt has a design so the audience will be able to see it while it is over his head.  He then had lights in the skirt that lit up while all the lights were turned off.  This was by far the coolest part of the whole performance.  Once, he finished with the finale the music continued to play while he twirled the skirt above his head while maneuvering through the crowds.  He stopped by our table so I was able to get a couple of good pictures of him.

Skirt Dancer and Maisa

Once we finished supper, we walked into Naama Bay where the night life was happening.  All of the shops and restaurants stay open really late, and the streets are filled with people.  Mahmoud and Maisa, his wife, stopped to smoke Shisha (or the hookah, as we Americans call it) while the girls and I enjoyed some ice cream.

Haneen eating her Crunch bar (Except they call it a Mega bar)

It’s very neat to be here at Sharm, because it is an international vacation destination.  Everywhere you look, you will see someone from a different country speaking a different language.  It’s very humbling to be able to experience a different culture and be exposed to different viewpoints and perspectives.

Cairo – Day 8a

Well we didn’t get back to the flat until after midnight from the boat ride, and we had to get up at 3:30am this morning to catch our flight to Sharm El Sheikh.  Our ride through Cairo was nice so that I could see the city at night.  The Citadel and the Mohammad Ali Mosque were beautiful all lit up!  I was amazed at how many people were still out roaming the streets at 4am!

Our flight was on Egypt Air and left at 5:55am; it was only an hour flight and was thankfully uneventful.  The scenery on the Sinai Peninsula on our way to Sharm was quite unexpected! I looked out the window and below us were mountains! The mountains were mainly just big piles of dirt and sand though. Just think, the Israelites probably wandered through the wilderness right where I flew over!

Mountains on the Sinai Peninsula

Once we landed, we found a taxi to take us to the Marriot Red Sea Resort at Naama Bay.  Our room is a corner room, so we have an excellent view of the main pool and the mountains behind the hotel.  After we finally got in our room (thankfully we were able to check in early), we took a long nap to recover from the very, very short night!

Sharm El Sheikh
View of the Pool from our room

Cairo – Days 6&7

I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to update my blog! There has been a lot going on the past couple of days.  On Monday (Day 6), I had another day spent around the flat.  Mahmoud’s family came over and ate supper with us.  His wife is the same age as I am, and his two girls are 5 and 7.  It’s a little difficult to communicate at times, because their English isn’t great.  While they were over, a breaker blew out so we had to get an electrician to come replace the breaker.  By the time that was finished, it was bed time.

On Tuesday (Day 7), Aunt Deborah and I went shopping in Manial, the little island where she lives in Cairo.  It was nice to get to walk around on the streets and see the little shops that are everywhere.  It was interesting to see a hospital crammed right next to a little shop!  We shopped at a place where Aunt Deborah shops when she comes to Cairo.  We were able to find some really great clothes for cheap compared to American standards.  It’s funny that everywhere I go the Egyptian women love my hair, and the Egyptian men check me out and either call me “beautiful” or say “Welcome to Egypt!”  I think that the main reason that the women like my hair is because all of the women wear their hair long (at least what you can see of it).

For lunch, we ate at La Reine, a nice sit-down restaurant that served Egyptian food, which was delicious!  I had a nice soup, which was basically a seasoned chicken broth with pieces of chicken and orzo.  Then we had Chicken Penne, which was chicken breast thinly pounded out and then deep fried with vegetables (they really like tomatoes and cucumber) and an order of  Fata, which is a dish of Egyptian bread, rice, and garlic served with tomato sauce.  I really enjoyed it! I also tried their version of lemonade, which they call “lemon juice.”  It was different from our lemonade; it was smoother and very frothy as if they blended it in a blender.  I think I might have to try to make Egyptian lemon juice when I get home!

We then went back to the flat to get ready for dinner with one of Aunt Deborah’s business associates.  Osama took us to the Giza Yacht Club for supper, where we had Mixed Grill.  The Mixed Grill consisted of grilled chicken and Kofta, a minced lamb that is mixed with spices and then grilled like a hamburger patty.  After supper, he took us out on the Nile River on his speed boat.  On the boat he had nuts and drinks for us to enjoy while on our boat ride.  Egypt has the best cashews!! The boat ride was awesome! Cairo was beautiful from the river! I truly think that Cairo is the city that never sleeps! Everyone comes out at night, because the night air is cooler.  The traffic on the Nile at night is amazing; there are all kinds of dinner cruises that are offered by the hotels and party boats that float by with their colorful lights and loud Egyptian music.

The Nile River tour was the perfect way to end the day! I only wish that my camera took good night pictures.