Tetouan and Granada


As I write this, Spain has just beat Germany 1-0 in the World Cup...what an exciting time to be here! The streets are flooded with people, and the kids are all wrapped up in Spanish flags and Torres soccer jerseys - Torres is apparently the new Spanish hero of 2008.

Yesterday morning I got up early (too early for a run, sadly), and we boarded a bus for Algeciras (well, the Spanish town adjacent-Gibraltar is actually British) and hopped on a ferry to Puerta del Ceuta, which is a Spanish colony in Africa, next to Morocco. It was quite a process - we had to fax passports and numbers over to the border days ago in preparation, and have multiple copies of temporary immigration forms filled out. The ferry ride was beautiful, albiet a bit cloudy, and we arrived in Ceuta, a resort city of 85,000, full of Christians, Muslims and Jews. When Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand united Spain, all non-Christians were forced to either convert, leave or be killed; many Jews and Muslims fled to Ceuta and the present-day Moroccan city of Tetouan. We made it through the border incident-free, although it was a lengthy process with no pictures allowed. We traveled another 25 minutes into Morocco, where I exited the bus and rode a camel. Yes, a camel! It was unbelievable, and I was quite certain I would fall right off it! We headed a few more miles down the road to the city of Tetouan, which is a quite diverse Moroccan city which possesses religious toleration. Across the street from each other is a mosque, Catholic church and synagogue. We parked the bus and the gypsies immediately came in for the kill, offering us braclets and jewelry and all sorts of wacky stuff - some for cheap, others not. We entered the medina, meaning ´´old city,´´ which was the old wall created in 1492 when all Jews and Muslims were expelled from Spain. The streets are narrow and filled with all sorts of treasures and treats - dead chickens hanging from their feet, spices, meats and fish (both the bodies and the heads...mmm...). All the buildings were pasted with a white chalk/plaster, which made the medina incredibly cool - probably 10 degrees celsius cooler. With it being almost 44 degrees celcius, this was a huge relief!

We continued through the medina to a rug factory, where they sold us rugs and carpets and blankets. I inquired about a shirt, and the guy harassed me - a lot. He went for the sale bigtime...but in the end I backed out, because he was going to charge me waaaay too much - idiot American I will not be! We finished up in a typical Moroccan restaurant, where we enjoyed some Moroccan soup (similar to our idea of a minestrone), cous cous, chicken and mint tea. Afterwards, we went to an herbalist who pitched us (pretty successfully!) to puchase all sorts of herbal remedies - from stress to cracked lips to snoring.

We left the medina and headed back to Cueta, but stopped at the beach resort village of Smir for a coca-cola and some pictures. Here, the Muslim women wore their entire hijab while going swimming, as showing any part of the female body is considered sinful and temptation. After the ferry ride back and the drive back to Puert del Sol village of Marbella, we had a quick dinner and headed to the beach for some ice cream and I got on line for the bungee jumping on the trampoline on the beach. I was doing flips in the air (front AND backwards!) on the Playa de la Venus...amazing stuff!

This morning, during my six mile run along the board walk (to the Playa de la Casablanca and back), I viewed all the partiers going to sleep - Spain´s 6:30am is the equivalent of our 1:30am in the US. I ate breakfast and we hopped a bus to Granada, where we shopped around the little stores, and I saw the tomb and mosoleum of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Here in Spain, they are known as los Católicos, or simply, ´´The Catholic Monarchs.´´ Queen Isabella´s pillow is purposefully built two centimeters higher as a symbol of her power and importance in uniting Spain. We had a delicious lunch full of tapas sandwiches, gazpacho and tortilla, and headed up to Alhambra (meaning ´´the red fortress´´).

Alhambra was the Moors´ city that was built before the invasion of the Christians in the thirteenth century and was taken over in 1492. Eventually, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire built a chapel in the Alhambra, and is a spectacular example of the blending of Christian and Muslim cultures. The beautiful Palace of the Lions was actually donated by Jews to Mulsims (before the Christian invasion) as a gift and sign of peace, representing the 12 tribes of Jerusalem.

That´s it for now, as I am tired and old (chipped my stupid tooth at dinner tonight. Ugh!) and need to go to bed so I can run in the morning, before taking our seven hour drive to Valencia (the namesake of The Decemberists´ song ´´Oh! Valencia!´´). Signing off for now!

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