Christmas in Spain, Hogmanay in Morocco!

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Well, I have slacked on blogging recently… I’m sorry for this! But I’m finally back after… better not to count the days.

I’m after my Christmas in Spain, Morocco trip, Edinburgh visit, and, most importantly, after the exams. I kicked off my second semester two weeks ago and feel like catching up with the blog duties now.

  1. Spanish Christmas

Unlike UK, the most important day during Christmas is 24th December (la Nochebuena). I went down to Málaga a few days before that to see the city, meet friends of  my friend and help with general festive preparations. On the day of leaving Salamanca it was rainy, windy and horrible (If I had been in Edinburgh then, I would have said that the weather was as usual but when you need to walk down to the train station with a heavy rucksack on your back at 6 a.m. and you are in Spain which is supposedly a sun-all-day-every-day country you cannot describe the weather conditions differently than ‘horrible’). I reached Málaga after a few-hour-journey in a comfy AVE just to find myself in a different climate zone. As soon as I left the station, I took off my coat, sweater and scarf and started to regret not having taken some court shoes with me. Weather aside, I was so glad to see my friend after 6 months of not seeing each other and yet to see her in her hometown! I stayed with her family and on 24th Dec I had a chance to see what was a typical Spanish Christmas like. There was King’s speech on TV (to be precise, on all public TV channels) at 9 p.m. and I was the only person who was eager to watch it. I’ll sum up my experience this way: Duration of the speech: 15 mins; Me actually focusing on what was being said: 5mins. Soon after the speech, we (I think we were 6 or 8 persons altogether) sat down at the table to dine. As a starter we had cooked prawns, crab, jamón serrano (traditional Spanish ham), cheese, lots of bread and (of course) lots of wine. Later we ate some soup and chaca (Andalucian salad made of avocado, prawns or surimi sticks and olive oil). To finish off, we sampled a home-baked cake the name I cannot remember. Me and my friend were actually exhausted so we stayed home, although usually everybody goes out after Christmas dinner. We stayed in Málaga a few more days and then we set off for Morocco!

  1. La prisa mata aka Morocco

I went to Morocco for 10 days together with my Malagan friend and her brother. Instead of describing the trip in a chronological order, I would rather point out the things that stunned me and made me think of coming back there at the earliest possible opportunity.

  • La prisa mata means literally ‘the hurry kills’. We heard these words a few times from locals and I think that they describe Moroccans accurately. In a whatever part of Morocco you find yourself, you can see groups of people sitting lazily, wandering languidly or working hard but without haste, by contrast with our European way of life under constant pressure, with millions of deadlines and duties to be carried out, with the stress we live in and unceasing chase after career. Two different worlds.
  • We stayed most of the nights in international hostels. In all of them, we had to be back inside the building before 10 p.m. because… the owners went home or went to sleep. Indeed, people go to sleep ‘quite’ early in Morocco, about 10-11 p.m. and get up about 4-6 a.m, depending on the job they do. Also, in a majority of the hostels we had to pay 7 dirhams (=£0.7) for a hot shower and there was no heating in the rooms in all of them (well, nights were quite chilly to be honest).
  • Some of the cabs have taxi meters, however it’s most usual (especially in Marrakesh) to set the price before getting on. ‘Will you drive me to the city centre for 20 dirhams, please?

  • Toilet paper is not used by Moroccans, so you should not move anywhere without a roll of paper in your bag. Although, in some places we came across a lavatory attendant selling a piece of toilet paper for 1 dirham (it’s incredible but true).
  • The regional train I took from Fez to Meknes (34 miles distance) cost me 20 dirhams (=£2) and was of a quality of Polish express trains.
  • The best places I’ve visited? It’s hard to say, because Morocco has a really diverse landscape. But if I had to choose, I would definitely go for Merzouga (in Sahara, close to Algerian border), Marrakesh and Fez. Actually, my friend made us a surprise in Merzouga which was a 2-hour-camel-ride to the dunes, dinner and a night in a tent there and the ride back to the town in a morning after the sunrise.

So that’s it for today, I hope you enjoyed reading it.

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