topics: border crossing, Phoenicians, HISTORY, language, environment; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: October 8, 1997

Breakfast: On our way to the bus to Melilla, we stopped at a small corner store that sells fresh juices (the banana, orange, and avocado mix is the best — odd as it might sound), beignets, and several kinds of flat bread. We tried a new kind of bread, which looks like a huge, greasy flour tortilla and is served hot. We still don't know what it's called, but it was yummy nonetheless!

Lunch: We wandered the streets of Melilla looking for just the right pizzeria and finally settled on a very nice, spacious place that even let us plug in our laptops after we finished eating and drank our coffee.

Dinner: We left Spain before the restaurants really opened and returned to Morocco just before the restaurants closed, so it was just herira soup and bread for most of us.

Food of the Day: PIZZA!

We each ate a personal-sized pizza for lunch. As usual, the guys had meat while the gals' pizzas were topped with tons of veggies. What a treat!

Word of the Day: Ciudadela

Ciudadela is a Spanish word referring to the oldest, often central, part of a city, similar to the Moroccan kasbah. It is derived from the Spanish word ciudad, which means "city," and -ela, a suffix meaning "small."

Person of the Day: Housewife

While hunting in Melilla for an Internet café with no name and no specific address, and equipped with only an inadequate tourist map, andrEa and Corinne asked a woman on the street for help. Since she spoke no English and we speak very, VERY little Spanish, it was a little strange. The woman explained (somehow) that she was waiting for her son José to come out of the primary school across the street. She suggested (somehow) that when she drove him home for lunch, she would drop us off on the way, since she claimed to live very close to our destination. However, because adventures always happen when we least expect them, we of course ended up far, far out of our way in the opposite direction. Still, it was a very kind gesture . . .

Place of the Day: Moroccan-Spanish border (no pictures allowed!)

International borders can be very time-consuming places, especially when you're in a hurry. Even with a long line of people seeking entrance to Spain, all our passports had to be checked and rechecked . . . and checked again — even once they had been stamped!

Some of us thought about how borders are funny places. In some cases they arguably make sense, like when they follow a mountain ridge or a river. But they are still an unusual product of modern politics. Take Melilla, for instance. The only thing that divides this unexpected part of Spain from all of Morocco is an arbitrary boundary. And it is amazing how different the two sides of that boundary can be. No wonder borders are so time-consuming. The border guards have to be very careful, especially since immigration is such a hot topic.

Tech Fact of the Day: Language is your friend!

andrEa and Corinne were the first to hear about and locate Melilla's only Internet café. Unfortunately, when they arrived (just before lunchtime) there was a hand-written sign on the door saying it was closed. They figured that this was because the attending person was out to lunch. When Ethan asked around, without having seen the sign, someone else told him it didn't open until 5 p.m. Once the group convened, however, the Spanish-speakers read on the sign that the café owner was sick, and therefore our Internet access would NOT be available after lunch . . . or at 5 . . . or at all that day. Lesson of the Day: Learn the language of the country you're visiting, or do not be afraid to ask passers-by for help, or at least carry a little bitty travel dictionary!

Group Dispatch, October 8

picture of Corinne

For today's live Web chat, which takes place every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST on the eDscape Web site, we took a bus about 13 km (8 mi) from Nador, Morocco, to Melilla, Spain. Since Melilla is (like Ceuta) another Spanish enclave in North Africa, we had to get our passports stamped at the border (see the Place of the Day). Occasionally, this can take a very long time. And it did. As we waited for our papers to be processed, we watched literally hundreds of people crossing into Spain, and a number of them being turned away and/or searched by the border guards. So we didn't mind the wait.

Melilla was originally founded by the Phoenicians (although they called it "Rusadir" back then) and changed hands among the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, and Moors, before it was finally occupied by the Spanish in 1497, to which it has belonged ever since. (On September 17 of this year [1997], Melilla celebrated its 500th anniversary.) So, arriving in Spain, we immediately noticed the stark differences between North and South: The people (with cell phones) and the vehicles they drove were more "modern"; the city and road design much more European. After almost two weeks in Morocco, only a mere jaunt over a hill and around the Tres Forcas Peninsula put us back in a familiar world. And as much as we all love the Moroccan culture and cuisine, we cannot deny the lure of the familiar; the many pizzerias (see the Food of the Day) on Melilla's spacious boulevards quickly caught our attention. We also admired the wide and empty streets flanked by buildings of a decidedly Spanish flavor, many of them designed by the Modernist architect Enrique Nieto, who began his work in 1909.

Not to be forgotten in Melilla is the Ciudadela, one of the most important fortified coastal strongholds anywhere in the Mediterranean. Constructed mostly between the 16th and 18th centuries, the fortress has officially been declared a site of historical and artistic interest. In the shadow of this monument that caps the small, oldest part of the city (also known as the ciudadela — see the Word of the Day) we welcomed the culinary and architectural change of pace.

Another of the many and surprising changes about travelling between Morocco and Spain was the change in language. It wasn't an easy sudden switch (see the Tech Fact of the Day). However, the people in Melilla are relaxed and casual in this small but religiously integrated city that includes Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu communities. Also, compared to Moroccan cities, it's much quieter. This may be due in part to the fact that most modern cars are equipped with catalytic converters, which cut down on both noise and exhaust pollution.

This week's live Web Chat took place in a public telephone booth situated in an entire room full of phone booths. In Spain (and in parts of Morocco) these are called "teleboutiques." Since we'd been unable to connect to the Internet for an entire week, it was great to touch base again, but it was really difficult to stuff 5 IJs (or Internet Jockeys, as we are reffered to on the CCC Web site) into one little phone booth! Still, we had a great time chatting and getting to know Mr. Scott's class (located near Columbus, Ohio) as well as the others who joined us online. We sincerely hope that many others will chat with us on coming Wednesdays, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST!

Anyway, as interesting as it was to get to know some of the people and classrooms following BikeAbout-the Mediterranean, after another busy day, we were ready to head back to Morocco and prepare for tomorrow's 100+ km (62+ mi) trip to our last Moroccan stop: Saidïa.

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