First of all, I’d like to apologize for not posting last week. My goal was to post once a week, but last week I only had three days in between getting home from Morocco and leaving for Belgium, and I do in fact go to classes (I know, shocker), so I really didn’t have much time to write. So to make up for it, I will be posting TWICE this week! Yeah, try to contain your excitement. This post will be about my trip to Morocco, and the next post will be about my weekend in Belgium.
I have to admit, going to Morocco was never something that I thought I would do while studying abroad. Not that I didn’t want to, it just wasn’t the first location that popped into my head when I thought about the must-see places. But I sure am glad I decided to go! For those of you who are a little geographically challenged (guilty), Morocco is right below Spain, at the very top of Africa. Here is a map if you are still confused:
We got on a bus Friday morning, and our first stop was Gibraltar, which you can see on the map at the very bottom of Spain. Gibraltar is a British territory, and walking around the town I definitely felt like I was in London (or how I imagine London is, since I have never been there). There were red phone booths and everything!
We only stayed for the afternoon, but it was a lot of fun! We walked through a cave, looked at the beautiful views, and most importantly, got to meet some monkeys! Monkeys just hang out on the side of the street there, and we were able to walk up to them, take pictures, and even touch them (though I opted out of that part).
After Gibraltar we started our very long journey to Morocco, which consisted of long hours on a bus, an hour-long ferry ride, and the worst traffic I’ve ever seen at the border of Morocco. It was exhausting, but definitely worth it. When we arrived at our hotel, we basically just ate dinner and went straight to sleep.
In the morning we got back on the bus (oh joy) and headed to the town of Tangier where we got spend time by the ocean, and, drumroll please, RIDE CAMELS! The ride itself was very short, but just the experience of riding a camel on a beach in Africa is something I will never forget.
The guy who was in charge of the camel rides had obviously just learned a few key English phrases that he liked to repeat, so while we were riding he kept shouting “OH MY GOD!” over and over again, to try to get us pumped up. (The image below is me and my friends with our arms up, per his request, as he shouted his signature phrase).
Begrudgingly leaving the camels behind, we got back on the bus and headed to Chefchauen (known as the Blue City) where we ate lunch in a restaurant, followed by a tour of the city. I swear, I don’t know what it is about our study abroad program, but I have yet to experience a dull tour guide. Our guide through the city was this tiny old man who we quickly named “Moroccan Yoda” because of his unique voice and tiny stature. One of our guides for the trip told us that this man was very popular in the town, and we soon saw this to be true. Everywhere we went he seemed to see someone he knew. It was an entertaining tour to say the least, and the city itself was beautiful.
After our tour we were given free time to roam around and shop. The only thing I really wanted to buy in Morocco was a purse, so I decided to hold off until Sunday to buy it when we were in the leather market. So I just stuck with getting a henna tattoo, which has stayed pretty well and has been a good conversation starter.
We then headed to Tetuan, checked into our hotel, and went to a restaurant for dinner and “entertainment.” Now, the way they described the entertainment to us, I have to admit, made me expect something very different from what we got. They mentioned there would be belly dancers, so I (and I’m sure all of the guys especially) expected a bunch of beautiful women dancing around. What we got was one middle aged woman showing a little too much skin, and dancing about as well as any of the rest of us could if we tried. In fact, two guys from my program got up and let her teach them a few moves, which was hilarious to say the least.
There was also supposed to be music and other forms of entertainment. This consisted of a group of about five men playing various instruments a little too loudly, and coming over to our table to play the instruments in our faces. It was….lovely? There was also a man who danced around with a tray of candles on his head, which was strange to say the least.
The next day we headed to our last stop of the trip, the town of Tetuan. We walked around the town a bit, seeing everything from donkeys to baby kittens to chickens. We then stopped in a Moroccan spice shop, where one of the men who worked there gave us an entire run-down of all of the different products we could buy, from moisturizers, Moroccan oils and lipstick to spices and teas. I bought a rose-scented moisturizer and called it quits, despite the enormous pressure to buy everything in sight.
We then headed to the market area where most of the girls went wild looking at all of the different purses, wallets and jewelry. In all of the shops you are expected to bargain for the prices. My tactic was just to act really unsure and indecisive (which is extremely easy for me) and the man lowered the price to convince me to buy. The end result was a really nice leather purse for 15 euros. Not too shabby!
The trip home was uneventful, so I won’t bore you with the details. Overall it was an amazing experience! It was really nice being somewhere that is so culturally different from what I am used to in the U.S. and Spain. I learned a lot about the Moroccan culture, and witnessed first-hand what it is like to live in a 3rd world country. Here are a few of the facts and take-aways from my trip:
1) Children in Morocco are taught three languages in school: Arabic (their native language), English, and a third language of their choice (either Spanish or French)
2) Though the vast majority of people in Morocco practice Islam, there are Jews and Christians as well, and all three religions coexist in harmony together, with little religious conflict
3) Water is something that we absolutely take fore granted in America and most places in Europe. While in Morocco it was not safe for us to drink any tap water, so I was forced to buy bottled water everywhere I went. As a person that drinks a lot of water, this made me very grateful to live in a place where free, drinkable water is easy to come by.
Hope you enjoyed my post, and maybe even learned a little something about Morocco. Expect another post very soon!
Your favorite world traveler,