Hey ya’ll! Another long one here, but don’t worry, lots of pictures!
This past weekend my study abroad group went to Morocco.
Let’s be real. How pretentious does it sound to say “Oh yeah, I’m going to Morocco for the weekend.” Casual.
I really had no expectations for this trip. Other than the fact that it’s in Africa and is largely Muslim, I seriously didn’t know anything about Morocco.
We left Friday afternoon via bus, drove down to the coast of Spain, and took the ferry across the Mediterranean to land in the Spanish city of Ceuta. At that point, we were on another continent, but not another country …. Which was pretty strange. The whole trip across (from Sevilla to Ceuta) took about 4 hours, which I thought was pretty impressive.
We drove through Ceuta and went through the border….which I have to say was not very secure. I’m not really sure how the US/Mexican border works, but I really don’t think it’s as relaxed as this one. Our guide took all of our passports and customs forms, got off the bus, handed them to a guard, got back on, and we were on our way.
I’m not saying we did, but we DEFINITELY could have smuggled some drugs and/or people across the border.
But we definitely didn’t.
So then it was off to M’Diq, a city about 35 minutes from the border where we were to spend the night. By this point I was pretty tired from traveling and a little bit ill from the ferry ride (it ain’t like Harper’s Ferry ladies and gentlemen), but I was still absolutely floored by the scenery in Morocco. Everywhere you look there are mountains. Real, tall, beautiful, green mountains. Within the mountains there are houses. Little villages resting comfortably between peaks. It’s amazing!
So we spent the night in M’Diq and then headed to Chefchaouen. Like I said, I had no knowledge of Morocco before this trip, and so didn’t know what to expect from these cities.
Chefchaouen is amazing! It’s really unlike any city I’ve ever seen. It’s a labyrinth of bricked walk-ways and quaint buildings that slither across a mountain. There are houses, restaurants, shops, and little markets for fun purchases. The coolest part? Everything is blue! All of the buildings are painted robin-egg blue or bright white, making the city feel like something out of a fairytale (or Tim Burton movie, lezbereal). Apparently the blue helps repel mosquitos and the white helps with the heat. But the buildings have to be re-painted 3 times a year because the sun wears it down so much!
The city was also rolling with cats. Actually, cats are everywhere throughout Morocco! It’s rare to turn a corner and not see an adorable pile of kittens slumbering in the sun. DAWWWWWWWWWW
Leading us around Chefcaouen was his adorable, hilarious, incredibly wise man named Achmed.
He was five feet tall with the voice of a frog. He spoke Arabic, English, Spanish, and French. He claimed to know Barack Obama, Rita Marley, and the Queen.
“Peace, love, and couscous.”
“If you believe, drink the water. If you don’t believe, don’t drink the water.”
“If you came to Morocco and did not take a picture with Achmed, you did not come to Morocco.”
A truly wonderful person to have met!
The next day we spent a lot of time in Tetouan, touring through the city and the surrounding countryside.
I’m still floored by how absolutely beautiful Morocco is. I’m from a pretty condensed, flat-ish area of Virginia, so it’s so different to be surrounded by mountains, and wide, open spaces (without shopping centers or developments) on each side. The closest I can compare the terrain to is Honduras. Within the U.S.? Maybe West Virginia. Maybe.
We went through the center of Tetouan and visited the markets. Tetouan is a lot bigger than Chefchaouen, but the center is just as confusing, if not more so. It’s a fun house of venders and mopeds and restaurants. I had to hold on to the person in front of me for fear of losing the group. There were so many people in the street that I seriously had to keep my head down or else risk a panic attack. Ah!
I bought some pretty cool stuff in the markets. A sick-@$$ rug/tapestry for my room at home, a fanny-pack because I’m awesome like that, a hat because I lost my favorite one, and some *surprise* presents from a little apothecary-pharmacy that we went to (Christmas will be fun for you Mom). The whole haggling thing is huge in Morocco. I ended up buying my rug, that was originally 175 euros, for 40 euros. Go me! (Although I would like to never haggle again. It’s very intimidating.)
We drove to Tanger and spent the night there.
Tanger is a very different city from Chefchaouen and Tetouan. It’s more of a “proper” city. It has big buildings and double/triple-lane streets, real cars, street lights. It was also a lot more intimidating. Our guide warned us not to go out that night without a male escort, as Moroccan men in the city can be pretty aggressive.
A bit of a culture shock: in every city we went to, even the smaller ones, men were very heavy on the whole staring and eye-contact thing. My (female) friend and I took a walk one night (in M’Diq) and every single person that we passed turned to stare at us. Even men that were sitting down, facing away from us, turned their bodies to look at us as we walked. There definitely weren’t any bad intentions behind these stares – no one cat-called or made any comments. I think we just stood out as (very) white Americans…speaking English…taking a walk….alone….at night.
That being said, the men in Morocco are very attractive. Very. Attractive. So there’s that.
And in the morning we rode camels.
That’s right, folks. This girl rode a camel on the beach in Morocco.
I can officially add camel to my list of favorite animals, where it will claim the 8th spot. THEY ARE ADORABLE! They’re so goofy-looking and soft! The noise they make reminds me of my brother! I love them!
We also took a small bus tour around Tanger to see more of the country-side, and the point where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic ocean. Hot diggity-dang! I feel cultured!
We then hit Tetuoan for a spot of lunch (pictured below, try not to drool).
All the shops were closed this day (Sunday) because of the religious celebration Eid. Commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, Eid celebrations involve the sacrifice and consumption of a lamb by every Islam-practicing family. Part of the lamb is ultimately given to the poor that cannot afford their own lamb.
Our guide tried to steer us around the areas of the city in which lamb-sacrificing would be prevalent, but I still got my fair share of gore.
I’m on the track to become a nurse; I watch surgeries for fun and have been in the operating room for observation. I do well with vomit and blood and urine and every single bodily fluid or function you can think of.
But I do not do well with dead animals. Or blood. Or men standing in the street with aprons covered in blood. Or lambs being skin whilst suspended by their feet between a doorway. Or dead lamb heads roasting on a fire.
I’m also a vegetarian, so there’s that. (Sorry I didn’t take any pictures for you guys — how will you ever forgive me?)
And then it was through the border once more (and crossing into Spain was a bit more difficult – they actually checked the storage space under our bus this time) and onto the ferry.
The whole weekend passed so quickly – and time flew so fast because we were on a bus 6 hours a day! But what a wonderful experience, so experience a different culture, a different country, a different continent! I feel like this post is so long, but I could honestly go on for days about Morocco — and to think, I was only there for 2.5 days. Lord knows what a, oh I don’t know, STUDY ABROAD experience would do for me. 🙂
Arabic has now been added onto the list of languages I want to learn. Along with French, German, and Russian. Ya know. Easy.
Sorry for the abrupt ending, but this is a blog post, not a novel! I don’t have time to draw out the exposition and all that crap. Go read a book ya goon.
Until next time,