Good news everybody! I made it to and from Morocco with no problems!
It was absolutely amazing. It was probably the coolest thing I've ever done. The trip to Morocco was so so different from any other trip I've taken this semester.
So, here we go...
The safest way to go to Morocco is with a tour group. Two different groups of people from my program went without any tour group and managed okay, but Andrea, Elle and I sold our souls to the company Discover Sevilla back in February and decided to go with them. Discover Sevilla is basically a company run by a bunch of frat boys who go out, flirt with girls and then get them to buy trips. But it was the only trip that worked out in terms of timing, etc. So we basically had no choice.
We got off to a bit of a rough start...The bus was supposed to leave at 5:15 am. BUT we live a solid 45 minutes away from where the bus was leaving from. In hindsight, we obviously should have taken a taxi because it only would have been like 2 euros each. But we decided to walk there. BAD IDEA. Three girls walking around Sevilla at 4:30 in the morning with all their luggage? I get harassed walking around in broad daylight. Luckily we happened to run into a guy who was also going on the trip. To make myself feel better I'd like to think he would have protected us had anything happened. So...there we are...dragging our bags at the crack of dawn, running on about 2 hours of sleep, feeling pretty good about ourselves because we're on track to be there right on time. Next thing we know, Andrea gets a phone call....
"Hi. This is Jorge from Discover Sevilla, are you guys on your way?"
"Yeah, we're on our way" and we're right on time! what is this guy thinking??
We roll up 10 minutes later to find that the entire bus is full, waiting on us to arrive.
Turns out the bus was leaving at 5:15, you were supposed to be there at like 5.
I got on the bus thinking "Why are all these people here already? What were they thinking getting here even earlier than we already had to?" Well, the joke was on us, but luckily they waited for us and the bus practically started leaving as soon as we sat down.
So, the bus started heading for Tarifa, which is about 2 hours away from Sevilla. From Tarifa we take the ferry into Morocco. So, I get past the realization that we were almost left, pull out my ipod and am getting ready to pass out for the next 2 hours when I heard a THUD. Our bus hit something on the road, I'm still not sure what, but I guess it lost pressure in the tires or something. So we have to pull over, wait for like 25 minutes for another bus to get there, get the baggage off the first bus, get all the people off the first bus and load into the second bus. Whew.
Eventually we did make it to Tarifa in time to catch the first ferry out of Tarifa and into Tangiers. Its weird how it hardly took any time to get there, but once you're there you feel like you're a million miles away from anything familiar. From Tangiers we got back on the bus and headed to Rabat, where we stopped and had lunch. Ah! This was the part I was so worried about: food in Morocco. Ya'll, our first lunch was a chicken pastry dish, say what?! So weird.
Don't be fooled by the cinnamon and sugar, there is chicken inside of there!! It was actually really good and the restaurant had a really good view of the ocean. After lunch we dipped our feet in the ocean and got back on the bus and headed for Fez.
Day 2: Back on the bus to head for Merzouga, the desert town we stayed in. We stopped on the bus in a town called Midelt. We got to see more monkeys on the way there! My obsession with monkeys first began on my trip to Gibraltor and has since intensified. They are so freakin cute! So of course I was extremely happy to get to see more. Lunch was really good. Moroccan food is pretty healthy. There was a lot of vegetables, couscous and fruit involved all week. We made another stop along the way at a look at and it was SOOO windy:
That is NOT us swinging our heads around, that is the wind doing crazy things. It was a really pretty view though, and by this point in the ride it was starting to look very desert-y. We made it to Merzouga right before sunset and got into 4x4 to head out into the desert. Riding on 4x4 out to the middle of the Sahara Desert was just the beginning of an absolutely amazing experience. The hotel in the desert was really cool too. We each had our own bed and there was a giant canopy hanging from the ceiling. We had dinner at that hotel and that night some of the Moroccan tour guides put on a special concert for us. It was so fun sitting there listening to them play their music. A few of us got up and started dancing. I basically have no idea how Moroccans dance, but hey, but I'd like to think I know how Americans dance. Either way, it was awesome.
When we walked outside we saw what awaited us later on in the day: our camels!!! A ton of them were ready to take us to the oasis. We decided we wanted to take pictures, so we walked over only to be harassed by some berber men. At first we thought they genuinely wanted to talk to us. Turns out they really just wanted to get their picture taken with us and try to sell us stuff. Oh well, they were pretty funny and one of them developed a mad crush on Andrea. I believe his exact words were "Andrea, I want to make you my wife!!"
oh yeah...well i want to run in the opposite direction.
So, we got up and went to tour a small Berber town. We had to sort of hike through the desert to get there and let me tell you: it was hard. Hiking through that sand is NOT easy. More on that later. The walk there was kind of sad actually, there were a bunch of little kids (like REALLY little. we're talking like 5 years old) trying to sell us a random assortment of things like stuffed camels on the way there. It was really sad to see them begging us to buy all this stuff. We also saw really small kids filling up what had to have been really heavy jugs of water to take back to the town. The jugs were practically as big as they were, and they had to lug them around.
The berber town was pretty cool though. They showed us all the hand-made rugs. I bought a ring, which I was informed was silver... only to have my finger dyed green. Whoops.
We headed back to the desert, had lunch, and....GOT ON OUR CAMELS!!!!!!
Just getting on the camel was an adventure in itself. It was like hydraulics because their back feet go up before their front feet, so you feel like you're going to go flying off. Once you're up, its a pretty simple process. You just hold on and wonder how you ever got to be so lucky to be riding on a camel in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
The head wrap was an absolute necessity because sand would come out of nowhere and get in your face without it. The ride was pretty long, about an hour and half, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ready to get off the camel by the end. My butt was in need of a break. But seriously, riding camels through Sahara Desert = unbelievable.
So we spent the night in a desert oasis:
Those are little tents set up in a circle that slept three people each. The tents just had a foam mattress, but it was actually pretty comfortable. So the above picture is taken from the top of a sand dune. WOW! This is what I was referring to earlier when I said walking in sand was hard. Well walking was nothing compared to hiking a gigantic dune. Seriously, I can say without a doubt that it was the hardest thing I've ever done. However, this was also due in large part to the fact that I was hysterically laughing the entire time. Me and Andrea didn't start going up until a lot later than most people. So we were attempting to climb up the monstrous dune as everyone else was frolicking down it. I'd like to tell you we made it all the way to the top ... so I will.
We (sort of) made it all the way to the top.
The view was amazing nonetheless and we could see the Algerian border from where we were.
We had dinner (I'm assuming it was brought in on the camels?) in one of the tents and they had another concert for us, although this time it was outside, in the desert, in an oasis. :D
One of the best parts about the trip was the sky that night. It was full of more stars than I've ever seen. It was straight out of a Disney movie. I think every star in the entire sky visible. It was actually pretty chilly, but we decided to lay outside and just looked up at the sky for awhile. Wow.
I can honestly say that I heard more weird noises sleeping that night than I ever have before. Like a dream, I sort of can't remember what they all were, but I do remember a particular camel who would not shut up. There were also cats meowing and lots of other animal noises that I'm not too sure what the source was.
The sun rises way early in the desert, so by 6:00 it looked like it was 11:00. We got up right away and headed back on the camels back to the hotel. I think the desert was even cooler the next morning because it wasn't as windy, meaning sand wasn't blowing into your face. However, I was still pretty sore from my first round with the camels, so it wasn't exactly the most comfortable ride ever. We made it back to the hotel and started to pack everything up. We then went back on the 4x4 through the desert and got back on the bus. We were making our way back to Fez that day and stopped in Xaluca along the way to have lunch and lay out by the pool, which was beautiful. We spent the rest of the day on the bus and arrived in Fez that night and pretty much passed out for the night.
DAY 5 = FEZ!! Tour of the Medina
The Medina was pretty much indescribable. Medina translates to 'city'. Its kind of like a huge marketplace. Again, it could have been straight out of Aladdin. No cars are allowed in, everything is transported by donkey. Every 2 minutes someone yells at you to get out of the way because a donkey is coming through. None of the streets have names, and they are all extremely narrow and look exactly alike. If I had gone in there without a guide, there's no doubt in my mind I would still be there now.
This is a picture of a hotel that is not only for people, but also for animals. Maybe that gives you a little idea of what the rest of it was like.
We also went to a berber pharmacy where they had oils, spices, herbal medicine type stuff. The part I could have done without was the tannery. The smell was absolutely unreal. Heinous. I wanted to puke. Ok, you get the point. NASTAY!! Here is a picture of place where they dye the leather:
They also took us to the place where the hand-made rugs are done and we got to see the women actually making them. Their hands were moving so fast it was a blur, very impressive. Its pretty hard to do the Medina justice with just pictures and typing about it. I've never been anywhere like it, and I'm so glad I got to go.
The next day we stopped in Assilah, a small beach town before getting on the ferry back to Tarifa. While exploring around the city me and Andrea happened upon a man with a monkey...
YAY! I finally got my picture with a monkey on top of my head. After I had my turn, the monkey decided Andrea's arm was an appropriate place to relieve itself. Hilarious. Well, not so much for Andrea....
After the monkey incident we made it back to Sevilla without incident. To say the least, it was an excellent trip. It was a lot of time on the bus, causing this to happen:
But every minute spent on the bus was without a doubt worth it.
I'm in the home stretch now. Literally. I'll actually be home in exactly a week. I had first exam today and I have two more plus a 7 page paper to write. Andrea's parents are coming this week and we're going to the beach this weekend! I can't wait! Eventually I need to write about how sad I am that I'm leaving, how much I've learned and changed, etc, etc. But I feel I've tourted you enough with this absurdly long entry, so I'll save that for later. I tried to separate by changing up the color of the font!
Whew. Thanks for reading!!! See you soon!