So I took my first of many trips this past weekend, and it happened to be probably one of the most intricate trips of them all since I traveled all the way to a new continent…AFRICA! Morocco is so close to Sevilla, just a 21/2 hour drive and 45 minute ferry ride away, so it’s definitely a trip to not miss out on…no matter how “unsafe” it may seem.
If I had to compare Morocco to any other place I have been I would say its very similar to Israel, specifically the Arab communities in Israel. The terrain is very similar, mountainous, desert areas, and an ocean as well. When I was there I saw all parts of Northern Morocco, so unfortunately I did not get the chance to head south to the desert areas.
I went through a program called Discover Sevilla excursions, they set us up with transportation, touristy activities, lodging, and food. It’s safest to go on an excursion with a group for this trip because traveling around Morocco can definitely be very unsafe. Traveling to Morocco took a long time, we left around 4pm Spain time and got to the hotel at around 10 pm Morocco time (an hour behind Spain). The south of Spain has a lot of mountainous regions that I was unaware about, and its very rural, not much population…I wasn’t expecting that. Same goes for Morocco. I thought it would all be very desert like, but it was actually rather green in most areas we were in. The second the boat pulled into the port in Morocco I got a text from AT&T saying my international plan doesn’t work in the country and I was immediately taken out of the world for the weekend, out of contact with anyone at home or anyone in Spain too.
Once we got to the Kabilha hotel in M’Diq, we had dinner right away. It was my first traditional Moroccan meal. We were first served salad, which really consists of a bunch of different vegetables like tomato, cucumber, egg, beets, carrots, and some other things I’ve never had before with some weird dressing type thing on top. I picked around the vegetables I didn’t like, but overall it was really good because veggies are kinda hard to find in Spain – mostly potatoes only. We then had some type of coucous with chicken and vegetables with a lot of cinnamon tasting spices. It was actually pretty good, I just made sure I knew what I was eating before I put it in my mouth. Below is a picture of the couscous dish:
The hotel did get the best of me that first night. Hotels in weird third-world like countries always give me the heeby-jeebies. I was that way in Costa Rica, at the kibbutzim in Israel, and once again at hotel Kabilha in Morocco. However, you’d be pretty eeked out if you experienced night 1 the same way Leah and I had. The second we entered the hotel room, there was a spider right by the light switch. The boys were rooming directly next to us so we screamed for them to kill the spider. It wasn’t even 5 minutes later when we were screaming for them again because there was a spider in my bed when i took down the nasty top blanket!!!! Then when Leah and I both tried to plug in our phones to charge overnight, it knocked the power out in our rooms. We tried to talk to the people at the front desk, but with the little Spanish they spoke and the nothing of Arabic or whatever weird language they speak in Morocco we spoke, it was no use. Leah and I got into our pj’s (me covered from head to toe in clothes so no part of my body would actually touch the bed), brushed our teeth, and figured our sleeping arrangements out with nothing but the iPhone flashlight app…thank goodness for that! Because our power was out, our heater was down and our room was colder than a refrigerator and I refused to get under the covers. So between the nonstop shivering and the cat cries outside it was a good thing we spent a lot of time driving around different parts of Morocco the next day so I could pass out on the bus.
Due to the grossness I felt in the hotel, I didn’t even mind having to wake up at 7 am to start my full day of being an African tourist. Breakfast in Morocco consists of a million different kinds of bread…so it’s a damn good thing I’m not gluton free. I had a delicious almond croissant every morning to keep me full in case I was skeeved out by the meals that were to follow, so I couldn’t complain. I was able to sleep a few hours on the bus before making it to the first destination of the day: the caves of Hercules. This was the first time I entered a real cave before, it was really cool! Definitely what you would expect a typical cave to look and feel like: dark, gloomy, kinda wet. There was also a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean from the caves. Below are pictures:
After the caves, we went on a short camel ride. This was not the first time I had been on a camel, I rode one when I was in Israel. The only difference between this camel ride and the one in Israel was that these camels were a bit smaller, they had one hump so I had to ride solo. Also, it was a much shorter ride and the camels even ran like horses…it was really a lot more like riding a horse than riding a camel, but still very cool nonetheless. Not tryna knock down the idea of riding a camel.
After these fun activities, we toured the city of Assilah. I’m not quite sure of the significance of the city, but it was a beautiful place. All of the buildings were white with blue doors and a few blue walls every once in a while. Actually, this seemed to be a common theme throughout many of the towns in Morocco…it seemed to be much like Santorini, Greece in that sort of way. Chefchaouen was the same way, but even more so because it was a lot bigger. Here are some examples:
The best part of Assilah, however, was playing soccer with the locals. We got an hour and a half of free time to walk around Assilah, but it was a pretty small town and there weren’t that many great shops (plus we wanted to save all our dirhams (Moroccan money) to bargain with in Chefchaouen. A lot of the children there are running around with soccer balls, so we started a passing circle with one boy passing with the wall. Locals continued to join in and at one point we got a pretty big group of people playing! It was such a cool experience, definitely one I wont ever forget!
The best part of Chefchaouen, aside from the beautiful views and architecture, was bargaining in the markets and stores. I bought a lot of great stuff there that only ended up equally about 30 euro total! I bought a hookah (because how cool is it to say you have a hookah from Morocco), some Moroccan argan oil for my hair, saffron for mom to cook with, some cnadle holders, and a magnet for the family collection obviously. The spice shop, where I bought the saffron and Moroccan argan oil was straight out of Harry Potter. It was a little shop with a bunch of different bowls, jars, and bottles of soap, spices, fragrances, etc. taking over all the walls and even hanging from the ceilings!
Speaking of Harry Potter, the Moroccan men wear interesting outfits that resemble wizards. They wear a cloak like thing that goes almost all the way down to their feet with a pointy hood. From the backside it looks like a KKK hood and is really kinda creepy to get used to people walking around in at first.
Overall, the culture shock of Morocco was crazy. I couldn’t believe that how in many of the towns technology doesn’t even exist like it does in America. It’s as if people live like Americans did back in the early 1900s: with communal water wells and bakeries for cooking, no washers or dryers, small houses, you name it and that is a normal lifestyle for these people. It’s so interesting to think that we live in the same time as these people yet live such different lifestyles.
That just about sums up my weekend trip to Africa. It was a great experience and I am so lucky to have had it. I look forward to my next trip this weekend around Spain…I’ll keep you all posted with my endeavors!
Ciao for now