I don't even know where to start! Our trip to Morocco was absolutely fantastic - worth every penny! I just want to start by saying that I am so thankful that I have this opportunity to travel the world and learn about new cultures. I have not taken one second of this experience for granted and I am making the most out of every opportunity that comes my way. Natalie, Teresa, and I had the time of our lives in Morocco and walked away from the trip with a new outlook on life.
We left late Friday afternoon for Algeciras to board the ferry to Ceuta where would spend the night. We were surprised to find that our group was not comprised of only study abroad students. There were several couples and groups of friends from Spain, Holland, and the United States who were also traveling to Morocco with us.
A little bit of background history, Morocco only gained its independence in 1956. It had previously been controlled by Spain and France. For this reason, many of the people are multilingual. I spoke Spanish the entire trip and had no issues communication. It was interesting to see the influence of the European countries in a region that is so connected to the Islamic faith.
We got to Ceuta late in the evening, had dinner, and went straight to sleep! We woke up the next morning and walked to the beach behind our hotel. I can now say that I have been in the Mediterranean Ocean! Not only that, but I now also have a small collection of sea glass from the Mediterranean coast! Very exciting!
|Here I am in the Mediterranean Ocean!|
We departed the hotel early and left for Tetuan, which was only about 12 km away. This part of Northern Morocco is breathtaking - even in the rain. The Northern Rif Mountains are incredible. Our tour guide led us through the narrow streets of Tetuan. The streets are lined with vendors selling all types of produce, eggs, clothing, and other goods. There were plenty of people out, despite the torrential downpours!
|Typical street in Tetuan|
|Street vendor with fresh produce|
Oh, and this is where we stopped to take a break!! At one time, this was someone's home - but it is currently being used as a restaurant.
After the break, our guide took is to a local chemist/pharmacist. Many of the people in Morocco still believe in holistic treatments. The pharmacy walls where lined with shelves with jar after jar of spices, herbs, flowers, etc. The pharmacist was wonderful and spent a considerable amount of time explaining the use of each item and walked around so we could all smell them.
After, we had a traditional Moroccan lunch. What wonderful food!!!!
Following lunch, we boarded the bus for a short drive to Tangier. On the way we stopped to see the location that divides the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea. This yellow light house is said to be the marker.
We also stopped at The Caves of Hercules. I have to be honest, none of us knew anything about these caves and I had to do a Google search to learn more. To this day, nobody knows who carved out the caves, or why or how, but they are said to be the resting place of Hercules after his 12 Labors. For those who don't know the story of Hercules, the legend goes that after he killed his son in a fit of rage, he was required to complete 12 almost impossible tasks as a punishment. The caves are stunning and we got there at the perfect time. When the tide comes in, the water gushes up through the enormous holes. So cool!
Our final stop was on the side of the road. It was here that we got to ride the camels!!!!
Eventually, we got to the heart of Tangiers and our guide gave us about an hour to walk the streets and shop. I didn't see anything in particular that caught my eye, but the other girls got some good deals after bargaining a bit!
The next morning we woke up VERY early to depart for Chechuan, a city in the heart of the Northern Rif Mountain range. We had a wonderful tour guide who was absolutely hysterical and led us through the beautiful streets of the city. You will notice that most of the houses here are painted blue as the color is said to repel mosquitoes. Along the tour we stopped to see a local bread maker and a shop that makes hand woven rugs. I made a few purchases here, the items were too beautiful to pass up. Before lunch we had about 45 minutes or so to shop some more - everything is set up like a flea market.
Lunch was held in a traditional, very rustic, Moroccan restaurant. Once again, we had AMAZING food!!!
After lunch, we headed back to ferry to depart for Spain. Aside from the history, culture, and wonderful food, one of the highlights of the trip was the opportunity to spend time with some wonderful people. We had lunch with a woman from Mallaga who is a teacher and one of her students, Brian, who was born and raised in Senegal. We also met a wonderful couple who are American citizens but are of Iranian decent. They now live in Los Angeles (with pretty impressive jobs!). The woman had pretty much adopted Teresa as her child the whole trip. They were such wonderful people and we had great conversation. We also spent some time with 3 couples from Jerez. They taught us some Spanish "play on words" and practiced their English a bit with us.
We all walked away from this trip completely changed. People are people, no matter where they are from. It really isn't fair to associate someone with their country of origin. We hate it when people here find out we are American and all they want to talk about is Obama. We have been very careful not to judge others solely on their home country. As people, we all want the same basic things in life.
Now that we are back home, we have most of the week off from school and plan on spending our time at the beach, studying. What a life! On Friday we leave for Granada with Carmen for an API sponsored trip!