I am writing this blog entry on a bus back from Africa. Yes, that is right- I spent the weekend in Africa! So I guess that means dreams can come true. Ever since the 7th grade, it has always been my dream to go to Africa. Well my real dream is to go to Ghana and volunteer at an orphanage. I made PowerPoints attempting to convince my parents to let me go to Ghana and have spent way too much time and had way too many conversations on this topic – I have even been given the name Ghana Girl who is Gonna Go to Ghana and yet, my parents have not budged. So for now, this weekend in Morocco was as close as I have come to living out my dream. And I was not let down.
With all the chaos happening in the United States and the many questions and reminders in Spain, my friends and I decided there was no better time to get away from everything and run off to Africa! Not a bad idea, right?
Our African adventure began on Thursday night- we loaded the bus with blankets and pillows in hand and got as comfortable as we could be knowing that we were about to drive through the night. The next 11 hours on the bus were not miserable but I wouldn’t say they were pleasant. Finally, we arrived in Tarifa, Spain which is where we boarded a ferry that took us across the Gibraltar Strait. Finally, we arrived in Tangier, Morocco on Friday morning! Can you even believe it? I sure couldn’t. I was in absolute shock for the entirety of the weekend. It felt like I was living in a dream.
Friday was spent in Tangier and due to my lack of quality sleep, it was kind of a blur. We got off the ferry and drove around the town to get situated then checked into our hotel. I haven’t stayed in a hotel in so long so that felt lovely. We stayed at the Atlas Hotel which was located right on the beach and overlooked the Gibraltar Strait. Minus the lingering odd smell that roamed the hallways (just Africa things?), it was pretty nice! We dropped our bags, grabbed a bite to eat and then our adventure began. We drove to the beach where there were camels awaiting our arrival. I was SO excited but also extremely nervous to ride a camel. Of course, I ended up loving it and having the fastest camel of all the camels. I was literally trotting and holding on for dear life. The photos are hilarious. Next we visited Hercules Cave where he was rumored to live during some point in his life. Then we went into the old town and explored the Moroccan markets. We visited an herb shop and got to test and buy some of the products like Moroccan oil and rose water which I was so into. We then visited a weaver and saw how they make scarfs, bags, etc. It was amazing! After this, we were allotted free time to explore Tangier on our own and this marked my first real culture shock and panic attack of abroad. We were walking through the markets and every person that saw us would say something misogynistic or catcall us like “Hey spice girls, do you want to marry me?” or “Do you want to stay in Morocco forever? I can do that for you” because Morocco is still behind and women have no rights. Men were shouting at us left and right and also the venders were desperate. They approach you and start bargaining with you before you can even look up to see what they are selling- so aggressive, pushy and sad that they are that desperate for money. The women were wondering the streets with their heads and bodies completely covered and some with just their eyes showing. I was absolutely overwhelmed. I felt surrounded and couldn’t hear myself thinking because they were all shouting at us and bargaining in my ear nonstop. After this, I decided to stay as low key as possible and never take advantage of free time in Tangier again. I am glad I had this experience because it was eye-opening and nothing like anything I had ever seen before. Morocco felt much more like the Middle East than it did Africa. Something I had never seen before was the outfits the men wore. They were loose dresses made of wool with a pointy hood. Another notable thing that I witnessed in Morocco was the daily 5 times prayer that happened- Call to Prayer. A bell would sound and everyone would stop what they were doing to pray. I had never witnessed this before but found it to be very powerful. The Islamic culture was so very prevalent and slightly frightening.
That night we went to a traditional Moroccan dinner. It was a 4 course meal of traditional foods: vegetable soup with cinnamon, lamb kabobs, couscous with chicken, and then some Moroccan dessert that was like a glazed beignet and mint tea. This wasn’t just dinner- it was dinner with a show! There was a Moroccan band in the restaurant playing traditional music throughout the whole meal. There was a violinist, drummer, tambourine player, and guitarist and they were situated right in front of me which if you know me at all, you know I was loving it and dancing the whole meal cheering them on. It was the perfect end to my day and I went to bed happy, full and exhausted.The next day we went to explore the Blue City which is 2 hours outside of Tangier. This bus ride was actually really enjoyable because Morocco is so green and hilly and beautiful which I did not know before this trip. So I looked out the window and took in all that I could see and then we arrived in the Blue City. The Blue City was maybe one of the most amazing cities I have ever visited. It was so quaint, beautiful and precious. The name truly says it all. Here we wondered and explored the markets and streets all day long. It felt much more comfortable and peaceful than Tangier. I was never afraid but rather in awe. Every corner we turned was more mesmerizing than the last. They were selling flowy pants, paintings of the Blue City, leather purses, tapestries, scarfs, and so much more. It was amazing! We were all posing in front of the beautiful blue doors on every street and the most interesting thing about these doors to me is that they are the doors to someone’s home. How amazing to come home to that every day?! The people here lived simple but happy lives. The women cleaned and cooked and the favorite activity was to go to do laundry because it was in the middle of the town and it was a time for them to gossip and chat with the other women. The men work in the stores and restaurants and the children go to school 6 days a week. The simple beauty of this city was nothing like I have ever seen before.
Today, we woke up, got breakfast and started on our long journey back to Madrid. However, we ran into a dilemma. Our program did not account for the foot race that was happening this morning in Tangier in our travel time. So we ended up having to walk along side of the race with our suitcases from our hotel to the ferry. This was the most hilarious experience. I laughed the whole mile and a half. When we neared the finish line of the race, there were hundreds of people surrounding us honking their horns and cheering. It felt like there was a goodbye parade happening for us, so naturally, being me- I rolled with it! We were shouting “Thank you Morocco! We love you Morocco!” having the time of our lives. It was the most unreal experience. Words cannot describe it.
I had no idea what to expect of Morocco but I can guarantee that I was not expecting anything at all that resembled reality. I was totally shocked by its beauty, its people, its culture and more. Morocco- you blew me away and were everything that I was not expecting.
And now, I am writing after taking an hour ferry ride and about to have finished my 11 hour bus ride. I could not be happier to be returning to Madrid but this was a trip of a lifetime. I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity and cultural experience. One day (soon)- I will be back, Africa!