Morocco Day 1

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 “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins
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Well folks, I’ve made it to and from the 9th country, 3rd continent I’ve been to in my 20 years of life: Morocco, Africa.
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Seriously, the trip of a lifetime!  The quote I chose to start this post hits the nail on the head when it comes to describing my experience.  I thought I knew this before, but I truly understand the meaning of not making assumptions about a place/people before experiencing it yourself.   I went with an intercultural program with a a company called Morocco Exchange.  This was really the only way to “do” Morocco safely and thoroughly.  I didn’t want to just hop down to Tangier, get a picture on a camel (which yes, I did do and it was awesome), and call it a trip to Africa.  Morocco is unique and different from any place I had ever visited, I knew I should interact with natives and learn as much as possible about their culture.  During our 4-day jam-packed trip, we went to 4 cities and one rural village, talked to countless Moroccans, spent two nights with a host family in Rabat, saw some beautiful architecture, learned that people are still people no matter where they are, and I happened to take 1,123 photos of it all.  I decided to break it up into multiple posts categorized by days so as not to overwhelm you or myself.  Here it goes:

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I left Europe early Thursday afternoon and arrived in the Tangier airport only an hour later.  The flight time spent over water was only about 10 minutes.  The proximity of Spain to Africa is unbelievable.

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In the airport, we (which includes myself and 6 other students also studying abroad with Syracuse in Madrid) met our tour guide Jess, a Wales native with a lot of knowledge and a great sense of humor.  We boarded the “magic carpet”, more commonly known as a bus, and were promptly given bottled water and snacks while Jess told us, “Don’t be thirsty. Don’t be hungry. There’s no need to be anything but joyous here.” Well, I’m all for joyousness!

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We started off our explorations in Tangier.  We walked through town to a market, where things got kind of fishy…

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The sliminess of the floor and the marble eyes staring at me from all directions made me feel a little chicken…

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Ok I promise I’ll stop with the awful jokes, but the food pictures are going to keep coming.  Here’s the three-course lunch we ate at the Darma women’s center in Tangier.

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The tea in the above photo is drunk multiple times a day by people all over Morocco. It is homemade mint/herb/green tea with a ton of sugar and is so SO good. I’ve found myself craving it since I’ve been back in Spain.

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We ate lunch with three Moroccan girls and talked about women’s rights and cultural differences.  Morocco is fairly liberal for a Muslim country and women have the same rights as men.

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We took a tour of the center, which offers classes for women in topics such as traditional sewing.

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We walked up to the roof of the building where we could see out over Tangier.  See those mountains in the distance?  That’s Spain!

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We got back on the bus with full stomachs and a small taste of the Moroccan culture that was yet to come our way.

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I shut my eyes for a quick nap and when we made our next stop I didn’t even want to get out of the bus.  That lasted all of 2 seconds because Jess told us she had called “the camel guy” and he just so happened to be in the area!

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I chose this fine steed, named him/her Aladdin, and we took a stroll together on the beach during a sunset.

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So. Perfect.

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Getting up/down is by far the most difficult part of camel riding.  Camels use their hind legs first, then their front legs so if you don’t hold on tight and move your body with the camel, you’re all of a sudden on the sand.  Thankfully, I have a firm enough grip.

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We love camels!

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After fulfilling our African dreams, we went to a small beach town called Asilah.

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I loved the beautiful white washed buildings

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And the fact that they allow artists to paint murals on them.  The above mural is in honor of those that have died trying to cross the Straight of Gibraltar aka the gateway to Europe.

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We left Asilah and drove to Morocco’s capital, Rabat, where we wold spend the next two nights with a host family.  I slept most of the drive, but one noteworthy event was when we got stopped by police along the highway.  One of the lights on the back of the bus was out, but apparently police stops are very common in Morocco.  The government likes to monitor people’s whereabouts.  You can decide whether that is for protection-sake or not.

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We arrived at our home stay in Rabat to a welcoming family and a delicious dinner.

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These meatball type things were so tasty I forgot to take a picture until we had almost finished the dish.

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Mmmm pomegranate. Why can’t it be cheap in plentiful in the U.S. like it is in Morocco and Spain?!

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We went to sleep early to rest up for the next day’s packed schedule. It was a successful first day in Africa!

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