*This blog post was written when I studied abroad in Granada in 2009. Though it is certainly not up to the quality of the articles I currently write, I didn’t want to lose the humble beginnings of this blog (at the time called European Escapades). Bear this in mind, and check back, as I plan to write more informative posts with photographs about many of the places I visited while studying abroad.*
Wowwie!!! There is so much to say about our trip to Africa, my 3rd continent! Here it goes.
On Thursday October 22 we woke up bright and early to catch the bus at 10:00am. Frank’s roommate Herbie forgot his little bag, and on the way back to the bus he got lost, and we had to leave him. Ohhhh Herbie (He eventually took a train to Gibraltar and caught up with us). Anyways, it was about a 3 hour bus ride to Gibraltar, a British territory on the southern tip of Spain. Our hotel was right outside the border, so after eating our picnic lunches, we walked over to Great Britain to catch our tour bus. We hopped on the bus and Eddie, our tour guide, drove around Gibraltar showing us the sights. Gibraltar is so small that when a plane lands there (which only happens about 3 times per day) they have to shut down a main road because part of it is the runway (like a train track). Anyways, then Eddie drove us up the rock of Gibraltar.
My friend, Frank, and I in front of the Rock of Gibraltar
The other group had to hike up. HAHA SUCKERS. Once we got to the top we got to go into this cave. it was almost exactly like Neptune’s Grotto in Alghero, but not as cool. After we got out of the cave we got to go see the monkeys! They are basically everywhere once you get to the top of the rock, and I took some amazing pictures cause they let you get so close! Unfortunately Heather got bit by a monkey which was scary and hilarious at the same time (sorry heaths.) After we drove back down the mountain Heather and José went to get Heather a shot, and the rest of us went and got Fish n’ Chips, cause I mean, we were in England. It was so bizarre that everything was written in English and all the prices were in pounds. After eating we walked down a street with a bunch of stores, but by like 7 everything was closed so we were bored. Heather got back so we went to get food with her and José because they hadn’t eaten, we taught José what Happy Hour is, and then we walked back to the hotel. Heather and I watched a bit of FlyBoys in spanish (no words are needed to convey James Franco’s hotness anyways) and then we passed out.
Friday morning we got up reallllllllly fucking early (im talking like 6:45 early. There were still stars in the sky). We ate breakfast at the hotel, and then got on our bus to drive over to the waterport (my name for the boat version of an airport). We then met our guide who would be leading us through Morocco, her name was Sarah and she was awesome. We boarded the boat and it didn’t take long for me to feel completely sea sick, so I basically sat in my seat the whole time. After about 2 hours of sitting on the boat, I was 100% ready to get off when we docked in Tanger. The first thing we did was find our bus to put down our bags, and then we went to exchange money from Euros into Dirhams (spelling?). The exchange rate was about 1 euro to 11 dirhams, so all the prices were scary at first, like seeing that a bottle of water cost 20 dirhams. While we were exchanging money, to my dismay I realized that I didn’t have my wallet. I was pretty bummed by this cause my wallet was really cute (it said “This Economy Sucks”) but I only lost about 40 euro, which isn’t a huge tragedy, just pretty annoying. Luckily I have been keeping my cards in a separate location so I was fine to get out money using the ATM, and then I had an excuse to buy a cool moroccan wallet. After exchanging money we got on our microbus (there were 15 of us plus Sarah and our IES leader José) and we drove into Tanger. We made a quick detour to grab a bunch of bottled water and to take a quick walk through a market, and then we continued on until we got to Darna (means “our house”) a women’s center where women can go to learn to sew, weave, read, write, different languages, etc.)
The view of Tanger from the roof of Darna
Then we got to have tea and cookies (moroccan tea is baller) and talk to two young moroccan women about life in morocco, and basically anything we could think of. after tea we headed downstairs for lunch. They served us a delicious couscous with carrots, squash and zucchini (did you know that in arabic zucchini means butt sex?). The lunch was delicious and filling, and after we were done we left Tanger to continue our journey.
Our next destination was Assilah, but on the way we stopped on the side of a random road to ride some camels. It was really awesome, and the camels were really nice and cute. I rode one named Leila.
Me riding Leila!
Once we got to Assilah we took a little tour of the Medina (the old part of town) and got a lovely view of the coast, and of the town itsself. everything is painted blue and white, and Assilah also has an art festival each year where people paint murals on the walls of buildings, and then the next year they paint all of the buildings white again and do it all over. Assilah was really adorable but we only spent about an hour there, used the bathrooms, and continued on.
Finally around 7pm we reached our final destination of Rabat. In Rabat we stayed in homestays, 3 IES students per home. There was a little mix-up/annoyance with the housing situation and I ended up not in the vegetarian homestay. I was okay with that because I preferred being with my friends in a homestay where I was going to feel super awkward, so I sucked it up and decided to fully experience Moroccan culture, even if that meant there was a possibility I would have to eat meat. Unfortunately, it came true and that night we had a delicious salad with pasta and potatoes and….chicken. I sucked it up and ate a little but after 2.5 years of not eating meat, I was a little freaked out and focused on the potato portion of that dish. Thank Allah for communal dishes, because it wasn’t so obvious that I was avoiding the chicken. Our host family was really nice, and the 23 year old daughter spoke english really well which was a relief because I think i know less than 5 words of Arabic…let’s count. Shukran=Thank you, Benin=Good (food), Ana Taliba= I am a Student, La=No, Ma Salama=Good bye, Salam= Peace. Okay so, 6. Not bad. But not nearly enough to have a convo.
Anyways, That night after dinner it was about 10:30 pm, (but 12:30 pm spanish time) so we were exhausteddddd and passed out in our room.
Our Room, my bed is the one on the left
The next day we woke up, had a delicious starch/carb ful Moroccan breakfast, and met at out meeting point. From there we took out little bus to IES Rabat to meet with American students studying there. This is the first semester of that program. We had tea and chatted for a while, and then we went to see the Mosque and Mausoleum. Both were pretty and interesting, but unfortunately I don’t remember many facts about them. Here is what I do remember. The Minaret (tower) of the mosque was supposed to be 80m high, but they ran out of money (i think?) and stopped at 44 meters. The mosque was never completely finished, and a while back an earthquake destroyed most of what remained, except for the minaret. The Mausoleum contains Hassan 5 (?), and 2 other guys related to him. The mausoleum was beautiful, but the best part was the guard that look like Nick Cannon’s identical twin brother.
After the Mausoleum we hopped back in the bus and drove over to the old Roman ruins called Chelluh. Chell yeah! Sorry. The ruins were cool, and there were lots of stork nests. It was hot and really bright out so between the sweating and squinting I didnt really listen to our guide a lot about the ruins. My favorite part was the cats at the fountain. There is this fountain there that is rumored to have some sort of power. So infertile women go there (to this day) and buy an egg from this man who sits next to the pond/fountain. You peel the egg and throw it into the fountain. If one of the eels that lives in there eats the egg, you will be fertile and will have a baby. There is also a little column under the water. If a man throws a coin and it lands on the podium, he will find a beautiful woman. Although this was interesting, I spent my time at the fountain photographing adorable cats, and resisting the urge to touch them because they are probably pretty gross.
But look how CUTE he issss!!!
After we left the ruins we went back to our homestays again. We had a delicious couscous, and I was able to avoid almost all meat products. It was only 2pm, and we had had a busy morning, so we passed out for an hour before we had to go meet with the group again. At around 3:30 we met up with Moroccan students to hang out and talk for 3 hours(!). It ended up being Me, Heater, Frank, Alex and 3 Moroccan guys. ALL of the students were guys…weird. First we walked around the old town (I think it was called the Kasbah?) and then we went shopping in the Medina. There were SOOOO many little shops and it was overwhelming yet awesome. Heather and I actually wanted to buy things and Frank and Alex were looking for futbol jerseys, so it was really awkward having these guys follow us around. Especially when Frank and one of them got into a heavy religious conversation and Frank got a little agitated. After the one guy started hitting on Heather (“you look arabic, you should put on a head scarf and take pictures of yourself”), we decided it was time to dip out early, so I didn’t get to take any pics of the shops…too awkward. We weren’t supposed to leave them until 6:30, but at was 5:30 and we were ready. We made up some lame excuse about wanting to go put out stuff away and some how made it out of there without them.
We met back up with Sarah, got instructions, and ran home to get supplies. We were going to a Hammam, an Arab Bath. Bathing suits and dip cups in hand, all 24 of us girls made our way over to the hammam following our guide. Once we got there, it was awks. Everyone was planning on wearing their bathing suits, but once we actually went into the bathing room where all of the women were half naked and staring at us like we were aliens, many people decided to take off/ pull down their tops to fit in a little better. We took our baths (water in a bucket, using a dip cup, that kind of bath) and once we all dried off and put clothes back on, we walked over to this gorgeoussss house to get henna tattoos. The women did a beautiful job and we all went home and passed out. The next morning it was time to leave Rabat, so we had our breakfast, packed up, and waved goodbye to our host mother. Then we got on the bus to head into the mountains. On our way to the little mountain town, we made a pit stop to buy groceries for lunch and to use the bathroom. This was my first experience with the turkish toilet AKA hole in the ground that you squat over. This place was pretty unsanitary and I wanted to cry, but I sucked it up, and most of the pee went in the hole. After I rinsed off my foot under the bucket faucet, and bucketed some water down the hole, we peaced out. Finally, we arrived in the little town and we hike up to the family’s house. We went to the house of Mohammed and Azizah, and 3 of their 5 kids, Mohammed, Osama, and Anis. SO CUTE. We had a translator with us so we could ask them questions and we had a lovely picnic in the shade of a tree behind their house and we played with the children and had a good time.
Osama making fun of me for taking so many pictures of him 🙂
After a few hours we had to pack up and continue on, so we said our shukrans and ma salamas and left.
After another long bus ride we finally arrived in Chefchaouen. It was beauttiiifulll, by far my favorite place we went on this trip (besides the family in the mountains, they were sooo cute). We had a few hours to explore Chefchaouen before we met for a group dinner in a restaurant, so of course Heather and I took full advantage of this and went shopping. Everything in Morocco was really cheap, which i loved. I think I took out 30 euros worth of dirham (approx 300) and with that i got: 2 pairs of earrings, 6 leather braided bracelets, one metal bangle, a hand woven wall hanging of chefchaoun, a leather bouffant/ seat thing (hard to explain), and a new wallet. I was really happy with my purchases, especially the seat thing because we hardcore bargained with this man and eventually got like 110 dirham knocked of the price (we were buying 3 together). After our shopping extravaganzas, we had dinner at this pretty restaurant (I got a vegetable pastel), sang happy birthday to Andy, and met back at our hostel’s roof to have a cute meeting. We talked about our favorite parts of the trip and about what we’ve learned from the trip and then Sarah gave us all matching bracelets to remember the trip by.
The next morning we took a 7am hike up a mountain to get a gorgeous view of the city. One of the cool things i forgot to mention about Chefchaouen: almost all of the buildings are painted blue! It’s hard to tell in the picture below, but check out my Facebook albums to see more.
Me and Chefchaouen
We departed from Chefchaouen at 8am, drove for a while, caught a ferry back to Spain, and drove back to Granada. Overall, this was an amaaazing trip. I had such a wonderful time, learned a lot about muslim culture and moroccan culture, and saw many beautiful sights. Thanks, Marruecos!