What an experience!
We left bright and early on Friday at 7:45 a.m. We reached the port at Tarifa and boarded the ferry. It was a pretty unpleasant journey up to that point on account of my sea sickness, but I felt a lot better when we arrived in Tangier around 1 p.m. Our program had warned us that Morocco would be a very different country in terms of what we were used to in Spain. They were definitely right. Our guide met us at the port and we went to lunch first at a beautiful restaurant. The decorations were incredible and the food was great! We started off with vegetable soup (sick me very much appreciated this) followed by lamb meatballs, chicken over couscous and vegetables, ending with baklava and mint tea.
After lunch, our guide took us on a short tour of the area before ending the night with a bit of shopping. Growing up and traveling, my mother was always the bargaining champ and I remained quiet in the corner, always mystified by the necessity of the exchanges. In Tangier, the people were very aggressive about selling you something, well anything really. I had to buck up when an attendant approached me about a purse I was admiring. He started off at 45 euro, I walked out of there having payed 20 -- success! We also were able to attend a mini-class on the different remedies and treatments that are made with all-natural ingredients. The shop explained to us the importance of Argan Oil (hair and skin benefits) as well as some others. After a long day of traveling and absorbing a new culture, I was more than happy to arrive at the hotel for the evening.
This trip took place during the heartbreaking November Paris attacks. It was surreal to wake up that morning and read the news about what had happened. There were a few student from our program in Paris, so we contacted them to make sure they were okay and our families just to check in. The whole experience left me counting my blessings and feeling appreciative for my wellbeing while traveling. After a big breakfast of traditional pastries and cheese, we set off on a long bus ride to Chefchaouen. Also known as "The Blue City," the town is full of tight twists and turns that lead to colorful markets. The medina was empty and the long, narrow alleyways offered cool shade out of the hot sunlight. We explored and then ate a lunch of beef tagine (a traditional stew-like dish) before hoping on the bus again to Tétouan. Unfortunately a few people became sick on the bus ride in between the cities so we cut our time in Tétouan short. We did manage to walk through the (very crowded) medina and find our way to a rug shop. While it was interesting to see all the beautiful rugs, no one in the program was in the market for a 700 euro rug to lug back home with them. Everyone was pretty tired by that point so we took the bus back to Tangier and then headed out to a different (much nicer) hotel for dinner. We ate some more tagine and watched a belly-dance performance! It was so much fun and the dancer was in stilettos the whole time which was mind boggling.
I woke up Sunday still feeling a bit sick from my lagging cold and was ready to go home but tried my best to make the most of our last day in Morocco. We took a bus tour around the city of Tangier before climbing up through the wealthy area to a vista point. It was amazing to know that we had encountered both the Mediterranean sea as well as the Atlantic ocean on this trip. Luckily it was a sunny day and the views were amazing. After a while we headed down the coast line a bit and found some camels! We had the option of riding them but I felt a bit bad after watching them get up and down dozens of times to let students ride on their backs mostly for the sake of a photo opportunity.
Afterwards we got back on the bus and headed to the town of Asilah, which is also on the coast. The original gates are still intact there which was interesting to see. The medina itself was fairly empty and clean. It was comprised of white buildings and blue accents. It was incredibly beautiful. We had some free time, so after lunch I walked down to the beach with a few people. It made me a bit homesick for my university back in Santa Barbara, but the realization that I was spending my Sunday afternoon in Africa dipping my toes in the Atlantic ocean made me feel better in an instant. We returned to Tangier and were on the ferry home by 7 p.m.
Our program had warned us that Morocco would be a very different country in terms of what we were used to in Spain. They were definitely right. From the bright colors of the markets and exotic food, to the haggling salesmen and unwelcome comments from passerby, I left Morocco feeling incredibly grateful for all of my experiences I've had so far.