Well it seems as though my Moroccan adventures may be close to coming to an end, (knock on wood). I have finished my antibiotics and have been able to eat at normal meal times with only minimal pain and troubles. So that is what I would call an accomplishment. It feels so good to finally eat real food again, but has been crazy how long this has gone on. It has been 2.5 weeks since I returned from Morocco and am still feeling the effects of the "Moroccan hangover." I have to say time has flown by quite quickly, I spent probably a solid week laying in bed, and this past week my sister and boyfriend came to visit (save) me. Even though these troubles have really tested my strength and have made me extremely homesick, I would not change my experience in Morocco for anything. Maybe I would try to not eat any food, but I think this whole experience has taught me a lot and I really enjoyed my experiences in Morocco. To be honest, there were many things that made me feel at home in Morocco, which is something I would have never expected.
We spent a lot of time on a bus, and I mean a lot. I think in total, it was about four days of our trip sitting in a bus. I really didn't mind the bus rides though, I got plenty of sleep, did some journaling, and I really enjoyed watching the landscape as we went through Morocco. I think that riding for so long gives you a really unique look at parts of a country that normal travelers may not get to have. I love wide open spaces. The empty fields were a welcomed sight for it has been a while since I have seen somewhere so flat and empty.
The Medina of Fes:
What an experience this place was. It is hard to put into few words what the entire experience included. From the confusing, winding, narrow, a bit dirty & smelly, streets to the overwhelming, frustrating, did I mention overwhelming?, business tactics, to the numerous animals, interesting people, and beautiful sights, it was an overload for all senses I would say. I hardly know where to start or how to describe it. Pictures say it best, but you will never be able to fully understand it unless you go experience it for yourself.
Well, I can try to deny it, but there is no sense in avoiding the cold hard truth, I got worked over by the Moroccan salesmen and bought a rug, or two. I am not proud of this, but let me tell ya, I am not even really sure what happened. This beautiful rug shop was huge and the first stop on our tour. I was pulled into a room with a friend who bought several rugs and left, and sat alone sipping on this "mint tea," which I have concluded may be the source of my stomach pains and hallucinations while purchasing anything in Morocco. Anyways, they showed many beautiful rugs, I smiled and nodded, oh sure they were pretty, but kept insisting, "No, I can't afford it," "No, I don't want any," "No thank you," "No," "No," "No," "No." I guess they weren't getting the message. All alone, surrounded by four insisting salesmen, speaking very fast and very aggressively, I guess I didn't see any other way out, and gave in. Needless to say, I'm not made for this kind of sales or bargaining. So I left, feeling quite sick, overwhelmed a bit, and really wanting to cry. I wasn't really sure what just happened. But anyways, I now have two lovely Moroccan rugs, even though I don't really remember what they look like. I'm in for a surprise when I get home I guess. But, if anyone is reading this and planning on going shopping in Morocco, don't drink the tea, don't go alone, and just don't say anything. They don't take no for an answer, you just have to leave. Lessons learned.
Our tour also included a tannery to see how Moroccan leather is made. Just be glad this picture does not include Smell-o-vision, whew, it is something unique. The leathers are made all natural though, no chemicals included, just the natural mixtures and some pigeon poop helps as well.
Next we went to a spice shop, or pharmacy I think someone referred to it as. They had spices, lipsticks, oils, balms, whatever you could think of. I was not in the best mood after the rug store and was getting really tired of people always in my face trying to sell me stuff. It was cool, but I didn't buy anything.
We also went to a beautiful dress and scarf shop. These places are huge by the way, like four or five stories of different things to look at. I was able to try one of these dresses on, probably because they thought I was going to buy it. They will do anything they can to get you to buy it. Luckily, my other friend was interested in the purchase and I was able to slip mine off and disappear before the sales pitch started.
My favorite part of the Medina were the cats and donkeys in the streets. I really wanted to feed them, but didn't have anything to give them. So cute, I'd love to keep one.
We left the Medina to visit a ceramic shop outside of the city and stopped at some different places for views of Fes. I got in trouble taking this picture because you shouldn't stand so close to the edge. Apparently what I am standing on is a cliff made merely of piled up trash and can collapse if you're not careful. Don't worry I am fine, and didn't know of this until after this picture was snapped. But it did make me realize that there is a lot of trash everywhere we went. They don't really have one designated place to put it, so it is literally everywhere.
My favorite things in Morocco, cats and kids.
The ceramic place was impressive, as have all ceramic places I have visited overseas have been. A man spun a vase in less than two minutes, spinning the wheel with his foot, and flawless shaping and design. Several other men painted intricate designs on plates, while others cut small tiles piece by piece for another to place them piece by piece onto a bigger design that would turn into a fountain. The amount of time and work is incredible. However, my favorite part was watching the game of soccer being played by several guys in front of the ceramic shop. It was a very intense game.
They got a little upset if the other one made a bad call. Also, some of them had the biggest calves I have ever seen, probably from all of the walking and soccer they do. It was impressive. There were some younger boys playing a game on the side as well. I love all of the little boys we saw because they were so friendly. One of them kicked the soccer ball over to me and insisted that I kick it back. I'm not very good at soccer but gave it my best effort. His thumbs up, nod, and sweet smile insured me that I didn't do too bad.
That night we went to a traditional music and dance show. It included some great entertaining dancing, some very loud drumming music, and one guy was playing an instrument that looked like a pair of scissors. I'll be honest it was quite loud and gave me a headache, but that also could have been the hat that I had to spin on my head from an old dancing man insisting that many of us try on his hat.
|Always a donkey somewhere, waiting to have his picture taken I'm sure.|
We spent the next day on the bus, headed to Erfoud to get to the desert for the night. We made several stops along the way, three buses full of students with no bathrooms makes for some interesting travel conditions. They encouraged us to find the nearest bush or tree to make a restroom out of. I know some people weren't thrilled about the option, but growing up on a farm, it felt like I was back at home. It's not every day you can say that you have personally "watered the trees" in the middle of Morocco.
We also happened along this huge canyon that was full of lush green trees. It looked like it was an oasis in the middle of a dry desert land. We took the bus down and had lunch in the town in the oasis. It was a beautiful view and a great lunch.
After lunch we finally made it to Erfoud around 6pm and were ready to get in to the 4x4 jeeps to ride to the desert. The closer we got to the desert, the more and more I was reminded of home. This seems pretty strange yes, but it is true. We hopped into the jeeps and everyone else was so excited that we were hitting bumps and going off roading! I was a little less amused though. We weren't even going that fast and it wasn't too bumpy. I wondered why everyone else found this so exciting, then I realized they probably don't often go chasing cows in the pickup with their dad through the rough pasture or speeding through corn fields after a coyote. So even though the ride through the desert was mild, I was reminded of all the great times at home I have spent speeding in a pickup after an antelope or something else like that. Also, we stopped in part of the desert with several other jeeps to look at the stars. It was so good to see the sky again, but I was shocked to hear some students say they had never seen a shooting star or remark that "We don't have stars like this back home." It made me a little sad to realize that most people live in such busy places that they don't get to experience something so beautiful. The stars in Morocco were the first I have seen in a while and they reminded me of the wide open sky I see from my house in Eastern Colorado. I have spent so many nights watching meteor showers or laying under the stars just gazing. Don't get me wrong the stars in the Moroccan desert were great, but I have to say, they have nothing on the stars in Eastern Colorado.
And so, I felt a little bit at home when I settled in to my small mattress in our huge haimas (tents). I love being outdoors and going camping, and even though it doesn't usually involve this much sand, I was really happy and having a lot of fun.
We woke up early the next morning to see the sunrise in the desert. It was gorgeous and something I will always cherish. I kept having to remind myself that I was really in the Sahara Desert, that this was really real life. I never imagined I would be able to have an experience like this in my life.
After a nap and breakfast, I prepared myself for what I had been waiting the entire trip to get to do. Really the entire reason I had decided I wanted to come to Morocco and have this experience...RIDE A CAMEL! It was so exciting and so fun!! I decided to name my camel Henry, he was a very well behaved camel and took good care of me. It was a pretty bumpy ride, but it was so much fun. Best part of the trip, hands down!
|Hugging a camel is much more difficult than you may think!|
|Kisses for Henry. Best camel ever!|
After the camel ride we cooled off with some water and drinks in a town nearby. We visited another rug store, this one had rugs weaved by the many Nomads and Berbers, the people of the desert. They were beautiful as well, but most people were all out of money. We quickly learned that the 600 dirhams, which is about 60 euros, they recommended us to bring, was not even close to enough.
We spent the rest of the day trying to stay cool in the camp waiting for dinner. I met some great new people and had a wonderful day. I even got some henna, which was pretty fun.
I bought this straw camel from a young boy for a few dirhams, because the kids are just too cute to say no to. I decided to take some pictures of the camel and his adventures too. Naturally here he is walking through the desert by our tent.
At dinner I made another friend, this one I was able to feed some meat to, so maybe that's why he was so fond of me. But after dinner, we had a small dance party to the music played on the drums by the band. I managed to join in on the drums for a little bit. However, I grew tired of the loud music and ventured out into the desert to watch the stars. Since I couldn't convince any of my friends to come with me, I ended up practicing my Spanish with a Berber who told me about his life and culture. It was a great learning experience and I realized we weren't so different. He told me he loved the way of life in the desert, a slower and more peaceful life, with family at the heart of the importance, and hard work necessary for survival. It sounded a lot like home to me.
I was sad to say goodbye to the desert the next day. I was looking forward to a shower and clean bathroom facilities, but not ready to let go of the peaceful feeling the desert had left me. The only thing I wish is that I would've been able to bring all of my loved ones with me so that they could see the sunrise, the beauty of the life here, and share with them my experiences, a camel for everyone! On our way out, I was reminded of home once again, when we had to stop and let a group of sheep cross the road, well at home it is cows, but same difference ;)
I was glad to make it to the hotel that night because I started to feel sick from some of the food we had eaten. We stayed in Meknes and were encouraged to go explore the more modern city, but I was not feeling up to it. Instead I rested and tried to recover from my beginning intestinal troubles. After another day on the bus, a ferry ride to cross the Gibraltar Strait, and more bus ride, we finally arrived back in Sevilla, very tired, very wore out, and very full of memories we would not soon forget. Sadly, I have been very brief in this blog and could never possibly share all of the details that Morocco left me with. It was an incredible trip and one I will not soon forget. It made me miss home very much, and appreciate home even more. I am so blessed I was able to have this experience and hope that I never forget all that I have learned. I am so thankful for such an opportunity!