At last! The moment you all have been waiting for…
On November 1-4, I traveled to Morocco through a program called “Morocco Exchange.” Even though we were only there for four days, I learned so much and enjoyed every second of it, even the squat toilets and lack of hot water. I had missed those. They brought back memories of the good times this summer in Uganda…
We left Wednesday night (Halloween) and returned Sunday. It was nice to go with an organized group, because everything was planned and transportation/hostels/restaurants were all set up for us. This was a nice bonus! The particular organization I traveled with is great because instead of being a typical tourist trip, the purpose of the Morocco Exchange program is to encourage an exchange between Moroccans and Americans in order to share perspectives and learn about what we have in common as well as what can learn from each other. I was very impressed with the four day trip and HIGHLY recommend this organization to anyone looking for a short-time meaningful and educational experience in Morocco. More info on this website: http://moroccoexchange.org/
Day one began with a boat journey across the Mediterranean Sea from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco. In Tangier we visited the women’s center, DARNA, which is a community center that serves as a career training center and adult education school. We ate lunch at the center and the food was amazing. They served us Chicken Tagine, green tea, and pastries. In Morocco, green tea with mint leaves isn’t just a drink. It’s a sign of hospitality, friendship, and tradition. It is not only served at meals but all through the day, which I’m a fan of! Shout out to my Moroccan friend Simo who has lived in Morocco his whole life and says “tea is like a hug in a cup.” I couldn’t agree more.
After lunch at Darna we rode camels on the beach on the way to Asilah! I tried to kiss the camel and he licked my face.
We drove to Asilah, a town on the northwest tip of the Atlantic coast of Morocco. We walked through the Medina (old town) of Asilah, saw a great view of the ocean, and then drove to Rabat.
In Rabat we met with our home stay families and walked through the Medina of Rabat in small groups. The host family I stayed with was great. There was a young girl, about my age, who hung out with us and showed us around. She lived with her parents and brother. Their house was AMAZING and so well decorated. It looked like a palace. The girl’s sister was visiting for the weekend with her adorable kids, about 2 and 5 years old. We ate dinner with our home stay families and settled in. They were very hospitable.
The next day we visited an NGO in Salé, across the river from Rabat. On the way to the NGO we drove through a Shanty Town (a slum settlement of impoverished people). It was pretty disturbing, but important for us to see and open our eyes to the way some people live. The Shanty Towns don’t have proper sanitation or electricity, and there is a large amount of crime.
The NGO we visited is called “Hope For Salé” and was began by five men who wanted to do something for their community. The organization provides classes and tutoring for people living in poverty-stricken areas of the city, and it has been extremely successful. We had open conversations with these men about current events, social issues, and the relationship between Morocco and the US.
We visited the Roman Ruins (Chellah) on the outskirts of Rabat. It is the most ancient human settlement in the area and dates back to 2 BC! The gardens were very beautiful and we even visited a sacred eel pond. At the pond women sell hard boiled eggs to throw into the water which is meant to lure eels out as a good luck sign of fertility for women.
The rest of the weekend was filled with more delicious meals (fresh couscous!), trying on traditional dresses with my Moroccan host sister, exploring the markets of Rabat, bathing in a Hammam (public bath), eating lunch and engaging in a conversation with a family in a rural village, and visiting the tourist city of Chefchaouen where my hands were decorated in beautiful henna!
Overall, it was an incredible weekend. I engaged in SO many fascinating conversations with young Moroccans about politics, religion, the palestinian-israeli conflict, pre-marital sex (it’s forbidden there), homosexuals (they are also technically “forbidden” there), and life in general. I am dying to go back and spend more time in these cities. Morocco is such a beautiful country with an incredibly rich culture and amazing people. I only saw a glimpse!