After getting back on the ship from Cadiz, Spain on the 8th of September, we only had to wait another 18 hours before arriving in the infamous Casablanca, Morocco at noon on the 9th. I had already pre-booked a trip through Semester at Sea to Marrakech, the tourist capital of Morocco, however, so the first day I stuck around Casablanca and didn’t venture off to far as we left at 8:00 A.M. the next morning for Marrakech.
The first day in Morocco, Nick, Adam, and I got off the ship around 2:00 to go walking around Casablanca. My first impression of Morocco was early days out in the Wild West. It was pretty dirty, a little bit smelly, hot, dry, and it didn’t seem like this country had any traffic laws whatsoever. This was going to be nothing like Spain, after all we were now on the African continent. We immediately made our way down to the third largest mosque in the World: Hassan II Mosque. We snapped some pictures, walked around, but did not take a tour (at least not yet, I took one the last day in Morocco). It was beautiful from the outside though with the tallest minaret in the world (the tower coming up from the mosque). It was right on the ocean, actually with a third being built over the sea as the Muslim faith and their God has some sort of strong connection with the sea. At night, they also have a green laser (green being the color of the Muslim faith) on top of the minaret that points east toward Mecca or the center of the Muslim World in Saudi Arabia where the black rock is located, something that Muhammad made famous I believe. The laser can be seen from miles away; it is so cool! After touring around the mosque, we went back to the ship to have dinner and save a little money and went to bed early as our trips left early the next morning.
On our day off between Spain and Morocco, Stacy and I realized sadly we were on different Morocco trips so while hers was 3 nights to Marrakech and the Sahara Desert, mine was only 2 nights and we didn’t go to the Sahara, only to Marrakech, but we still got to ride camels! Long story short, I was on my own for this trek. We got on a bus at 8:00 A.M. on the 10th of September for a 4 hour ride to the city of Marrakech, further inland from Casablanca. The ride went pretty smooth and I slept most of the way. After arriving in Marrakech we were told to leave all of our belongings on the bus, and to my delight there were 30 or so camels tied together, nose to tail, sitting on the ground. Our trip consisted of 60 kids so 30 of us rode the camels to our lunch destination, and 30 of us took ATV’s and dune buggies on the sandy roads. The camel ride was about a half hour, I got a bunch of pictures, and we arrived at our destination: a local home with blankets on the ground with about 6 tables and 8 students per table. There we were served mint tea and cooked vegetables as an appetizer, chicken couscous (Morocco’s main dinner with rice, chicken, vegetables, with a lemon sauce to turn the rice yellow). Num, Num. Num. And after the couscous came some more mint tea for desert loaded with sugar, but tastey nonetheless. After lunch, they played some traditional Moroccan music with drums, a tambourine like instrument, and a rather different guitar with singing and dancing The two groups of students then switched and we jumped in a dune buggy to whip through the sandy roads of Marrakech back to the tour bus. What an adventure so far in Morocco! Getting back to the tour bus they took us back to a gorgeous hotel called the Imperial Holiday Inn (not the Holiday Inn you’re all thinking of though). I ran downstairs to take a quick swim in the pool, jumped in the shower, and went downstairs for a Moroccan buffet of food in the hotel lobby. Some more couscous, meatballs, some different salads and rice, followed by any kind of desert I could ever want. That first night a few of us took taxis to Pasha, the biggest nightclub in Africa, for a night of dancing and sheesha (or for Americans, Hookah – a flavored tobacco mechanism with hoses for a group of people that they had to use at any table). The night ended pretty early compared to Spain, however, as the bus was leaving for a tour around Marrakech in the morning at 8:00 A.M.
We woke up the next morning, a little tired, but ready to hit the streets. I packed a bag of toilet paper (as most placed don’t have toilet paper), hand sanitizer, and some money. We started the Olive Gardens which were pretty dismal compared to the national gardens I am used to in the United States, then went to an old Palace of Moroccan royalty which was very cool, and lastly before lunch to and indoor market where I picked some postcards. The indoor market had everything from knockoff watches and sunglasses to rugs and gorgeous dining room tables. It was pretty wild. The second day we had a lunch at what seemed like a pretty fancy Moroccan restaurant. Again, the appetizer was mint tea, cooked vegetables, and this time mini egg rolls. For a main course, they served us beef tenderloin brought out in a steamer with vegetables and mushrooms, just like mom used to make at home, and it was DELICIOUS. It was the best meal I have eaten so far on the ship, at the airports, and even better than anything we ate in Spain. After lunch, they took us to a “Farmacia” where we got a presentation of a zillion different oils for anything from acne to stress to aging spots, different herbs and spices for cooking, and I picked up a bag of the mint tea for the ship because it was so good. Mom and Alex, I got a couple packages of Moroccan hot spice that you can mix with water to make salsa or put on your pasta or whatever, but GOOD LUCK. Looking forward to seeing you try it :) ! Finally, we were off to the Medina, the highlight of my day, Marrakech’s infamous outdoor market with snake charmers, pictures with the monkeys, rugs, paintings, t-shirts, instruments, you name it, they got it, but you have to bargain for it! We went back that night to have dinner at the hotel again, and spent the rest of the night up on the hotel’s roof drinking wine and relaxing, a great way to end our adventure in Marrakech.
We left the next morning at 8:00 A.M. (man is this trip full of early mornings!) to head back to Casablanca. We got back and I’m sad to say but for the rest of the day I ate lunch and dinner on the ship and watched a movie with some friends because I was so exhausted.
The next morning I woke up at 9:00 to go take a tour of the Mosque in Casablanca with my new friend Kahlil from Colorado. The mosque cost over a billion dollars to build, a third of which came from the last king of Morocco’s own pocket and the rest coming from donations. The roofs retract on nice days because there is no air conditioning, the floors are heated because Muslims pray on the floor. The floors were marble, the chandeliers were from Italy, and there was even a Turkish Bath in the basement. They pray 5 times a day too! After touring the mosque the two of us went to the public pool. Yuck! We tanned for a few hours and read our textbooks, but stayed out of the pool because the water looked more like the Mississippi than like the pools back at home. We had lunch at McDonalds… Whoops. In Morocco, the McDonalds and the Pizza Huts are on the ocean with big outdoor patios. Inside McDonalds looked like a night club with breakfast bars and pretty modern looking barstools, leather booths, paintings on the walls, and even some techno music playing from the speakers. We both got a “Royale” (BigMac) with cheese and French fries for 51 Dirham (the Moroccan currency), the equivalent of $5. We went back to the ship that night for dinner and then a few of us went to get some wine at a local café for our last night in Morocco.
The next morning was our last day in Morocco so we went to a local hotel to put our pictures up on the internet and tried to Skype our parents which worked out pretty good. All in all, Morocco was pretty crazy and eye opening. It is a very poor country, but it is also much better developed than most of Africa because of how close it is to Europe. Let me know if anyone has any specific questions about my trip, the cultures, anything at all. I love you! Next stop GHANA!!!