My Life in Morocco

When I come back to America and someone asks me what Morocco looked like, my first response, as cheesy as it sounds, will be “breathtakingly beautiful.” I expected Morocco to be full of sand, palm trees, more sand, and maybe just a bit more sand. I did not expect to see beautiful green valleys, mountains that reached so high they disappeared into the clouds, snow so cold that it froze lakes, and giant sand dunes in the desert that were like waves in the ocean, going on endlessly for miles. I saw all of this in Morocco with my program when we did a week-long excursion to the south. So in order to show you the beauty of Morocco that I saw in just six days, here is a list of what I saw each day.

  1. Volubils

The first day of the excursion our main destination was Fes, which was hours from Rabat. In order to break up the painfully long bus ride, we stopped at several cities and places along the way. My favorite part of that trip was when we went to the ruins of the Ancient Roman city called Volubils. The city had one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen. From one of the old, derelict Roman houses you could see lush, green farm land grazing sheep, rolling hills where they grew grapes and olive (not too different from the view in the Finger Lakes) and giant, towering mountains in the distance. It’s a shame that the Romans didn’t live too long there to enjoy the view since back then they were all suffering from lead poisoning in the water.

  1. Fes

Fes was an absolutely amazing city and so much fun. We had a tour guide take us through the Medina in the city, which was completely different than the Medina in Rabat. My tour guide described how people living in the Medina in Fes “can’t get too fat or else they will get stuck in the streets,” since the alleyways and streets are very narrow and thin. The guide took us to three different places: a pottery and tile work place where we saw people making extravagantly decorated pots and fountains, a textile shop where I got to help weave a carpet, and a tannery place where we saw how people dye and make leather items. One of my favorite parts as we were on the bus leaving Fes and on the way to a city in the high Atlas Mountains called Middelt, was spotting a couple of monkeys playing in the snow.

  1. Sahara Desert

Tuesday we left the snow-covered mountains for the sandy and hot Sahara Desert. Once we finally got to Merzouga, a village in the Sahara, we left the bus to get on land rovers to drive through the sandy dunes to our hotel which was in the middle of the desert. The best part of the day was at five o'clock when we had Amazigh tour guides give us a camel ride through the Sahara Desert. We all got to name our camels, and mine was Carl (don’t ask me why I have no idea the name just came to me), and were led by guides in groups of four to six. My guide was a teenage boy named Mohammed who kept shouting “Africa!” and “Sahara!” as he led myself and three other students on camels through the desert. After about twenty minutes of holding onto Carl for dear life as I was swayed back and forth and as he climbed up and down the sandy dunes, we finally made it to our spot. All of us sat on top of the dunes to watch the sun set and run up and down the dunes. Some of the guides grabbed us by our feet and dragged us down for “sand-sledding” and wrapped their traditional Amazigh (turbans) they were wearing around their heads onto ours. We took many photos together, having fun and laughing despite the language barrier. Riding camels through the Sahara, talking to my enthusiastic young tour guide, and watching the sun set over the Sahara was one of the best days of my life, hands-down.

  1. Ouarzzazat

Wednesday morning all of us woke up at 6 am to trek out into the Sahara and watch the sun rise. Sitting on small blankets and staring at the orange and yellow colored clouds, we waited for the sun to finally rise over the dunes. Watching the top of the sun peak over a dune and rise high into the sky, lighting up the yellow dunes was a surreal experience. The rest of the day was spent on the bus driving to a small city called Ouarzzazat located in the high-atlas mountains. The drive was absolutely beautiful as I watched the sandy Sahara disappear behind me as the bus climbed up the mountains and through the curving roads to rise to the very top of the mountains.

  1. Marrakech

The last destination was Marrakech, where we spent two days able to explore the city all on our own. I ended up not exploring too much of the city besides the Medina and The Square, which is a giant marketplace that is famous in Marrakech. The Square was not as exciting as I thought it was going to be because it was mainly food stalls and a couple of touristy shops. Nonetheless it was very cool to see. On the first day, not too much happened since we arrived to the city in the later afternoon and myself and two other girls got lost trying to find an Italian restaurant that used a voucher the program gave us for food and ended up walking around in circles before realizing that it did not exist. The one positive aspect was a man who was making kebabs outside his restaurant who had tried multiple times to get us to use his (they didn’t take the vouchers, sadly) and felt so bad for us after we walked in front of his café for the sixth time that he gave us all free chicken kebabs and helped us find a taxi back to the hotel. The second day was a lot more fun. Myself and a big group of other students went to the Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) museum and Amazigh Museum in the morning. The YSL has absolutely beautiful dresses that ranged from the 1960's to the 1990's. The Amazigh museum was also very fascinating and showcased items of clothing from different tribes all across Morocco (there are a lot of them) and recorded the history of the Amazigh in Morocco. Overall, Marrakech was absolutely beautiful and fun to see, but the parts I saw were definitely geared particularly for tourists. Especially after living in Rabat for a month, Marrakech did not have the home-y feeling and much more relaxed environment that Rabat has.