Saturday, December 10, 2011

A week hanging with Berbers, Camels, and Donkeys!

This is a pic with all the roomies/ soon to be roommie! From left to right: Kelly (Roomate who is leaving), Shayla, Audrey (new roommate), Raquel, ME!, Alice

These next two pics I loved because it shows off how colorful things are in Morocco, I love being able to capture pictures with so much color and uniqueness!

Made a stop to visit with the wild monkeys...

I Love this picture!

Feeding the Monkey a Peanut...

This is the view from the restaurant that we ate lunch at the first day... Very VERY beautiful view.

Wow! This trip has been crazy! Right now I am on the bus going back to Tangier so that we can take the ferry back to Tarifa. Once we are back in Tarifa we will take our bus back to Sevilla. We probably won’t get back to Sevilla until like 2:30 am! Its gonna be a late night.

This is the route that we went on this trip: I had a little fun with paint art! We took a ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier in Morocco. We then took a bus to Rabat, the Capital of Morocco, then we went to Fes and then we treked all the way down to Erfoud where we took the 4 X 4 Jeeps and Camels into the Sahara Desert.

Highlights of my trip:

1) Camping in the Sahara desert! We took a 40 minute camel ride in order to get to the camp site where we slept. Going into this we didn’t know what to expect but these were literally just tents and mattresses. They provided blankets and pillows but I was sooooo cold. I brought every single warm thing I had brought to Spain and I wore majority of it while I was sleeping. Even with all of the gloves, hats and scarves I was wearing I was still very cold. It surprised me that the Sahara desert got so cold at night, I guess I figured that it was always warmer. While we were camping they had dinner prepared for us and they had some local “Berbers” that were playing drums and live music for us. We sat around a campfire and listened to their music and danced. It was quite an experience. Unfortunately that night I did not get very much sleep because of the coldness and because my roommate Alice got sick at 3 in the morning so I got up to help her. While we were at the campfire, we were able to talk to some of the Berber townies. The man was telling us that in their culture they have arranged marriages.

Once they meet the other person they have 30 mins to decide if they would want to marry them or not. We asked him if he was happy with his life and he said yes because this is the only way he knows how to live. They live a very simple life here without very many luxuries. I will remember these people if I am ever not happy with the way life is going. Another worker we were talking to said that he has his college degree and he was able to speak very good English. He mentioned that even though he is poor and does not have much money, he still thinks life is beautiful. These people have so much joy for life even though they do not have much. Just shows that life should not be measured by the things we have. There are many rich people that have everything they need and are still not happy but this man has nothing and is just happy to be alive. That amazed me. Coming here to Africa has opened up my eyes to how other people in different cultures live and survive. It is like a whole different world.
View from the top of the sand dune, watching the sun rise!

2) My favorite part of the trip was sitting at the top of the sand dune in the desert and watching the sunrise. The worst part of the trip was climbing it haha. That was a tough workout! Even though it was rough it was well worth it. The view was amazing. We were on the tallest sand dune that was near us and we could literally see everything around us. It was weird to not see anyone( besides the people on our trip). We are so used to being surrounded by people so the fact that there was no one around us for miles seemed a bit strange.

3) Once we got to our hotel in Merzouga we had to take a jeep to get to the place where we got onto our camps. The bourgers took us for a little ride through the local city and they also went off roading a bit and went through all the hilly sand areas. They enjoyed themselves while they were whipping us around in the back! It was fun J.

4) Shopping in the Medina of Fez. Today we shopped in the Medina of Fez. This is a big shopping area where they sell everything you can think of. There were a lot of stores that sold fabrics, shoes, jewelry, spices, cosmetics, clothing, scarves, you name it. It was interesting how a lot of the stores only sold one thing. For example : one store was making shoes, sold cotton, leather, cutting wood, bread, those are just a few. It was fun to be able to bargain with them and just look at the different types of things they were selling. All of the streets are small, narrow, full of people ( and donkeys!), the sidewalks are falling apart, lots of mini stairs, and a lot of donkey poo all over the ground. So you constantly had to watch your step. Overall it was a successful shopping day! I bought a new silver ring, some scarves, a belt, and some Christmas gifts for the fam J. I won’t get into too much detail because it is a surprise of course!

Some funny comments that the Americans got while walking through the Medina( These remarks were all from men , if you cant tell):

o “ Hello sweetie, I am your husband!”

o “ I love your hair, are you selling it?”

o “Oh my god, so beautiful!”

o “Mama Mia!”

o “Your eyes, so beautiful”

o “She’s very nice”- obviously poor English

o “ Do you want a Moroccan husband?”

…lots of other comments I cannot remember. All of the men were in awe of the Americans walking through their town, it was a play day for them for sure.

5) The food here has been AMAZING! Better than Spain, although Spain’s food is not that great so it doesn’t mean much. We have been going to really nice restaurants, I have been very impressed. They eat healthy here. Most of my meals have consisted of chicken, vegetables and rice. And for desert they eat fruit. Today for desert we had cut up oranges with bananas on top with cinnamon. It was quite tasty. It is something I can easily make on my own too. I learned today that the cinnamon that we eat in America is not actually cinnamon, it is called Cassia. The United States and Canada sell cassia and south America and Europe sell real Cinnamon. The cinnamon we had here was actual cinnamon and the taste was not as strong. I did notice here that things are a bit more bland. A lot of people have been getting sick on this trip. It started off with the bumpy ferry ride over to Tangier. Everyone was getting sick right from the beginning. Then eating the Moroccan food did not help very much. We had to be very careful when it came to drinking water, fruit, and having ice cubes in things. Luckily I never got too sick. My stomach hurt a little bit here and there but it was nothing bad at all. I am so glad because I was worried that I would get sick!

6) Our hotel in Xaluca was AMAZING!! It was one of the coolest hotels I have ever stayed at. It is a five star hotel and it had a Moroccan theme. When you walk in they had drum and horn players sitting on the roof playing a song welcoming you into the hotel. When you walk in there are people in Moroccan clothes and swords greeting you. Then there were singers and dancers singing Moroccan music. They even had a little man making tea and giving it out to all of the guests! When you went in the back there was a really nice pool area with a swim up bar and waterfall. The first night we were there they had a camel roaming around the hotel, pretty sweet! When we went for dinner there was an amazing spread of all different types of food. They had Morrocan food, Spanish food, they even had Spaghetti! The desert spread was even better than the meal, it was to die for. Below is a picture of what the desert table looked like. Overall, it was fabulous! Later I will post a video of what some of the entertainment was like at the hotel :).

7) As we were coming home we had a set back because there was a protest on the main street that we needed to take. In order to get around the protestors we needed to drive on the land next to the road. As we were getting to the side, the protestors started to come towards our bus and they started to link together and formed a line so that we could not get through. They did not want us to get by them. So we stopped for a few minutes while our Moroccan tour guide got off the bus and shared a few words with them. That was very brave of her because there were about 30 people against her and she wasn’t able to convince them to let us through. After wards I told her that she was very brave and I asked her what she said to them. She said, “ Well, I lied, but I told them that you guys had to catch a flight back to America today” haha. Some people were not happy with us, one guy was flicking us off but in the end, we got past them! ( Sorry mom, that was not meant to make you worried, I am okay!)

8) As we were driving through Tangier about to be dropped off at the Ferry our tour guide told us “ Don’t be surprised if you see little Moroccan kids jump up on the back of the bus because they like to get a free ride into the center of town”. We thought he was kidding and we started laughing. Then a couple minutes later the girls in the back seat said “Oh my god, he wasn’t kidding! There are kids holding onto the back of the bus!”. It was the funniest thing ever. I do not know how they had a good grip on the bus because it was going pretty fast, at least 30-35 MPH. At one point there were 3 or 4 of them holding on… pretty funny!

I only have to work this next week Monday-Thursday and then the week after I work Monday and Tuesday then I am going home!! I can’t believe how soon it is that I will be going home. I am sooooo excited!! When it came down to deciding whether to come home or not it was a hard decision. But really I do not want to be anywhere else but home on Christmas. Even if it means giving up a trip going to Italy, I would rather be home with the people I love on Christmas.

Lesson learned: It’s not about where you are, it’s who you are with. I can live in the coolest place in the world but if I am not with the people I love, I will not be happy. It can go for other situations as well such as going out to a bar. You could be at the coolest bar in town but if you are not with the right crowd then you will not have a good time. Home is where the heart is and that is why I am going home for the Holidays J.

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