This past weekend I travelled to Marrakech, Morocco with four other friends and had an absolutely amazing time. Morocco was totally different from every other place that I have visited this year and it was very interesting to see a completely different way of life.
When I had told people here that I was going to Morocco, I was slightly nervous by the responses that I received, mainly, be extremely careful because I will stick out like a sore thumb among the locals. While I laughed off this response, I was definitely nervous going into the weekend. However, we made sure that we were aware of our surroundings and were very careful.
The moment we arrived in the city center was slightly chaotic. Our taxi driver, who claimed to know how to get to our hostel, dropped us off on a random street and we were forced to figure out where to go on our own. This proved to be quite difficult without a map so we decided to ask a local. A young boy decided that he would direct us to our hostel, asking for money in the end, but eventually we made it there. Once at the hostel, we all felt a lot better and more comfortable because the staff there was very welcoming and helpful. Our hostel offered us free breakfast every morning, one free dinner of homemade couscous on Friday night, and plenty of mint tea that was brewed freshly. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay!
The culture was very interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed just walking around and observing the people there. The city center was filled with souvenir shops, cafes with rooftop terraces looking over the square, orange juice stands (that cost less than 50 cents!), street performers (including snake charmers, not kidding!), and food stands. There were always tons of people walking around. We did our fair share of shopping because there were tons of leather products, pottery, clothing, jewelry, spices, etc. A word of advice, you must know how to bargain if you would like to buy anything there and you must never pay more than half of what the vendors claim to be the “first price”. We were all so surprised by how cheap everything in the city was; therefore we managed to do plenty of shopping!
While in Morocco, we also went to a royal palace, a former school, and a couple of museums in the city. The architecture with the incredible amount of detail was beautiful and it was very similar to what I had seen in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, due to the Muslim influence in southern Spain. We also had the chance to ride camels one afternoon right outside of the city, which was a pretty cool experience. How many people get to say that they rode camels in Africa??
One thing that I will never forget is the wide-range of smells in the city, spanning from delightful to not-so-delightful. Walking through the city in any given moment, the smells would range from sweet pastries that were freshly made, rich spices and herbs, and traditional food, to pollution, animals, such as donkeys and horses that filled the streets, and leather products that were found throughout the city.
Overall, this was a very eye-opening experience because I was able to see a country with a very distinct culture and a different standard of living that I had seen in my travels so far this year. There were definitely some times when I felt uncomfortable because I was not accustomed to the way of life there, but I never felt truly unsafe, and I think that you really learn a lot from these types of experiences. If I hadn’t spent this year abroad, I probably would not have travelled to Morocco, so I am glad that I had the opportunity to do so because it was a very interesting experience. By the end of the weekend, I was ready to get back to León, where I didn’t have to worry about what I ate, drank, and how I dressed, but I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend!
Shannon Cain '13