Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mi encuentro con Marruecos (My Moroccan Encounter)

Guess what? I just got back from the "Motherland!" (Africa, that is). The girls from GSU and I just spent the last couple of days in Morocco and boy, do I have some stories to tell. Morocco always seemed like such an exotic place, so I was excited to go. After all, classes had not yet begun, so I wanted to take the opportunity to travel as much as I could. I admit, it was a last minute decision and honestly I did not know what to expect.

Our trip started out with a 6-hour bus ride to Madrid. We arrived at the Madrid airport at almost midnight and since we had 6 am flights to Marrakech, we decided to spend the night at the airport. That was a fun night. We were so tired, we were laughing deliriously the entire night. We tried to sleep on the hard and cold airport floor, but after numerous failed attempts, we just decided to sleep on the plane. Once on the plane I was knocked out. I think I woke up to the sight of the beautiful Atlas mountain range that sat over Marrakech. It is one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen.

However, we had a problem. The pilot couldn’t land the plane because of a thick fog that covered the city. We circled in the air for about 45 minutes or more. I was going in and out of sleep, interrupted intermittently by the pilot’s announcements about why he couldn’t land. Finally, he said that we were going to land in a nearby city to solve the fog problem. Ok, apparently the word “nearby” was relative. We landed in Algadir, which is a city on the Atlantic coast and about 155 miles away! Plus, it was not even the closest airport. Sheesh. At first I thought it was hilarious. Probably because I was not expecting what would come next. They then made us get off the plane without any further instructions at all. Somehow I assumed we were going to stay at the airport until the fog cleared and would be subsequently put on another flight to Marrakech. Nothing of the sort. We waited for about 2 hours at the Algadir airport until they put us on a bus that would take us to Marrakech. At first they told us it would take 3 hours to get there, but it ended up taking us about 5. We were originally supposed to arrive in Marrakech at 7am; we didn’t get there until 5 or 6pm. We lost an entire day.

When we finally arrived the bus dropped us off at some random spot from which we took a taxi to the main square, Djamaa El Fna. Man, there were A LOT of people. I was a little overwhelmed. And I guess I didn’t know exactly what to expect so I experienced some serious culture shock. Plus, I think after the rough travels and sleep deprivation my emotions were off kilter. That night we got something to eat and found us a nice hostel. It was pretty nice and the guy at the front desk (Aziz - super nice) gave us a good deal. We stayed practically on the main square, right in the middle of all the action and across the street from a nice park. That night we walked around for a bit and went to get some ice cream. Even at night the plaza was full of life and excitement. Small groups were playing drums, there were kiosks with all kinds of fruits and spices, there were even snake charmers and people with trained monkeys. Before coming I was actually worried about how I should dress since Morocco is a Muslim country and I didn’t want to wear anything that would be offensive. Also, it was just us three females so that first night I was a little on edge. I was actually surprised to see the women dressed in all different ways. Some wore tradition dress, some were covered completely, while others wore regular clothes without any head covering. After noticing that, I felt more at ease.
The next day we decided to explore a little bit of the city. We decided to go to the Bahia Palace. To get there we walked through areas that were not as touristy. I enjoyed it because I got to see how locals really live. The palace was beautiful and very much like many of the alcazares (palaces) that I have already seen in Spain. After coming to Morocco, I could really see how strong the arab architectural influence was (and still is) in Spain.

That next day was our big shopping day. Souks – here I come! The Souks has got to be the greatest place to find good bargains. It's this laberint of local venders where you can buy everything from leather purses to silver jewelry. I collect vases from different countries so I bargained my way to a good price on a beautiful ceramic vase with a cool camel bone design. But if you ever go there, be careful not to get lost because it is seriously a maze. We decided to stay on a straight path and I must say we were quite successful in finding our way back out.

On our final day there we visited the Koutoubia gardens. The Koutoubia is the most important mosque in Marrakech. We had the entire day to chill, so we walked alongside the ancient city walls to the Majorelle Gardens. It was a long walk, but once we saw the gardens it was well worth it. It was breathtaking and a great way to end our trip.

We also spent that last night in the Marrakech airport, since we had an early flight. LOL. It was so cold we had to huddle together to stay warm. And to top it off, when we got back to Madrid, we missed our bus back to Málaga :(

Overall, we had a fun and fantastic trip. Next time I would love to go to the Sahara. Most of our frustration on this trip was associated with the traveling itself. And really, it brought Kelley, Lizette and I closer together. I don't rememeber ever laughing so much in my life. Everywhere we went something funny happened that we still laugh about even after having come back.

Can't wait to share my next adventure.

You can read about all of Teljer's adventures on her blog Teljer in Malaga, as she shares her study abroad experience from Malaga, Spain (and wherever else her travels take her).

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