I shifted around in my now-uncomfortable bus seat that I’d been sitting in for the past three hours and looked out the window through the sheets of rain with squinted eyes trying to spot one person. Suddenly I saw him: our guide running to the bus with an umbrella in one hand and a stack of our American passports in the other. The bus lurched to a start and we finally crossed over from Spain into Morocco.
I had spontaneously decided to piggyback off of my friends’ plans and join them on a trip to Morocco, and, although I was nervous to leave the comfort of EU traveling and had a rough start to the trip, I’ll be forever grateful that I made this adventure.
Our guide for the weekend Mohammed was a native of the country, spoke great English and was very experienced in leading tours through the northern parts of Morocco. If I had just seen the places and people of Morocco without hearing Mohammed's commentary, I wouldn't have gotten a full understanding of this country.
Our first stop was the port city of Tangier, where a lighthouse separates the Mediterranean from the Atlantic. The city itself looked like any other modern European city, with skyscrapers, cafes and traffic jams; however, moving into the outskirts of the city I could see the residential areas that revealed something different about Morocco: there is virtually no middle class. As our guide said, there is the "California part" of the city with old palaces and modern mansions with yard workers pruning the trees and sweeping the leaves. And then there are the old, boxy buildings stacked on top of each other with tarps stretching from rooftop to rooftop to form bustling markets in narrow streets. The inequality between the two classes astounded me, especially because they all live in such close proximity.
After riding camels on the beaches of Tangier, we drove for hours up into the mountains to reach the rural town of Chefchaouen, also know as “the blue city”. After eating a lunch of cous cous, I wandered through the streets oohing and aahing at the different shades of my favorite color. The blues are made with limestone paste and indigo dye, and the city is repainted three times a year. Men and women ran out of their shops to sell me spices, soaps, oils, lotions, sandals or jewelry as I walked by. Every time we passed by an electricity box with its intertwining wires spidering out across the buildings, Mohammed pointed it out. Electricity and purified water were still considered luxuries in this rural town.
Our final destination was Tetuan, which boasts Andalucian and Islamic architecture as well as a huge web of markets. The streets were lined with pharmacies selling Argon and aromatherapy oils; Berber women sitting among their goat milk, fruits and vegetables; rows of hanging animal furs and random trinkets in boxes including mismatched shoes and kitchen appliances. To retrace your steps out of the central market area, you must remember what items you saw being sold, because street names do not exist in these makeshift markets.
As we were making our way back into Spain, teenage boys raced alongside our bus with determined furrowed brows, some even crawling underneath it, in attempt to cross over the border with us. An hour later, after Mohammed had moved aside cones and barriers himself, with familiarity, we were back in the Spanish region of Ceuta at the tip of Africa. And as we ferried over the Mediterannean back to mainland Spain, I looked out the window to see Morocco over the rolling blue waves, grateful for the new perspectives I had gained, grateful for one more lens to look at the world through.
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<p>I'm excited to meet local people who have lived in Barcelona their whole lives who can tell me all about it- the history, culture, food, architecture, and the best places to visit. I'm also excited to meet the other students in the program and make lasting friendships. And I LOVE adventures, and can't wait to travel around Spain and to other countries as well.</p>