This past weekend, I was able to travel again and this time my destination was Morocco. Many friends who have studied abroad in Barcelona in the past, as well as some teachers at IES Abroad had recommended traveling to Morocco because it was a different cultural experience and was so beautiful. I decided to take the plunge with some friends and used a company which had scheduled trips that left from cities in Spain to Morocco. I had no idea what to expect when going on the trip, but it was probably one of the best weekend travels that I have had whilst coming here.
The reason why my friends and I decided to use a company was because we were a small group and were worried that we would not be able to navigate on our own. The company helped with meals, hotels, transportation, and tours. I would say that the cons were that there was still a lot of travelling and it was not the most comfortable, because it was on a bus. There was also less freedom and choices since we were travelling with a large group. However, some pros were that the coordinators and tour guides were all really experienced and friendly. The company gave us a lot of information about the culture, customs, and safety so we were able to prepare ourselves, and for just a weekend, we were able to travel to three cities in Morocco as well as visit Gibraltar.
The three cities that we visited were Tangier, Tétouan, and Chefchaouen. While I feel like I may have gotten a different look at the cities as opposed to someone staying for a longer period of time and I spent a lot of time in sites with a lot of people, it was still a different and eye-opening cultural experience. The culture, people, and architecture are so different than any of the typical European cities that I have visited. The first major difference was the fact that the majority of the people in Morocco are Muslim, so especially in the city centers, there were times were loudspeakers would go off to call for a prayer. Some of the clothing was a lot different, and a lot of the spaces were a lot less developed than what many Americans or Europeans may be used to, too. When driving to each destination, there was so much open space not filled by any inhabitants. I felt so small in comparative.
My favorite part of the trip was definitely Chefchaouen, which is also often called the blue city. It is a small city filled only by a couple thousand people, which is crazy because where I’m from, I probably pass a couple thousands of people every day. What is most striking about the city though, is how every building has some shade of blue on it. I was in awe walking through the city and took pictures of every small street and alleyway.
Shopping in all the cities were also very different because most of the stores were store fronts filled with many typical souvenirs as well as leather goods. There is also no set price. Bargaining is a huge thing there to get a good price (which was bad for me because I quickly realized that I was the worst at bargaining). The food is so delicious though I only had a couple true Moroccan meals. The style of the cuisine is very Mediterranean and consists of Couscous, cheese, vegetables, mint tea, and more. I haven’t had a lot of these kinds of food before, but what I had was really refreshing and satisfying after a day filled with walking and sweat.
All in all, I left Morocco with both a feeling of success and unsettledness. I have a way better sense of how big Africa really is, and I know I have to come back and explore again for a longer period of time. It also made me sad to see that friends in my program who missed out on this incredible trip because their parents said it was too dangerous, and to see the bad rep of travelling here from some people, because I had such an amazing time. Travelling anywhere can have its hazards, but they can easily be mitigated by being aware and taking precautions as needed. Morocco is truly a stunning country with lots to offer, and is so different than any other Eurotrip. It may be a small step out of one’s comfort zone, but I think it is well worth the leap. Perhaps getting to know country firsthand may change (for the better) some of preconceived notions one may have.
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<p>Hi! My name is Chirlien and I am a native New Yorker, going to school at the at the University of Rochester. While I am a science student, I also really enjoy writing, photography,and journalism. I am so excited to be studying abroad in Barcelona this fall. Come with me on this journey as I try to learn the ropes of Barcelona's unique culture and people-hopefully I don't get too lost!</p>