I'm just kidding, we didn't rest at all. After 6 consecutive days of Intensive Colloquial Arabic classes (don't worry they are not too intense), lack of sleep from staying up late with the family, and the general mental fatigue of experiencing a new culture in a short period, we (all the students in the program) decided to spend our one day off exploring the Atlas Mountains around the quaint city of Ifrane--because that is so relaxing. No, I am just kidding again, it really was a great and ambitious plan. However, the plan didn't work out exactly. Since five of us chose to sleep in and take a grand taxi later than everyone else, our smaller group had a very different experience--which may have been for the better.
The first challenge of that day was finding a taxi driver who would drive us to Ifrane, which is about an hour away from Meknes. We finally found one, opposite Bab al Mansour, in the crowded square we jokingly nicknamed Times Square of Morocco.
The taxi ride was a very...intimate experience. Hart, Abby, Alex, and I liked each other well enough, but hours cramped together in the back of a taxi brought us to a new comfort level. Yay for friendship! Erica was in the front with the taxi driver, Annas. He was a very pleasant man, who called us his sisters and was happy to talk to us. Little did we know that taxi driver in Moroccan culture also meant tour guide, so we took the scenic route to Ifrane.
Bab al Mansour
Alex, Hart, Abby, and I: Cramped but happy
First Stop: A Frodo Baggins Experience:
Annas brought us to a quaint little house called Le gite ifri. The woman and her baby were nice enough, but we couldn't understand why it was important enough to stop until we saw the Berber cave in her house.
Berber characters and designs
During the hot summer months, the caves are cool enough to sleep in
Stop 2: Al shelal: The waterfall
We were almost to Ifrane, when Annas suddenly turned off the main road and brought us to this gated park in the woods. We saw families picnicking in the shade and men riding costumed horses. At this point, I was confused and impatient because costumed horses are random and I didn’t have any picnic food, so why did we stop...again?. I found my answer.
No caption necessary, except maybe, thanks Annas for showing us this view.
This man tried to persuade us to ride the costumed horses. I refused.
Stop 3: Ifrane!
Alhumdulilah! Waselna! Ifrane is like a little Dutch town in the middle of Morocco. It didn't have much for us to do or buy, but it was cute.
Annas became tired so we left him at a cafe in order to finally do our own thing, which just meant walking around, finding a park bench, and laughing.
The wayyyyy back.
Of course the return trip also had surprises, the highlight of which was the monkeys!
Stop 4: A really tall tree. Before the monkeys.
"Edel" or "اديل" in the Amazigh language, known for its height and stark beauty.
Stop 5: The Monkeys!
Stop 7: Pointless.
Annas had to smoke a cigarette. PSA: Cigarettes destroy your body, and they interfere with other people's time. Don't smoke.
We returned to Meknes before sundown, and walked into the throng of people crowded Meknes Times Square and walked to our homestay with ease. Just a week ago, we had seen this place for the first time and didn’t even want to leave the bus. We have come quite far in our understanding of this culture and confidence in ourselves, but even on our day of rest I learned some important lessons:
Moroccans (THANK YOU ANNAS) are hospitable and generous, with their time, knowledge, and culture.
We don't know as much on taxi etiquette as we thought
What I learned from Abby: Do your own thing, at your own pace, and in your own way; there is no shame to it.
What I learned from Erica: Sit in the front seat of life and speak Arabic fearlessly!
Hang out with people that push you to try new things.
The road less traveled by makes all the difference.
*Marhaban means Welcome, (kind of…). It’s a very versatile word within this culture, which is yet another reason why you should read my guide blog to Moroccan Hospitality coming soon!
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<p>I am Junior studying in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. As a feminist by thought and a hipster at heart, I seek every opportunity to break the barriers, disprove the labels, and blur the lines.</p>