It's incredibly difficult to sum up this one week in a single post, just as it's becoming increasingly frustrating to try to explain the entire experience I'm having here to people who aren't with me (is it strange that the one thing I'm worried about going home is that I'm going to have to talk about it?).
Anyway, I don't have the time to write you a novel and you don't have the time to read one, so just know that this excursion was by far the craziest week of my life. It's absolutely surreal to leave a rainy, chilly city one day and be in the middle of a green forest the next--and then to drive through snow-capped mountains, only to end up in the desert a day later. It was equally exhausting and rejuvenating, as inspiring as it was defeating at times. I think every single person on the trip experienced every human emotion at some point, and due to our limited time in each city, we went from long rides to immediately get off the bus and see as much as you can. Which inevitably wares you out. Even still, I had the best time and I'm so grateful to have seen more of Morocco.
|Our first stop was Fez. Here's the whole MOJ crew in front of the royal palace.|
|The walled-in area is the medina, the oldest part of the city. Fez's medina is massive--and I thought Rabat's was complicated!|
|The narrowest streets in Morocco can be found in the Fez medina.|
|The famous age-old tanneries where leather is dyed.|
|The madrasa (Islamic school) in Fez with incredible ancient architecture.|
|Our guide informed us that the niche in the wall is very important, as it indicates the direction of Mecca so that students knew where to turn for prayer.|
|We visited a weaver--the fabrics and colors were gorgeous!|
|We stopped in the cedar forest on our way to Azrou. It reminded me of Vermont a little!|
|Our land rovers raced on the way to our destination in the Merzouga Desert.|
|WE RODE CAMELS.|
|I named mine "Habibati" (the female form of "my darling/my love" in Arabic. I think it was a she...)|
|PS I bought this awesome coat from a guy named Youssef before I left Rabat. I told him I was going to the desert and he was glad I was buying one since it gets so cold at night. He told me to bring back pictures so I did and now we're good friends!|
|We took turns rolling down the dunes...looks like Badrdine didn't want to get back up!|
|Our campsite in Merzouga|
|The Todgha gorge outside of Tinghir. It was GORGE-ous!|
|Of course, the food was awesome too. This is one of many forms of chicken tagine.|
|The Glaoui Kasbah in Ouerzazate|
|While traveling through the Atlas Mountains we often had to stop for herds of goats!|
|The Majorelle gardens in Marrakech|
|The largest palace in Marrakech|
|We stopped at a women's co-op that produces argan oil and other argan products. It is SUCH hard work!|
|Our last stop was Essaouira. We ended up staying an extra day because nobody wanted to leave this beautiful city (known as a favorite spot of Orson Welles, Jimi Hendrix and various other celebrities).|
|If any of you have been following me on Facebook you'll know that I've been documenting the cats I run into!|
|My friend Ahmed taught me about Tuareg culture. If I ever return to Essaouira I'll have to visit him!|
|The square before the medina in Essaouira|
So that's a glimpse of my first excursion. I could go into a lot more detail but I'm already half an hour past closing time at school. The crazy thing is that Excursion #2 is already coming up--we leave on Sunday for our rural village stay. When we get back it's only one more week of classes, then Excursion 3, then (gasp!) ISJ time. NOT READY.
But I will be...more on that soon!