Bright (actually dark) and early at 7:15am on Friday morning, a group of about thirty of us all loaded onto a bus and began our trek to Africa. One ferry ride and two bus rides later, I found myself in Tétuoan, Morocco where we met our tour guide for the next two days, Abdul, who also went by George [Clooney] because of his self-proclaimed stark resemblance to the celebrity. Upon arriving to the city, Abdul gave us a tour around the bus and then off the bus where we walked through a local school. Here, boys and girls who were maybe not the best students at a traditional school came here to learn a craft—be it embroidery for girls or wood carving for boys.
After checking out the school, we went to lunch to meet up with Moroccan college students, which was such a great experience because we were separated into smaller groups of six or so and paired with two students per group. This gave us more time and personal interaction with the Moroccans. We ate traditional Moroccan soup, lamb kebabs, and couscous, all of which were so delicious and flavorful.
If just walking around the city and talking to these students weren’t already a culture shock, so was eating the food since my group and I ate it “wrong.” To eat the kebabs, we thought it would appear nicer if we took our meat off the kebab stick before eating it. Then, when the huge bowl of couscous appeared on our table, we used the serving spoons to scoop the food onto our plates before eating it—typical thing to do when serving oneself. However, the two Moroccan students at our table began to laugh. “You’re supposed to eat it from the bowl!” the girl said smiling. Shrugging our shoulders, we all dug in to the bowl. It felt almost more homey or comfortable eating from the same bowl.
After lunch, taking pictures, and exchanging phone numbers with our new friends, Abdul led us to the city’s Medina, or downtown, where we got some free time to shop around. Tétuoan produces authentic leather products, though the smell is very intense. I typically love the smell of fresh leather—like couches—but I was not prepared for the wave of animal smell that blasted me when I walked into the leather production area. On the other hand, the quality of these leather goods was unreal. They were so soft, and the best part was that I could haggle prices down! So naturally, I got some souvenir leather products as gifts.
By 10pm we were all exhausted, hungry, and ready to rest for another busy day on Saturday.
On Saturday, we bussed to Tangier, another major city in Northern Morocco. There, we rode camels, got a bus tour, and visited its Medina to shop around. I have officially decided after this trip that haggling is my favorite thing to do, and I was able to score a sterling silver bracelet, cool canteen, and two handmade pillowcases for a decent price!
However, Sunday was absolutely amazing because we got to visit Chefchaouen, a gorgeous city that is painted 50 shades of blue. While we had to say good-bye to Abdul, we got a new tour guide who took us around the city and gave us free time to shop and take pictures afterwards—an opportune time to find ourselves an Insta-worthy picture (priorities).
Everyone we met on this trip was incredibly welcoming, friendly, and completely blew my expectations! I would recommend Morocco to anyone who has the opportunity to go. Like any other city, precautions should be taken and always be aware of your surroundings, but other than that, go in with an open mind and you will surprise yourself with what you get out of it.
Cynthia Hara is the Fall 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Seville, Spain. She is currently a junior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
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