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Marhaban, Morocco: Our Tri-City Trip to Africa

Of all of the reasons I chose the CEA Granada study abroad experience (the location, academic opportunities, the language, the culture, etc.), the one thing that attracted me to this particular program: the Morocco group excursion.

I know, it sounds crazy. One weekend trip convinced me to join an entire program? Well, yes. It’s an opportunity and trip I knew I couldn’t pass up, because when else in my life would I be able to go to Morocco and experience three different cities? How cool would it be to say that in my life, I went to Morocco? And how incredible would it be to go with a group of like-minded students and friends?

Well, it’s true. It was incredible. It was beautiful. It was inspiring. It was far and away my favorite CEA excursion.

We started our excursion with an early bus ride to Tarifa, then a windy, chilly ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier. Tangier, the first of our three cities, was notable for one delicious reason: cous cous. I’m not exaggerating when I say that a giant plate of cous cous and the women’s center was life changing. Maybe it’s just because I was starving, but that lunch was one of the best of my life. Honestly, I would go back to Morocco just for the food.

After lunch we explored the city and went to this amazing seaside cave. (Where I spent a good 15 minutes just staring at the ocean. I had never seen something so blue.) We then did the most anticipated activity of the whole trip: the camel ride.

In a word, camels are intimidating. They were a LOT bigger than I expected, made strange noises, and moved very quickly around the parking lot we were in, especially when the camel-keeper ran after them. But it made for a good photo op and an even better story.

 Our four big camels. Not pictured: the little baby who liked to nibble on people's hair or jackets.

We stayed the night in Tetouan, a city sprawled in the mountains filled with lots of people, beautiful buildings, and lots of stray cats. After breakfast together in the hotel, we boarded the bus to take a guided tour of Tetouan in the morning, then we were off to what I was really excited for: Chefchouan, or “The Blue City.”

Chefchouan did not disappoint. From our first glimpse of the city, perched on a hill overlooking the city, it didn’t seem that blue. As soon as we trekked down into the city, it was like being underwater. The walls, doors, even some streets were varying shades of blue, immaculately painted, as though someone had just dipped the entire city in buckets of blue paint. I was blown away from the get-go, and I could have spent hours just roaming the bright streets.

 This is what every street in Chefchouan looks like. No joke.

We took a quick tour of the city, then split into groups to have lunch with local students and families in their homes. This, by far, was the best experience of the trip. Our host, Akram, was kind, funny, and welcoming, and taught us the Moroccan way of eating from communal plates with flat bread. I even got to practice my Arabic a little, although the dialect in Morocco is much different than the standard Arabic I learn in class. He was even kind enough to bring us to his aunt’s house to sip on tea and get some beautiful henna from his cousin.

Afterwards, Akram brought us into the main market center for some free exploring/shopping time. Between a mix of English, Spanish, and my broken Arabic, I was able to haggle some good deals in the markets, snagging some material memories from this gorgeous city.

By the end of our free time, we were all dragging our feet the bus, where I’m sure almost all of us fell asleep on the way back to our hotel in Tetouan, where we had dinner together and enjoyed (and danced to) an authentic Andalusi music concert.

 Pre-dancing to the Andalusi music concert. I'm not sure what they were saying, but it was beautiful!

Although our Morocco trip was action-packed, exhausting, and filled with lots of cultural differences and come confusion, it was undoubtedly my favorite CEA excursion and memory of my time abroad. Even from the start, I knew that the Morocco trip would be amazing, and it certainly went beyond my expectations.

Darby Hennessey is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Granada, Spain. She is currently a junior at the University of Mississippi

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