I have realized that there is a significant difference between vacation and travel; vacation often includes traveling, however traveling is not always a vacation. Europe was a vacation, but once we landed in Africa it became an adventure. Being in Morocco finally felt like travel.
Culture shock for me came in the form of the following emotions:
-Ew this is awful take me home.
-*mental self motivation* Be brave. You can do this. Take a deep breath…wait what on earth is that terrible smell?
-Where is my hand sanitizer?
-What is this thing on my plate? Is it breathing? How is this legal?
-Okay. I think I can handle this. I feel adventurous & independent.
-Nope. Take me back to Spain.
-Wow! This is so fun, new, and exciting!!!
-I think today is the day I’m going to die. Tell my parents I loved them.
There is no specific order to which these emotions became me. They arose in alternating patterns and could switch very abruptly. Any given minute may have contained anywhere between one, two, or all of the emotions listed above.
I was a mess, it was great.
This lasted mostly for the first two-three days. It was exhausting and exhilarating. It was traveling. I did eventually overcome the shock and discovered how to embrace a place with absolutely zero familiarity and ended up loving my Moroccan experience.
My time in Morocco was divided between the cities of Casablanca, Fez, and Chechaouen.
Casablanca was mostly industrial and urban. The greatest part of my time there was visiting the Mosque of Hasan II. It is the third largest mosque in the world and it is one of the only ones that you can enter if you aren’t a Muslim. The building is vast and immaculate, even the purification halls and hamom (communal bath) beneath it were exquisite.
On day three, me and my girlfriends boarded a train and embarked on our journey to Fez. At first I was very anxious about traveling in a small group of only females in Morocco, in fact looking back it still probably wasn’t the best decision, but hey we survived and had a wild time!
Fez was…intense. Fez is basically one giant, never ending medina, or market. Tiny, dirty streets packed with garbage and terrible smells and people all yelling forcefully at you to buy their stuff, as if yelling is the way to entice a customer. I think Moroccans have this idea that harassing an innocent person is the best way to make a sale. They are wrong. So our time in Fez was spent weaving throughout the streets, dodging crazy vendors, and keeping a tally of every time that we got called ‘Spice Girls.’
On our second to last day we decided we wanted a break from the hustle of Fez, so we spoke with our hotel owner and asked him his advice for getting to the blue city, Chechaouen. Within a matter of seconds he whipped out his cell phone, called up a buddy, and arranged for us to be driven to and from Chechaouen the next day.
So in the morning we followed him out to our ‘taxi driver,’ whom we still don’t think was a legitimate taxi driver, just one of his friends who had some free time and wanted to earn a few bucks. The car that awaited us was a small white five passenger Mercedes Benz….we had a group of five girls…including the driver himself that makes for six passengers…Chechaouen is a four hour drive up the mountains from Fez…and so the fun began.
For a total of eight and a half hours that day I was squeezed into the backseat of a non-air conditioned car weaving through the deserts and mountains of Africa with one too many passengers. When I wasn’t in the car I was strolling the blue streets of Chechaouen, a magnificent city that felt much separate from Africa. Absolutely everything was blue; the sidewalks, the walls, the doors, the windows. It was magnificent, it made every minute in the sweaty backseat worth it.
So that was my Moroccan adventure. It was nothing like I had expected it would be but I enjoyed it and am grateful for it just the same. In the words of my friend Maddie: “Let’s just say Morocco is Africa.”
At sea for four days then making our final stop in Africa: Dakar, Senegal.