<Originally posted by Helena Scharf, a CSU student currently studying abroad in Spain. Visit her blog page at http://roundthebendrunner.blogspot.com>
I don’t even know how to begin. This trip cannot be described with any adjectives I’ve been able to think of, except maybe one: incomparable. Wait, here are a few more: out of a dream, priceless.
The ferry ride across the Straight of Gibraltar was fun. I’ve never been on a ferry (that I can remember), and this boat was big and pretty dang fancy. So packed full of people excited to take a vacation in Morocco, or excited to be going home. And it only took about an hour, and all of a sudden I stepped off the boat onto a new continent. We docked in Ceuta, which is a Spanish territory, so we were still technically in Spain, but it dawned on me that I was standing on African ground. AFRICA, you guys! Never in my life did I dream I’d be in Africa at age 19. I never pictured myself riding a camel through the Sahara, sleeping in Berber tents, or exploring the medina of Fes. And experiencing this stuff of dreams with so many marvelous humans.
We got a tour of Fes the next day, including visiting the markets, a Koranic school, the Bou Inania Madrasa (madrasa is Arabic for any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious), and a Moroccan ceramic workshop, all within the medina (the oldest part of the city). We also visited a tanning shop, actually — where they tan the leather hides of animals to make bags, hats, jackets, wallets, etc. This had beautiful views of the city and the tanning “pots.” Everything about the medina was amazing: the guide we had led us through so many tiny, winding streets — I never would have been able to find my own way around that part of the city!
I’m so glad I didn’t bring my wallet into the ceramic shop, because I definitely would have spent unnecessary amounts of money on breakable items… It was fascinating to see the artisans creating the ceramic pots, cooking dishes, and even small tiles for mosaics! Those people are incredibly talented and artistic, and do everything by hand — which most definitely takes a lot of time and effort, as was visible in that beautiful shop.
We arrived for a night’s stay in Erfoud after driving through snow in themountains. We stopped in an alpine town called Ifrane to stretch our legs and play in the snow! We threw snowballs, and made tiny snowmen. This was more than amusing: we were playing in the snow just one day before we would be in the desert. What differences!
Then we went to the hotel where we’d leave on camels to ride into the dunes of the Sahara. Most people went on an optional excursion (I didn’t want to pay for it, naturally), and there were only nine of us who just hung out at the hotel until everybody else got back. Then we mounted the camels. They’re actually called dromedary camels, because they only have one hump. Camel camels have two.
The next day, we visited Asilah on our way from Fes to Ceuta. Have you ever heard of Chefchaouen? It’s known as the “blue city” in Morocco, because of fully-painted blue streets. We didn’t go to Chefchaouen, but Asilah also had some stunning blues and greens. I couldn’t stop myself from taking a photo of nearly every door. But I only saved the ones I truly fell in love with 😉