Friday, March 26, 2010

To Africa we go!

To procrastinate doing my homework I'm going to write about Africa. This is semi-productive, right?

Maria, Dave, and I went to Morocco for the 2nd part of our spring break. Okay, first of all I've been wanting to go there forever. I was so excited and it was wonderful trip. I am now obsessed with planning future trips in my head to Egypt, South Africa, and part of west Africa to be determined.

We flew into Casablanca at night and took a cab to our adorable hostel (more like a hotel.) The driver tried to cheat us. Mind you, it was only $3 more than he said, but a deal is a deal. I got all up in his face, yelled at him, he got out of the car, complained to the hotel, yelled at me in Arabic, but then left. I WON THE BATTLE. Proud moment.

The next day we went to the Hassan II mosque. Wow, I don't know if I can give it justice. It was so moving to be there. Reminded me why people are religious. We admired all the architecture, took a billion pictures and then went inside for a tour. It was amazing to get a tour, especially because it's one of the few mosques that allows foreigners inside. The inside is ridiculously beautiful. Unfortunately, my pictures didn't do it justice. So much marble. It felt very regal.

After the mosque we went to the colonial section of town which reminded me of the Dominican Republic a little. We went into an abandoned Catholic church that was mentioned in our guide book. All the mosques we saw were very well kept, clean, etc. This church on the other hand...weeds, graffiti, dirty. We went inside and there were no pews, no real alter. I asked the guard "is this church used, is there a priest?" He actually laughed at me. Interesting comparison to all the mosques.

We wandered around the souks before taking the train to Marrakesh where we sat in car with two cute Moroccan couples that offered us an orange. By the way, the three hour train ride cost less than $20!!! We lived like kings in Morocco. Everything was so cheap.

Our raid in Marrakesh was adorable. They put rose petals on our bed! It was in the Medina, very close to the souks. We did a lot in Marrakesh, but I'll try to summarize. We wandered around the beautiful gardens of the Koutobia mosque, spent many hours bargaining in the souks, visited the old palaces, and visited the newer and swankier part of town, ville nouvelle. We also walked through Djemaa al fna square many times. It's filled with juice stands, nut and dried fruit vendors, story tellers, cheap food, and snake charmers. Alright, I loved the square, but I also panicked every time we were there because of the snakes. What happened to be when I was little to make me so afraid of snakes? I almost cried.

In addition, we went to la mamounia, the fanciest hotel in town...they almost didn't let us in because we weren't "chic" enough. It was so beautiful and lavish. Our drinks there were more expensive than most of our dinners!

On our last day we took a day trip to the Ourika valley. It looked like Colorado and Switzerland. Not exactly what I was expecting, but it was breathtakingly beautiful. We saw a Berber house (complete with a cow,) rode camels, and hiked to a waterfall. The hike to the waterfall was probably my favorite part (camels were a little out of place without a desert.) It was a hard hike, not gonna lie. On the way up were little restaurants and souvenir shops. It kept getting steeper, but they were still there. Even at the waterfall there was a restaurant! How they get food up there, I don't know. It was a beautiful hike, as Maria said "it looks like the bible up here." The best part of the hike was when we were halfway there, getting tired, and a little store was blasting "desert rose" by sting. It was so fitting.Everything was in bloom and the air was so fresh, I felt very in tune with nature, ha.

I can't wait to go back to North Africa. It was all so foreign and new, makes me remember why I love to travel so much. Oh, by the way everyone was so nice to us. There are very few street signs in morocco, but everyone we asked for directions was incredibly helpful, some even taking us to our destination. We discovered that the old men in djellabas (traditional hooded robe. Looks a little like a KKK robe, just a little) had the best directions.

Even though many of the sellers in the souks are pushy, once you talk to them they are very nice. When it comes down to it their just trying to make a living. Still, I like to think I got very good at bargaining there.

It really bothered me when I saw westerners dressed inappropriately. It wasn't even that warm out, but many women were wearing shorts and tank tops. I'm sorry, did you forget that Morocco is a Muslim country?! Just be respectful and wear sweater, Jesus (or should I say Mohammad.) Especially around a mosque!

It was a fantastic trip, I was very sad to leave, but hopefully I will be back!

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