About Me

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I'm just a stressed-out-perfectionist-not-so-average-cupcake-making-graduate-student-from-Kansas trying to find my place in this world.
Current Adventure: Interning for the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C.

Friday, September 17, 2010

6 Days in Morocco

I’m not really sure what I can say about Morocco. I loved it. I hated it. It was an adventure.


On September 9th, the ship ported in Casablanca. The Casablanca port is vastly different than the one in Cadiz. In the Cadiz port, we walked for maybe 1/10 of a mile and then we were in the beautiful old cobbled streets of Cadiz. We felt safe walking there. In Casablanca, we had to walk for almost two miles to get out of the port. There were cars, semi-trucks, and motorbikes everywhere. Really, only a few traffic laws exist in Morocco: 1. go! and 2. don’t get hit! So every time we ventured off of the ship, we were taking our lives into our own hands just trying to get out of the port.


The first day I did not have to deal with the traffic that much, since as soon as we disembarked, I was on a yellow, Moroccan school bus bound for the SOS Children’s Village. Before we got to the orphanage, we made a stop by the only private school in Casablanca: The George Washington Academy. The school obviously catered to the privileged Moroccans, as the parking lot was filled with shiny BMWs, Porsches, and the like. The children were all well behaved, well dressed, and they, apparently, were taught four languages at the school—all of which they had to prove fluent in to pass from junior high into high school. Then, we boarded the bus again to head to the SOS Children’s Village. The disparity between the prep school and the world outside it was stark. We drove past barefoot and dirty children who were chasing after their mothers who carried huge baskets of over ripe fruits and vegetables on their heads, saw little old men sitting in rags on the side of the trash-filled streets, and witnessed men working in their dry, rock-filled fields along side their starving donkeys. It was heartbreaking to see the normal, everyday lives of the Moroccans.



Eventually, we made it to the orphanage; the children were so happy to see us. As soon as I got off the bus a little girl, Aziza, ran up to me, lifted her arms so I’d pick her up, and started kissing my face. She clung to me for the entire day that we were there. Another little boy, Rasheed, smiled at everyone constantly. His home “mom” told us that he was actually sixteen, and he was suffering from a severe liver disorder, which will soon claim his life. He smiled at me, and I did not know what to do, so I just smiled back. One of the couples on the ship donated a One World Football to the group home. The soccer ball is made out of the croc shoe material, and they are virtually indestructible. They even gave one to the tiger at the Johannesburg Zoo in S. Africa, and it still didn’t pop.  No one wanted to leave to go back to the ship that night. Aziza cried as I left, and so did I.


The next morning, I had to leave bright and early for my camel trek. My group took a bus from Casablanca to Marrakech. I thought that the traffic in Casablanca was bad, so I was in for a rude awakening when I got to Marrakech. Traffic was ten times worse. The first place we went was the Old Medina. That was an assault on all of my senses. There were monkeys running around trying to steal your purse for their owners, there were snake charmers and people trying to put a spell on you, there were owners of the little stores pulling you into their stall and trying to force you to buy their goods, there were motorbike plowing their way through the crowds, and there were donkeys and goats running free. It was loud. It was smelly. It was scary. But I survived. It was kind of like the Missouri State Fair—only really, really frightening. Once I got acclimated to the people, everything went a lot smoother. I had to be really assertive, because the store owners would even reach into purses to grab the money they wanted and then they would throw whatever they were trying to sell you at you.


Even so, Moroccans are very friendly; they want to offer you mint tea (which we couldn’t drink because we were not sure that the water had been boiled completely) and talk about America. But then they’d try to offer the guy that we were with (my girl friends and I always had a guy with us), a few camels for each of us. They were usually serious.


That day we ate such good food. For lunch, we ate couscous and for dinner, a lemon chicken tagine. We even got to see a belly dancing show during dinner. Moroccan desserts are amazing. They are always so light and fruity—sometimes the waiters would just bring us orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. So delicious.


The next morning, we set out almost before the sun was up to drive to the nomad camp. We were on the bus for more than 12 hours. Within a few hours we were in the Sahara Desert, and since our bus’s air conditioning did not really work, we were roasting the entire time. It was totally worth it though. We drove through the Atlas Mountains, and I saw the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I saw little Berber villages carved into the side of the mountains, and when the bus passed through the little villages, the children would come running out to meet us. The bus driver said that the children rarely see cars, and that they have probably never even been in one. Before we went to the nomad camp, we drove about an hour out of the way to a place where there were big dunes. The dunes were breathtaking. They look just like they do in the pictures. I climbed all the way to the top of one really big dune, and slid down the other side.


The nomad camp was a very .  . . interesting . . . experience. There were camels everywhere. The Berber nomads were dressed in all white robes and they did a little performance for us of some of their traditional songs and dances. They even made us a really yummy dinner. We all slept outside under the stars, although I moved back inside my tent during the night because I woke up shivering from the cold. I woke up before sunrise so that I could watch the sunrise over the Sahara and the dunes. It was amazing.


By 6:30 that morning, we were all on camels, ready to begin our long trek. When they said that our trek would only be a few hours, I was really disappointed because we had driven so far for this. However, after 20 minutes on that camel, I was done. It was the most uncomfortable thing ever. It is nowhere near like riding a horse. Even today—4 days later—I’m so sore I can barely walk up the stairs. After the camel trek, we cooked lunch with our nomad families, and then we piled back into the bus for our 12-hour trip back to Marrakech. We did not get back until really late, but some of my friends and I went back to the market to see what it was like at night. I did not think that it was possible, but the night market is even busier than during the day! We all ate on this rooftop terrace restaurant, where we could observe the craziness below.


My roommate at the hotel had left the trip early to go stay with some of her other friends in Marrakech, so I had my room all to myself that night. It was nice, but it was also a little lonely. The air conditioning did not work in my hotel room, so it was very, very hot.


The next morning, I went with the same group of friends to the Gardens Marjelle in Marrakech. The garden was actually pretty little and there were very few flowers, but it was shaded, cool, and quiet. If I had to live in Morocco, I think I’d spend all my time there because it is the only place you can get away from all the car horns and people yelling in Arabic. My friend, Erica, and I were parched when we got there so we decided to sit in their café and have some ice cream. It was the most expensive ice cream I’ve ever had ($10), but it was so delicious and we got a free COLD bottle of water. Cold as in some of the water was still frozen. It was totally worth it, especially after four days of drinking warm water that we had brought with us from the ship.


The ride back to Casablanca was uneventful. I was so thankful to see the ship though. Sometimes during that trip, I thought that we’d never make it, that we’d get stuck in the desert and have to travel by camel to Ghana. But we made it, and I got to sleep in my own bed that night.


The last day I spent with Carren in Casablanca. It was actually my favorite day because Casablanca is such a booming metropolis that guys and street vendors really did not bother us. Carren and I just walked around the downtown area. We did some shopping, and then ate lunch. It was the best meal I had in Morocco, hands down. It was a chicken chawarma with an amazing sauce and veggies and french fries with spicy honey mustard and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice that had a hint of rosewater. So delicious. And then Carren and I had ice cream—of course. It was a bad experience though. This random guy started following us and would not leave. He was so obnoxious, and he followed us for a good three blocks before we made eye contact with another guy who pointed to a store. We took it to mean that we should go into the store, which we did, and then the other guy started talking to our stalker so that we could get away. By the time we got away our ice cream had melted all over us and our shopping bags. It was sad.


I did not have the same feelings when we left Morocco as I did when we left Spain. While Morocco was fun, eye-opening, and full of adventures, I was too exhausted to want to stay longer. I’m sure I will go back though, especially to see Aziza and the rest of the children. But for now, I’m off to plan my week in Ghana—only 4 days until my next adventure.


  1. I am so glad you did not get to be exchanged for a camel or two!!!! The market sounded like it would have been too overwhelming for me...I am happy to hear that you survived the experience and I presume you did not get anything stolen from you, since you did not mention it. I hope you have recovered from your camel trek. Being "saddle sore" is no fun. We eagerly await your next post. I have alot of people praying that you get to collect/buy enough pairs of shoes for every little orphan foot! Keep us updated...

  2. Hey Emma,
    Brandon here. Do you think you could send us an update for the Herald?
    I would pick and choose from your blog posts, but I would really rather have you write a short (about 500 words) update with a couple photos we could run in the paper next week.
    Let me know what you think!!

  3. Hi Emma -

    It looks like you and Chester are having a WONDERFUL time! What did it feel like on top of the camel? Did the camel run or walk? Did the camel have bad breath?

    Thank you for posting the picture! We LOVE it!

    Mrs. Howard's Level II class