The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round…

Yet another week in Morocco has passed. In the last four weeks our program has traveled to many of the major cities in the north and south, as well as to the Sahara Desert and to a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains. Even though I barely do any real exercise, I can’t remember the last time I was so tired. I haven’t been home for an entire weekend in six weeks, but I have a spectacular array of photos from a variety of locations across the country.

Between our stay in the Berber village and our excursion to the north of Morocco this past weekend, we had five days at home in the medina of Rabat. Sunday through Wednesday was spent resting and catching up on emails and homework that I wasn’t able to do in the village. I wrote my midterm paper for my thematic seminar class, worked on developing my ISP topic and decided where I will be living next semester back in Tacoma. Having accomplished most of the tasks on my To Do list by the end of Wednesday, I went out to a late lunch/early dinner with my friends at a Syrian restaurant nearby. I ate an entire plate of hummus with pita bread, a bowl of falafel, and namoura (semolina flour-cake coated in rose water syrup). When I first got to Morocco I was surprised that people here don’t eat hummus (chickpeas are actually called hummus in Arabic), and it was a pleasant treat to be able to order it in a restaurant.




Namoura (also called Basbousa)

On Friday we had Arabic class in the morning before leaving for our Northern Excursion in the afternoon. It was obvious that most of us had minimal motivation to actually have a linguistics lesson, because as soon as the class grew restless after we finished giving our presentations on Ashura, our professor sent us out to the streets of the medina to pick us some snacks. We gladly spilled out of the classroom and laughed as we breathed fresh morning air on our short stroll around the souq. Stopping at a fakia hanoot (a small shop that sells a variety of dried fruits and nuts), we bought dates, dried apricots and almonds and returned to our classroom to have a small party for Ashura. During our celebration, we played Hot Seat in Arabic. Thankfully, I was asked fairly neutral questions, mostly about my summer job and what I miss about America, and was not interrogated about my love life in another language, as some were.

After picking up my bags for the weekend from home and eating a quick lunch of couscous and fruit at school, all the students piled on to the bus and settled in for a long afternoon on the road. During the five hours of driving we read, napped, listened to music, and played dozens of rounds of ’20 Questions’. Our first stop on our short journey was M’Diq, about five hours north of Rabat on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco. By the time we arrived it was getting dark, and while my friends went to put their feet in the sea, I opted to take a shower and relax. Though the temperature of water never rose about lukewarm, it was refreshing to feel clean. A little over an hour later we sat down to dinner in our hotel. The restaurant served fantastic olives and bread for an appetizer, which tempered our hunger while our food was being cooked. Over an hour later, everyone was either impatiently squirming in their seats or falling asleep in their soup as we anticipated being served our entrees. Though I am thoroughly convinced that no pizza should have corn, green beans and carrots on it, it still tasted fairly decent because I was very hungry.


Passing by the hills of Tetouan.

The next morning was woke up very early and had breakfast at the cafe in our hotel. I ordered a coffee and was pleased when it was made fresh in a fancy espresso machine and was incredibly strong. After gorging ourselves on msemen bread and cheese triangles (everyone should try this), we hopped back on the bus to drive just a few miles to the border of Ceuta, one of two Spanish enclaves in Morocco. We completed our immigration forms and passed them, along with our passports, to our academic director who was tasked with giving all of them to the customs agents while we sat on the sidewalk and waited for them to be processed. Close to an hour later, equipped with a new stamp in our visa pages, we passed quickly over the border into Ceuta and were officially in Spain. We had a quick bus tour during which we visited the farthest northeast part of the enclave’s peninsula and took pictures of the Strait of Gibraltar and the southern coastline of mainland Spain.


Taken right after passing over the border in Ceuta, Spain.


Looking at the city of M’Diq, Morocco from Ceuta, Spain.


The view of the Strait of Gibraltar from the hills of Ceuta.


The Ceuta peninsula on the left and the Strait of Gibraltar on the right.



A temple dedicated to a saint on op of the tallest hill in Ceuta.

After our tour we were given a few free hours in the city. My friends and I had lunch and drinks at a tapas bar before spending some time shopping. I bought a few shirts and a new sweater at a Spanish clothing store before picking some artisan chocolate from Madrid. On the way out of Ceuta we repeated the border crossing process and were issued new Moroccan tourist visas.


The palm lined sidewalks of Spain.


My friend Helen outside some sort of an important building in Central Ceuta.


Salmon smothered in the Spanish equivalent of BBQ sauce.


Cinnamon amaretto shots and raspberry cream puffs for dessert at a tapas bar in Ceuta.


These were sooo delicious!

Once we left the Spanish enclave we got back on our tour bus and drove to Chefchaouen, arriving around six. We were given about an hour of free time before dinner, during which my friends and I did a brief preliminary exploration of the medina in preparation for the next morning. Dinner at a local restaurant was, thankfully, significantly shorter than the night before. The best part of the meal was indubitably the olive oil and bread before the entree and the fruit salad for dessert. After dinner my friends and I cuddled up in warm blankets and watched The Arab Voice before going to sleep.

On the road to Chefchaouen. 

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A brief exploration of Chefchauen before dinner. 

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The next morning I woke up early and watched the sunrise over the mountains before going downstairs to have breakfast in the hotel lobby. All of the food was fantastic, and we all enjoyed the bottomless buffet before departing to go exploring. My friends and I spent our three hours of free time wandering around the medina, taking pictures and shopping. Owing to the early hour, only a few of the shops were actually open, which did not hamper our ability to search for souvenirs, and in fact made for a pleasantly quiet morning in the beautiful blue streets.  I purchased a large blue tapestry, as well as many soaps and lotions. At some point my friend Helen and I split off from the group and we continued up and hill until we arrived at the highest point in the medina. We stopped to cool down and admire the hills before carefully made our way down the steep, winding streets back to our hotel. All of us grabbed a cookie on the way out of the lobby in preparation for yet another long bus ride to our next, and final, destination.

The fairy tale streets of Chefchauoen. 

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My friends and I enjoyed posing in archways around the medina. 

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The winners of the “Coolest Door Contest”. 

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For as beautiful as this writing is, it actually just informs people not to throw trash on the streets.


The magical soap shop, which sold soaps and lotions made with argon oil, incense and spices.


Ellen made a new friend.

My favorite alley in the medina. 

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A Helen-sized door!


In case it wasn’t obvious, Chefchauoen is built into a mountain.


The view from behind the Kasbah wall, the highest point of the medina.


Feeling accomplished (and sweaty) after walking to the top of the medina.


My friend Katherine wandering into an alley in the medina.


A woman in red against the walls of blue.


Wandering the winding streets of the medina.


I would have loved to stay in this hotel.


Some beautiful buildings in the medina.


The main square of the medina.

Two hours later we arrived in the medina of Ouarzan and carefully drove our bus through the narrow streets until we reached the house of a close friend of our academic directors. We had a glorious feast in the main salon, consisting of bread and olive oil, bowls of olives, plates of beets, potatoes, and carrots, potato soup as an appetizer, an entree of chicken and olives, and piles of oranges for dessert. After we ate we were given a brief lecture on the saint who founded the town we were in, and were shown around a developing museum based on the saint’s life. We also were able to view the property’s olive press, only to be disappointed that the extra virgin olive oil produced there was not for sale. The owner of the home served us Moroccan mint tea and allowed us to pick oranges from his trees before we left, departing happily with arms full of fresh citrus. My friends and I read, listened to music, and discussed our plans for the rest of the program on our final bus ride of the semester, as the sun sunk below the horizon and cast warm light across the land for as long as the eye could see.

Finally on the road home.

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Lunch in Ouarzan. 

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Pictures of the hills and city of Ouarzan. 


A panorama of Ouarzan from the terrace of the house at which we ate lunch.

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