This is Morocco!

November 14, 2019

by apaparis

I’m back after a week-long hiatus. There is nothing exciting that happened this past week, except for a sickness that will not go away. When I was not in class I was in bed. The one fun thing I did was make pancakes for my host mom. There was another American student living with us for awhile, and one day our host mom mentioned in passing that she really likes pancakes so we decided to make some for her. The first step was to get all the supplies: pancake mix, eggs, milk, chocolate chips, maple syrup, and raspberries. On Wednesday, we took over the kitchen and got to work. We ended up with two plates stacked with pancakes that were delicious and gone in fifteen minutes. Our host mom offered to serve us a second dinner, but we were all too full to accept. The rest of my week was more of the same. Since this week is the start of finals, I spent a lot of last week catching up on readings and preparing for presentations. 

What was interesting, however, was what happened last weekend. All six of us on the program decided to take a desert tour that started on Monday and ended Sunday night. Astrid, the French Language Coordinator for APA also decided to join us. We all left Rabat Thursday after a picnic at the beach, and took the train to Fes. The train ride was about three hours, and we arrived to our Airbnb completely famished. Since it was late, everything was closed, but we were fortunate enough to find an open convenience store where we bought instant noodles. It was also Halloween, so after our ramen meal we raved to some Halloween classics to pay tribute to the best holiday the US has to offer (in my humble opinion). 

The next morning, we met our driver bright and early and began our journey to the Sahara. On the way, we stopped by Medilt, Azrou, and the Ziz Valley. The view was absolutely breathtaking and our driver, Zacky blessed us with his favorite Amazigh bops. By the time we got to the desert (more specifically the town of Merzouga) , it was already late in the afternoon. We dropped all of our things off at a hotel, packed a small backpack, then headed to our campsite for the night. To get across the desert, we used to most effective form of transportation, the famous ships of the desert–camels. The camel ride lasted more than an hour and in the interim we were able to catch the sunset and see the beautiful golden dunes fade into dark shadows. The camp site was not what I was expecting. Before we embarked on the journey we were told that we needed sleeping bags, so we all had the impression that we were going to be sleeping in tents. However, our sleeping bags were never used because we were actually glamping. Our tents had electricity and beads, and we were served a delicious hot plate of couscous for dinner. After dinner, a drum circle formed around a fire and we were able to enjoy the music to the backdrop of a sky scattered with twinkling stars. I was able to catch five shooting stars, but didn’t feel the need to make any wishes. It was wonderful enough to have the chance to see all the things we did that day and just lay in the sand, enjoying the moment. 

Our morning started with a missed sunrise and a camel ride back into the city. Most of the day was spent in the car, but we passed by so many breathtaking cities. We went through Rissani and the Torda Gorges, until we finally arrived at the Dades Valley. Our hotel was amazing and had a great view of the mountains. Surprisingly, dinner was not tagine or couscous, and like the night before, dinner ended with a jam-sesh. The surprise was that our driver Zacky joined the other drummer and even sang with them! The drummers/ people who worked at the museum wanted to hang out with us some more, so we met one of them on the terrace and ended up staying up until 2 talking about life and sharing music. 

On the third and last day, we visited Ouarzazte and Ait Ben Haddou. There were definitely more tourist traps this day, as we were brought to places that made rosewater and argan oil and sold them at slightly expensive prices. However, it was nothing outrageous and we all bought a lot of gifts for family and friends back home. We arrived at Marrakech where we had to take the train back to Rabat in the nick of time. We even managed to squeeze in a quick stop at KFC to get dinner to go. 

On the train, I ate my dinner, tried to do a little work, then knocked out. In the middle of my nap, I heard sirens and noticed that the train had stopped. However, I was too tired to care, until suddenly someone pulled our compartment door open and screamed that there was a fire. As soon as I heard fire, I woke up and was about to get my purse when I realised that all the lights had turned off. I couldn’t see and had no time to grab anything before we were rushed out of the compartment. As soon as I got off the train, panic set in. I could see the smoke from the train and the fact that I might’ve lost everything (money, passport, phone) made the tears come faster than ever. I was tempted to go back in just to grab the essentials, but obviously that was impossible, unsafe, and stupid. Thankfully we were not far from the station in Casablanca, so we all walked to the platform and waited for about an hour for another train/ a chance to get our things back from the burning train. After awhile we were cleared to go back into the train, and it looked apocalyptic. Everything was covered in soot and water, the windows had exploded, and the smell was suffocating. Thankfully we managed to salvage everything, but we smelled like fire the rest of the way home (my room at home still has a hint of fire smell, a week later). On the second train, some teenage boys thought it would be funny to pull the emergency brakes and run along the hallway pretending like there was another emergency. It was not very funny to us, since we had no idea what was going on and were all slightly traumatized. We arrived in Rabat at 5AM, safe but smelly. It was an insane weekend, and definitely made me reflect a lot about myself. 

I apologize for the lack of an update last week, but it was a lot to process just on my own. These last few days in Rabat are going to be stressful (finals!), but the weekend will be another opportunity for me to explore the city (which I have not really done). Next week we will be in Dakar! 

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