With no classes Wednesday-Monday (thanks to Wednesday Labor Day and the Spanish affinity for extending vacation whenever possible) we woke up at 5:30 to get to the meeting point in Granada to take a bus.

After 3 hours and a necessary nap, we made it to Tarifa, Spain, before boarding a Ferry to Tánger, Morocco. We stood in line for customs on the boat, which was extra challenging when we started moving and rocking. I only got fairly nauseous, despite Dramamine, which was a win. We got on another bus before stopping to ride camels on the beach and then again at Darna (a women’s NGO that teaches women skills like sewing to get jobs). Over lunch, a chicken and carrot stew, we asked three women who volunteered there about life in Morocco. One was conservative, with a hijab, one liberal and a future lawyer, and one in between. They told us about the absolute power of the King, the large role of choice and culture (rather than biblical insistence) for those who wore the hijab, daily life in Morocco, the role of women as breadwinners in 20% of families, the illegality of homosexuality, etc.

Back on the bus before walking through the Medina (old town) of Asilah before finally making it to Rabat and meeting out host families.

We took off down the unpaved road, hauling our brightly colored suitcases, trying to keep up with our host mom who was surprisingly fast despite her average stature and long dress. We were told the families spoke Arabic and French and one member spoke English. Passing cat after cat, Laura (an assistant for our program, who also goes to the University of Granada) asked in French if it was dangerous to walk alone at night. I’m glad you’re here, the mother replied, obviously understanding… (to be fair we understood exactly zero Arabic). We finally made it to an apartment complex, but the mom took off up the stairs at almost a sprint. Eventually, we caught up as she ducked under laundry hanging up on the roof and opened the door to the apartment. It was relatively small, with a bedroom, living room, an other room blocked off my a slightly-sheer curtain, a galley kitchen, and a closet/bathroom.

A toddler with large cheeks ran into the furniture with a scooter, plastic gun tucked into his waistband and pajama pants dragging beneath his feet. We later learned he was a 4-year old and the son of our host mom’s daughter who was married at 16 and divorced at 20 and now is 21. Throughout the trip we learned that this was relatively uncommon- more Moroccans are waiting to get married. This woman, our host sister, wanted to go to university. Her husband became controlling and wouldn’t have let her go but now she’s studying Computer Science there.

For dinner we had Moroccan meatballs and potatoes, mixed-fruit juice, corn-fried chicken, and salad. Afterwards, a much needed bedtime.

I woke up around 4:30 for one of the five daily calls to prayer, confused. I fell back asleep, though, and got up for breakfast (GF corn cakes with butter/cheese/marmalade and mint tea). We walked through the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V (the picture of me sitting on a pillar) meant to commemorate the independence of Morocco and the Kings since then (1956). After visiting an NGO in Salé, across the river from Rabat, and talking with students from there, we went on a tour around the city (and market) with them. There were hundred of dead fish, goat skulls, skinned rabbits, etc. We also walked through the Roman ruins in Chellah (the most ruin-looking building in the pictures) before lunch with our host families.

Meeting in the largest of the host family houses, a Fullbright scholar and Peace Corp volunteer both talked to us about living/working/volunteering in Morocco. It was interesting and cool to hear their experiences, although slightly disappointing that their attitude was that of the “white savior” — the white person who comes in to “save” the “other” who cannot help themselves, despite the fact that these conditions are often a result of white actions (ie war, oppression, exploitation, etc).

Finally, we went to Hammam (public arabic “baths”) to bathe for the first time on our trip. Although called baths, in fact they are tiled rooms with spouts and buckets of water. Basically a bucket-bath. And, most importantly, one spout is scalding water and one is freezing and if you pick up a random bucket it might not have gotten both waters and may very well burn your scalp and chest (personal experience). I poured cold water on afterwards to mitigate the burns, which had the wonderful side effect of inducing hyperventilation. Luckily, the burning was minor and mostly healed within 2-3 days.

After dinner, we went to bed around 11:30/12:00 before I woke up (for good, after the early call to prayer) at 7:30 to meet at the bus and drive to Rif Mountains where we had cous cous (or fried carrots for those of us GF) with a family who lived in a small village there. We talked with them about their lives– they got married around the age of 20 (her) and 24 (him), 12 years ago. They own their own farm, have 3 kids, have TV/electricity/running water but a relatively small house. After lunch we drove to Chefchaouen– the “blue city”. We walked through the main market (very touristy with souvenirs) before a final “celebratory” dinner (meat Tagine and yogurt with fruit for dessert).

In the morning we had breakfast in the plaza before getting back in the van to go to Ceuta, Spain, before crossing over the Strait of Gibralter to Algeciras, Spain, then taking a bus back to Granada. We got home at around 9:00 after a very long travel day. I had the best shower of my life and ate a delicious pizza before falling deeply asleep.


My friend, Alana, from Swarthmore, who I ran into 5+ times on the trip, even though she was with a program from Madrid.


Riding camels on the beach.


Views from the mountains outside the home of the village family.


The ruins.


Cats, which were everywhere. Almost every square had at least 10.


Rabat’s Kasbah (old fort).


Mausoleum of the King. (I had to be boosted onto the pillar– it was relatively high).


Close-up of the Mausoleum.


The port of Tarifa, Spain.

3 thoughts on “Morocco

  1. Kanchan Balse


    I love, love, love reading about your adventures (and enjoying your sense of humor) and seeing your photos!

    Sending my condolences for your Grandfather passing. He was such a wonderful man.

    Best, Kanchan

    Sent from my iPhone



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