Thursday, July 23, 2009

Off to the Sahara

Just a short post to say this has been a fairly uneventful week. Because of the heat I've pretty much been coming straight back to my room and just hanging out. Today I went to the Archeological Museum, which was pretty cool.

I leave early tomorrow morning for a 3-day trip to the Sahara. I'm pretty psyched...we get to ride camels, sleep either in a Berber tent or out under the stars, climb the dunes, and watch the sun rise and set over the dunes. It's going to be pretty amazing! :D

My friend Ale is leaving this weekend, and I'll be sad to see her go. She's an awesome person, really fun. If I'm in NYC I plan on calling her up at Skidmore and saying, "Ale, anti jamila mithel sursur (You are beautiful like a's a long story). Come to NYC and see me right now. You owe me taxi money." And then she will come and we will have a blast. And she will bring Kelly along.

Alright, enough late night ramblings for me.

Until Sunday! (realistically, don't expect a post until Monday)


Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Ok, first of suddenly got really hot here. And humid. Someone checked the weather and this morning at 4 am it was 93 degrees. It's so terrible and no one wants to do anything and no one can concentrate and it sucks. A lot.

Anyway. This weekend I went to Chefchaouen, this tiny town in the mountains. It was so gorgeous! My favorite place that I've been thus far in Morocco. On Saturday, Sarah, Kelsey, and I took a train from Rabat to Tangier. It was about 5 hours, and there was no air conditioning. We were in a train compartment with 6 other people, and it was cramped and hot. When we got to Tangier, we tried to go find some places to walk around and see before getting a bus to Chefchaouen. We got a taxi driver that did not speak Spanish, as most of the people do in the northern parts of Morocco, so he didn't really understand what I was saying. He just dropped us off in some random square and there was a place to eat so we ate. And then we tried to catch a taxi to the beach but no taxis would stop. A ton of empty taxis would pass but ignore us as we waved them down. We started walking in what we thought might be the general direction of the beach. We stood on a main street for a while, and finally we decided that the best thing to do would be to get the taxi to the bus station so that we had tickets to Chefchaouen, and to decide what else to do after that. A taxi never came, though, so I asked for directions to the bus station. It was fairly close, so we ended up walking. We got to the bus station around 3, and the bus to Chefchaouen didn't leave until 5:45, but we were kinda fed up with Tangier so we just sat in a cafe in the shade and waiting. We boarded the bus around 5:15.

The bus ride was a little over 3 hours, and we left a little late. It stopped several times, but there was air conditioning, though it wasn't very strong. But it was good enough. And when the sun started going down, it was pretty cool on the bus. We got to Chefchaouen around 9:30, and started to follow the hordes of people until we found a taxi. He knew the hotel we were looking for, Hotel Madrid, and dropped us off right outside. We went through the process of trying to get a room for the three of us- they were all out of triples, and offered us a double and a single, but then they said they could put a mattress on the floor in a double and we could sleep there. That was fine with us because all we were going to do was sleep and then get up early and check out.

The poor guy at the hotel was very overworked- he was the only one dealing with the tourists coming and going. He told us it would be a while until the room was ready, so we went out to walk around a little. The town was surprisingly busy, considering it was near 11pm, and we found somewhere small to eat. I had mango juice- yum. We walked around a little and then went back to the hotel and to our room. We all took turns showering, and there was a TV! I was looking forward to watching news or something, but none was on. Kelsey watched some of a movie and we all went to sleep.

We got up at 5:45, a time I had forgotten existed, because we wanted to get to the bus station and figure out getting tickets and what time we would leave. The nice bus, CTM, only had one bus to Rabat and it left at 7 am, which was not at all conducive to seeing Chefchaouen. So we found another company that left at 12:45. We bought our tickets and then tried to grab a taxi to Raas al-Maa, the waterfall on the outskirts of town. Since it was so early, the taxi situation wasn't great, but we just walked up the huge hill utnil we located a taxi. It was nice to be up when it was still cool, and I took a ton of pictures of the mountains and the houses and everything. The Chefchaouen color is blue, and it is so gorgeous.

Chefchaouen actually reminded me a little of the finca (farm) my family stayed at in the mountains of Venezuela for Christmas my junior year. I guess a lot of tiny mountain towns look similar, in terms of weather and quaintness. :)

Raas al-Maa was beautiful. I have a thing for waterfalls, and this one was gorgeous. Not very big, but still nice. In the bottom part, women and children were washing rugs. At the top there was a little dam. You could see a ruined mosque in the distance- I would have liked to go, but 1) I only had sandals on, and 2) the guidebook said it probably wasn't the safest place for women alone. So in the future inshahallah I will come back with a strong man to protect me, and then I will hike up to the abandonded mosque on top of the hill and get to see the whole town of Chefchaouen from it.

There was a guy at the waterfall that spoke a lot of languages. We communicated in Spanish, and I asked him about the cafe that was supposed to be there. He pointed it out but said it proably wouldn't open for another half hour or so. So we looked at the waterfall, and then waited for the cafe to open. After about half an hour, he came over and told us it looked like it wasn't going to open any time soon because the owners had been up late the night before. But he offered to walk us over to the sqaure, through the old city. It was a lovely walk, and he was a good guide, pointing out to us pretty things and explaining different things to us. If (when) I come back, I'm totally staying in one of the hotels/hostals in the middle of the old city- so much character!

We ate breakfast in the square- cheese omeletes and fresh OJ. Then we walked around the square, looking at the little shops and buying a few things. Afterwards, we went to the kasbah, the old fortress, and looked around in there and in the museum and gallery.

And then we had pretty much done everything there was to do in Chefchaouen. Well, that's not true. There's camping and hiking, which I would love to do when I go back. But we started making our way towards the bus station. We stopped somewhere to get drinks and were shuffled back into the women's section. It was certainly nice, with couches, but I don't appreciate being holed away in a back room and being forced to watch tv shows about decorating. When they changed the channel to a soccer game, we assumed it was time for us to go.

We caught a taxi to the bus station, and he was the sweetest taxi driver ever. We found a little restaurant right next to the bus station, and it was delicious. I had meatballs. But again, we were shuttled onto the women's balcony.

We found our bus no problem and started the trek back to Rabat. It took 7 hours. And it was hot. But we made it back.

On the bus, several people started talking to us- first the man sitting in front of me who spoke to us in English and Fus'ha (Modern Standard Arabic), then the "nice Moroccan boys", one of whom goes to school in Atlanta, then the kinda creepy guy who sold bus tickets who spoke to us in Fus'ha and wanted to know all about us. But we all managed to make it off the bus without getting engaged, so that's good. I'm sure all espective significant others will appreciate that. :)

We all caught cabs back to our residences and that was that. I am still roommateless.

Yesterday was when it suddenly got hot in Rabat. So after class, I went to the grocery store and then Ale, Aurea, and I went straight back to the dorms. My room was actually pretty cool- sun doesn't shine directly into my window, I kept the window closed so the hot air wouldn't come in, and I think the tile floors retained cool.

I have to suffer through another week of this heat, and hopefully that is all, inshahallah. And on Friday I leave for the Sahara! :D