Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Al Sahra

So, finally, a post about the Sahara. Sorry it's been so long in coming- the first day back i was sick and catching up on all the homework and lessons from Thursday through Monday, and yesterday I was just really tired. But now, finally, a post.

First, pictures:

So. I got up early Friday morning and met some of the other girls at 6:30 in the lobby to catch taxis. We got to the school, sat around for quite some time, then sat on the bus for quite some time, then left. At 8, instead of 7. But it's better than 9, which is what time they left on the last Sahara trip.

We had to take 2 vans cause there were a lot of us. The first day was a lot of driving, as well as randomly stopping at "sources" of water, one of which was apparently where the brand "Vittel" is bottled... I saw a lot of Moroccans swimming in it, so I don't think I'll be drinking that brand anytime soon. It was cool, but since we were already running late, I kinda wish we hadn't stopped at every source we saw.

We stopped to get lunch in Ifrane, a town near Meknes. It's where Al-Akhawayn University is, the only private university in Morocco, with lessons in English. I looked into a program there, but I liked the look of Qalam wa Lawh better. Lunch took a while, since there were almost 30 of us, but we got it finally and moved on.

We drove for quite some more time. I don't remember anything else that really stuck out. OH! The cat. We kept hearing this sound that sounded like a cat meowing, and it was driving us all crazy, but we finally realized it was the windshield wipers or something. We continued to make cat jokes for the rest of the ride, though.

We got to the hotel that night, and I was rather in awe. It was a quite a nice hotel, 4 stars I believe, with a huge pool, a fantastic dining room with yummy food, and nice rooms. I roomed with Nadia, a girl whose parents are Moroccan but they live in Italy. I'm not really sure why she wanted to room with me so badly, since she doesn't really speak English so we can't really communicate, and she was out most of the night with her Italian friends. But whatever.

In the morning we got up and drove the rest of the way to the desert. We stopped in a small town along the way to buy big scarves to use to block the sun and sand during our camel rides. We also go to see the tomb of one of the old sultans. It was pretty cool, but we did spend a lot of time there, and then we had to go to lunch, which took forever of course, so we were late getting to Merzouga.

We got to this little hotel like thing, repacked our bags, and got on camels! :D Except my camel was the devil. I don't know what you call the noise camels make, but he made it a lot. He kept getting untied from the caravan, and when they tried to retie him, he refused to sit down. It was a loooooooong night haha. I think I had eaten something iffy so my tummy wasn't the happiest, and that coupled with demon camel made for a little bit of discomfort and unhappiness. When we got to the campsite, I kinda crashed and slept for quite a while, drifting in and out. There was music, dancing, and all sorts of fun things that I was only half conscious of. Dinner was served close to midnight, and I didn't eat much because my stomach was not too happy. Then we slept out under the stars, which was amazing.

We woke up around 6:15 to watch the sunrise. Climbing the huge dune was really hard, so I climbed a smaller one instead and watched the sunrise. It was so beautiful. I love that time of day whenever I can wake up for it, but usually I can't. I enjoyed it, though. Then we hopped on the camels and rode back to Merzouga. My ride was a lot more enjoyable- no more demon camel, and my stomach was a lot better. My little caravan took a shortcut and made it back way before the others.

At the hotel we got bread for breakfast and then took showers before piling back into the buses to head back. I was sitting next to this Russian lady on the bus who really wanted to take pictures as we drove and for some odd reason insisted on videotaping the scenery as we drove past it. I couldn't really hear the other conversations so I slept. A lot.

We stopped for lunch at 4, and there were some problems, mainly the food was cold. That was because there were almost 30 of us and we were hours late. It really wasn't that big a deal, but some people got really upset about it. I don't really think it was worth it.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful until around 9:45. I was sleeping, so I missed part of it, but here's what happened. We were driving along happily, about 70 km from Rabat, when we hit something, maybe a bottle or something. The van grinded to a halt at the side of the road (this is when I woke up) and Mohammed and the driver got out to see that the tire was flat. No, not flat. Destroyed. The other van had been speeding ahead of us all trip, and Mohammed kept yelling at them, "What if something happens? We need to stick together!" And bam, something happened. They were ahead of us and had to turn around, cross the median twice, and come back to assist.

We all got out of the car and were standing on the side of the highway in the dark, a group of 8 women and 2 men. The van was only partially off the road since there wasn't much of a shoulder, and the driver was crouching looking at the tire with Mohammed standing half in the road waving at cars to not hit him. It was kinda nerve racking. We decided to stand behind the guardrail on the side of a semi-sketchy dark field. All of a sudden, out of nowhere this man cross the street and comes out of the darkness to ask if everything was ok. Almost in unison, we all called for Mohammed, and he came over and dealt with it. The man wandered off into the dark field.

Eventually, the tire was changed and we were on our way. We got back to Rabat and were dropped off at our respective residences. I got back to Beyt al Marifa at 1 am to greet a new roommate. It was kinda a bad first impression, but oh well. I got online to let people know I was home safe, then crashed.

In the morning I didn't go to class, partly because I was tired and partly because my stomach was not too happy. I spent the day in my PJs catching up on all my homework and eating cooked apples, pasta and bread, and a little chicken for dinner. Yesterday I felt much better and I went to class.

My roommate's name is Kathleen, and she's American. There's a whole bunch of new Americans here, and I think they all met on the plane or something, so they're all friends and go out a lot together which is fine with me. Kathleen isn't in the room much.

Tomorrow is a national holiday, Coronation Day, so there is no class. I might go out with some people to see the festivities in the city, but I'm excited to get to sleep a little more than usual.

Today there were presentations in school. Two people from each level did one, and I was elected to do it from my class. I did it on Curacao, and I began it with my new stock phrase:
انا اسمي عائشة و لكن انا ليس مسليمة و لست من اصل عربيةز
"My name is Aisha but I am not Muslim and I am not of Arab decent."

It's something that I have had to convince people of a lot, and I even had a bus driver try to convince me that I had Arab family.

Alright, that's about it. I'm getting ready to go to the super market. More updates later, probably.