My Adventure in Morocco, Part 1: Fez

I have posted photos of my Morocco trip on my Picasa Web Album – check ’em out!

What an adventure! I’ve crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and set foot upon Moroccan soil. I’ve been plunged into a land of Arabs and Berbers – a country under the power of a monarchy, to boot. I’ve passed through huge marketplaces which have barely changed since mideval ages, and a sprawling modern supermarket like Wal-Mart From Another World. I have ridden Land Rovers and camels across the Sahara, camped in traditional tents, relaxed, drummed and danced with chill desert dwellers.

I’ve walked the dunes and meditated in solitude. (Or was it in communion with all creation?) I’ve explored the desert guided by the light of the full moon. And I’ve had the most amazing group of fun, loving, fun-loving people to share and enjoy the experience with.

I went to Morocco with about 50 students from International Studies Abroad, many coming from other programs in Madrid, Salamanca, M├ílaga and Santender. Our bus left Granada at 3:30 Sunday morning, a day before Spain’s holy week festivities were to begin. We crossed the Strait of Gibraltar at sunrise and crossed the border at Ceuta, an autonomous Spanish city on the African coast. The border was reminiscent of the Mexico-U.S. border, complete with incessant honking choruses and vans packed full of seemingly useless junk (even though you know a use has been found for all of it).

Upon crossing the border – and scoring one more stamp on my passport- dozens of cameras whipped out and were aimed out the bus windows. North Morocco was nothing like what I had expected – extremely green, like Colorado during April showers. We had lunch at a rest stop, where I had my first experience as a traveler with zero knowledge of the popular languages Arabic, French, and Berber, in that order. While essential travel communication is definitely possible, all of my travel up until this point has been in countries where English or Spanish are widely spoken. Being thrown into a completely different, somewhat non-Western culture is enough of a change of gears as it is, but add total lack of language skills to the mix and you have a pretty intimidating situation on your hands!

We finally arrived to our five-star hotel in the outskirts of Fez, where the king’s palace is located and a huge, ancient Medina contains mideval marketplaces and old stuff abound. Our hotel itself was a different story- European amenities, kind of a retreat from all the new things we explored in the city by day. The next morning, we went to the medina and toured several larger shops, where shopkeepers gave presentations of their goods to the whole group, and many of us would later bargain – “regatear” in Spanish – with multilingual salesmen. The medina really was a blast from the past; narrow walkways with people and load-carrying donkeys, with no motor vehicles to be found. Open-air shops selling fresh veggies and meat from the countryside. Several of us walked past a butcher right as he removed a dead goat’s head and extracted its brain!

Here are a few videos I recorded in Fez:


Street Performers in Fez


Fez Sculptor


Fez Percussionists

…and don’t forget to check out the photos!