Monday, March 21, 2011

Make-Up Entry #1: Morocco

We (Eliza, Ari and I) went to Morocco at the start of February (11-13), which was a lot of fun! Since we only had a few days, we went to Marrakesh. We left Thursday afternoon from Strasbourg (from here on out called the ‘Bourg but don’t pronounce the g, will explain later). Rather than explain this in parts, I will explain all of the travel arrangements now. Since we are cheap college students and very resourceful, we found that if we flew out of Geneva at 6am on Friday and back into Charles de Gaulle on Sunday morning-ish, it would be the cheapest option. Downside, since we had to be in Geneva by 4am, we had to take a train the night before and the last one leaving the ‘Bourg to Basel with a connection to Geneva got us in at like 9:45-10pm the night before. What does this mean? Yes, we slept on the floor of the Geneva airport. Anyone of you who has travelled with me knows that this idea of camping out in an airport is not completely unfamiliar but still very odd. I have this to say, it was February, Switzerland, night and stone floors. We were very cold. Anyways, once we got on the plane we were lucky enough to get exit row (it was one of those no-assigned seats airlines, EasyJet). After a relatively relaxing plane ride, we landed in Marrakesh and went through passport control. We spent the entire time trying to find ways of ensuring Ari would get through because he is paranoid and Jewish. He thought that due to him being Jewish, they would arrest him or something. It’s a long story but this theme runs through the entire trip.

Next part of the trip, the hostel. In accordance with the whole finding cheap options, Ari found us a “lovely” backpackers hostel right near the city center form 8 euros a night (yes, that is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8!!!!!! Euros….). At first we thought, ok this is quaint… but after a while it kinda got weird. First there was the terrace which had been advertised as a place to hang out, meet new friends, relax and drink tea. This was not the case, instead it was a roof-top terrace covered in laundry looking at other roofs covered in laundry. Next is the room, we made sure to get a room with only three beds so we had no randoms in there which would have been super awkward given Eliza and I are girls sharing a room with a guy and that is inappropriate under Sharia even in its mild forms. As a result, we created a backstory where Ari was married to Eliza who refused to change her last name and I was one of their sisters-in-law. Thank goodness we did not need to explain it because it got complicated. Anyways, the room had three beds but the forgot the sheets and we had to ask for them. When they came, I kinda wished they had not since they scared me. We also somehow locked ourselves in our room like six times. There was a slightly broken window up above Elizas bed and our light had only one working bulb. This place was sketch times 1000. I saved the best for last, the bathroom. We had a shower/toilet/sink combo next to our room. This was not a real toilet but rather a dirty hole in the ground with no paper. Upstairs they did have a real toilet but it leaked all the time and flooded the floor plus was always out of paper. There was also no soap at the sink. So, we still used that one but used tissues and hand sanitizer (I always come prepared!!). I feel I grew as a person as a result of this experience, kinda.

Next part is the market. One word, freaking awesome (ok fine two words). The square was full of food vendors with fruit, dried and juiced, snake charmers, dancers, etc. The juice was honestly, best juice ever. The snakes, scariest thing ever. I hate snakes with every fiber of my being. In the market, there were booths/stalls of everything imaginable from pillows to bags, tourist crap to plates to more. The thing to do is obviously to haggle. Since I am no good at haggling, Ari took over and managed to get all of us stuff for like 50% off. I felt bad but at the same time was able to buy more stuff as a result. Shopkeepers kept thinking we were anything but American and trying to convince us prices were great against the pound so we should buy stuff. It was kinda hard to not respond, ya great against the pound but crappy against the dollar. By the time we left, I had bought this really cute leather and fabric duffle bag, a bunch of pillow covers, some jewelry, scarves and a few gifts. It was a very productive trip. ☺ One downside of the market was the existence of some real creepers. I got hit on by this creepy shopkeeper dude who was very inappropriate and then this other guy tried to “jokingly” harass me with a wooden toy snake. Now I am terrified of those things. On a funnier note, someone offered to buy Eliza from Ari for two camels. Needless to say, he said no. I said he should have said yes if the guy had offered to add a goat to the deal. Eliza was not totally amused by this.

On the second day (Saturday), we went on a tour up in the Atlas mountains which was a lot of fun. We left really early but managed to see some beautiful Moroccan countryside and mountains. It was gorgeous. We went to an old Kasbah (where Eliza and I covered up with a Hijab since it is a very conservative area) and to a Berber “city” often used in movies to be various countries in North Africa since it is in the desert. Movies such as Alexander were apparently filmed there. This trip was really fun but it hard to explain in writing.

The last major part of the trip was the food. Oh my gosh, it was good (and cheap). For the equivalent of 30 euros, we all three managed to get 2-3 courses on non-Vegetarian food and mint tea. Besides that, is was amazing. All different types of food I have never eaten before from Tagine to Couscous to Pastilla. Also the pastries were rather yummy. Overall, some of the best food I have since I have been in Europe/study abroad. Mostly because it was so different I guess.

Morocco was an exhausting trip but really rewarding. On a political note since some of you might be wondering why we went to Maghreb (North Africa) given the then and current political climate. Morocco is considered a relatively stable Arab state given it is a monarchy with no massive opposition. We were there the weekend Mubarak in Egypt resigned which we were unaware of at the time. Saturday night we did hear some chanting in support of Mubaraks resignation but it was nothing dangerous and honestly, kinda cool and unique since most people never get to experience even a small sense of that spirit. We only knew it related to the political situation because Ari could understand a few words since he speaks Hebrew which is similar to Arabic. Since we left, protests with a more violent nature did break out in Morocco but have been pushing more for general reforms and freedom rather than overthrow and their protests have been heard by the monarchy who has promised to start implementing the reforms it promised. The entire time though we were careful to keep a low profile and no one suspected American, even after we switched to English. We went at the right time and we knew that as soon as we set foot in Paris and read the headlines…

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