Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Morocco- November 1-6th

We spent 5 days in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Day 1: The first day was definitely the most adventurous day for Jamie and me. After taking only a few minutes to settle in and change we grabbed a cab and headed into the mountains around Marrakesh. This was completely unbelievable. There is no way I could write how different the cultural expectations were and how immediately visible they were. We were lucky to have our friend Jamal from Marrakesh to show us around because I do not speak French or Arabic- the 2 main languages in Morocco. Anyway, while on the way into the mountains we stopped to have a camel ride. Camels are not comfortable or attractive but, alas, I rode a camel. After camels we continued driving and drove through tons of small villages on the way which, in no way, resembles the big metropolitan atmosphere of Marrakesh. All women were dressed in full scarves, donkeys were everywhere carrying carts, small boys stood on the road trying to sell local fruit, and open stores to keep them cool from the heat. Don’t get me wrong, there are clear areas of Marrakesh where poverty is obvious and where markets are fashioned in the same manner; however, these smaller villages were extreme.

After arriving in the mountains we started the climb up. Small stores and shops lined the mountains and trails to grab tea or souvenirs. The climb wasn’t too bad but the weather in Morocco was about 25 degrees Celsius every day. Finally we arrived a clearing where the stream met a waterfall. Looking down over the mountain was incredible. The sound of the waterfall behind you and the markets below is something I will never forget. It was also incredible to across the horizon and see the villages which are built into the side of mountains. Remind me to use donkeys when I build my house (just kidding). To rest we grabbed Moroccan tea, which is delicious, ate bread and talked to Jamal. He filled us in on some normal Moroccan traditions and holidays. Again, when he explained the method of courtship and how men greet each other in the street in local villages, I was speechless. To think that a majority of women in Morocco live at home until marriage is crazy to me. I was also interested in his descriptions of peace and violence. For example, Jamal explained that in the village where he’s from, when you pass another man in the street you say the Arabic word for “peace” to signify to the stranger that you mean no harm.

Anyway, after walking back down to the taxi we drove back into the city center of Marrakesh. Jamal brought us into the world famous Marrakesh markets. There were literally hundreds of small shops and places to grab food. It was immediately obvious we were going to be targeted because of our obvious Western appearance and shop owners continuously asked us to come into their stores. We were lucky to have a local with us to shew them away. We ate an authentic Moroccan meal (I can’t remember what and I’m not sure I want to) and headed to bed. It had been a really long day and we were both exhausted.

Barcelona: October 30-November 1

I wrote the next few entries in a notebook while on location.

Jamie and I, of course, had an extremely early flight out of Newcastle on Friday, October 30. First stop on our 2 week break: Barcelona. Jamie has been to the city and loved it so I was so excited and knew we’d have a great time, even for just 2 days. I’ve finally gotten used to figuring out public transportation on site when arriving somewhere new so it wasn’t too difficult finding our hostel after arriving in the Barcelona airport. We were lucky and flew in with EasyJet which flies right into Barcelona.

Our hostel was really nice and very secure. Although we’d been up almost all night and traveling part of the day, we immediately left the hostel to go explore. Our hostel was located right on La Rambla Street in Barcelona (a main street) and only a 5 minute walk from the ocean. Honestly, I can’t remember being so excited about traveling. Jamie and I walked around the markets and ocean for about an hour and enjoyed really good conversation. It was quite obvious to me at that point that I’ll be close with Jamie for an extremely long time.

After meeting up with a few other girls from the program we decided on a boat ride around the Barcelona port. It wasn’t a long ride but the breeze was nice and the sun was setting so looking into the city was beautiful. When the ride ended we grabbed some sangria on the beach and I entered the ocean for the FIRST TIME EVER (it wasn’t that exciting because the water was cold so I only put my feet in). Jamie and I parted from the group and decided to look for Halloween costumes. This turned into a 2 hour escapade of running around Barcelona asking people on the street if they could direct us to a costume store. We really tried to follow directions but neither of us speak Spanish and ended up giving up around 10 and heading back to the hostel.

For the record, hostels really need more plug-ins.

The next morning we headed to Barcelona’s famous park: …. It was massive and the sun was extremely hot but it also had something to overcome the head: an amazing view of the city. The heat was soon forgotten as we were able to walk around the enormous grounds of the park. Jamie was set on finding this famous lizard statue in the park which turned out to be an amazing display of architecture. After returning to the hostel to grab our bags, we headed to Girona for the night where Ryan Air would fly us to Morocco.

Girona that night was somewhat uneventful. We, again, completely failed at the directions from hostelworld.com and ended up roaming around for an extra hour looking for our hostel. Somehow, however, we found it. Anyway, that night was the “Girona Festival” which was a huge display of food and rides. It was identical to state fairs in the U.S.- stands full of hotdogs and popcorn, rides for kids and games to win prizes. The interesting thing was the theme of the rides. I never knew the Spanish had such an obsession with American Indians. There were numerous rides themed with “cowboys and Indians” and one particular ride even gave the children fake feathers to represent American Indians afterwards.
After walking around the incredible display, we headed to sleep because we were up at 4:00 to grab the bus to the airport.