Friday, September 17, 2010

The last of Morocco

The drumming of the nomads woke us up around 5:00 am. We crept out of our tents into the unlit atmostphere of the desert, and walked just outside of the camp to watch the sun rise over the dunes. There was a plethora of skis and snowboards that the nomads had set up for us. Only about 15 of my peers had the opportunity to use them as it took a long time for them to climb up the 300 foot dune next to our camp. They glided down through the sand, some reporting it was not worth the climb and others totally loving it.
They hurried us along at about 6:30 so we could get on the camels and head back to civilization. As the camels stood up, there were still surprised yelps as it is not something you get used to quickly. Our trek through the Sahara back to our vans took about 2 hours, and everyone figured out the side saddle technique which gave much relief to the lower half of our bodies. The sun was blazing by 8:30, and we were happy to be provided our complimentary breakfast of croissants, orange juice, mint tea, tomatoes and olives. There was also some sort of dried meat that fell into dust in my mouth.. but it was delicious none-the-less.
We organized into 4 vans, 2 were to go back to Casablanca because its passengers were fed up with traveling.Van #3 went to Marrakech but made pit stops on the way to see the gorges and botanical gardens we’d been promised the previous day. My van booked it to Marrakech, as I was supposed to (possibly) meet Alexa, my roommate, at the hostel where we had previously stayed. No one could communicate with our driver, and the drive took about 9 ½ hours including our one 45-minute stop for food.
I sat next to a guy on the bus named Mason. He is always decked out in preppy garb and Vineyard Vines croquees (the things that hold your glasses to your neck) and he told me all about how hard he parties (?) at Duke and his fraternity and how he’s meeting with Ju-Jit-Su senses throughout the world as we dock to train with people of all different cultures. I thought that part was very cool.
We got to Marrakech at 8:10, and called the hostel to see if Alexa had shown up. She ended up on another camel trek, so my friend Damien and I stuck together and hung out in Marrakech for the night. We got a common room at our same beautiful hostel for half the price, and went swimming. After a quick shower, we went down to the market and grabbed a leisurely dinner of snails, kabobs, olives and bread. All of the market shops were still open, but we decided to leave shopping for the next day as we finished dinner at 11:30. After getting back to the hostel, I got to catch up on the free internet with my dad and my brother, and some friends from O-State. I heard all about how they spent the weekend celebrating Ohio State’s victory of Miami U, and was happy that they had such a good time (but also a little jealous!).
The next morning, I woke up with a sore throat but pushed through it and ate some breakfast. Damien and I shopped around and I got lots of little trinkets and gifts for people at home. We walked around the mosque in the Medina because we were not allowed in it, and strolled through the gardens. A quick cab ride later, we arrived at the train station and got some McDonalds (so weird!) which was a friendly familiarity. The train ride back was quiet and I slept most of the way. That night, we boarded the ship just in time for dinner, and I spent the evening grooming myself and getting all of the desert sand out of any hard to reach places like inside my ears and under my nails.
In the morning on Tuesday, the 14th, I went with some friends to check out the Mosque of Hassan II in Casablanca. It can fit 25,000 worshippers inside, and 80,000 outside. Almost as many as the buckeye shoe at Ohio State! They were very sneaky in hiding technology inside the recently-built mosque, and had speakers in the columns and escalators hiding behind walls for women to get up to the balconies during times of prayer. Our guide said that the entire mosque was full during every day of Ramada, and I found the idea of cleansing their feet, hands and faces to obtain purity before praying fascinating. The tilework was unreal and took over 10,000 craftsmen to design. We had to take our shoes off to walk through the mosque, another thing I found very neat.
We then ate at a restaurant in the center of the city and got tajine couscous with chicken (so good) and crepes for desert. I was with Alexa, Corey and a couple that I’ve started hanging out with named Nick and Kailyn. Nick lives across the hall from me, and brought up stories I don’t remember from a night I stumbled back onto the ship after a little too much Sangria!
We stopped again for some mint tea at a salon. Our server poured the tea in such an extravagant way, filling our cups and dumping it back into the kettle, and then filling again while lifting the kettle high above the cups until full. He told us how the point of this was to invoke all the senses – the smell of the mint, sight of the pour, touch and sound of the splash and taste of the tea. We then ventured into the market of the Medina, where there were all sorts of knock-off shoes, coats, purses, etc. and nothing native to Morocco to purchase. Realizing there was nothing special to see here, we walked away from the Medina and towards the ship, hearing the cries of the call to prayer one last time. Boarding the ship was a relief, and felt like it was so good to finally be back to home, sweet home.

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