Another week down!
Wednesday was a crazy day, packed with history and culture. We had a half day of classes to visit the Cathedral and la Giralda. The Cathedral is the third largest cathedral in the world (I think?), and was absolutely stunning. In it, we saw the tomb of Christopher Columbus, which was fascinating. La Giralda is a bell tower attached to the Cathedral of Arabic origin. We climbed up 34 ramps to get to the top, but from up there, you could see the entire city stretching out below. Sevilla truly is breathtaking.
At night, the school took us to a flamenco concert at Casa de Memoria, which was an hour long and quite honestly the most intense I had ever experienced in my life. The speed with which they performed was incredible. I was truly fascinated by the guitarist, though. He was truly the backbone of the performance, and it makes me sad that flamenco guitarists are neglected.
The real highlight of my week though, was a three day trip to Morocco!
It started with a bus ride to Gibraltar, which is a British territory located at the tip of Spain. The area is filled with history, as it is where the Moors invaded Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar has a ton of tunnels slicing through the rock, as it was a military defense base throughout history. Our tour drove through some of the tunnels, and we stopped at an area where we could see the Straight of Gibraltar, with Africa being on the left and Europe on the right. Also, we walked on the runway of the airport in Gibraltar, as it cuts across the main road.
We saw St. Michael’s Cave also, which was beautiful. The lighting in the cave was really weird though, it looked like it was set up for a concert, so taking pictures was hard. But the cave structure was incredible, and it was nice and cool in there! Outside of the cave, there were a bunch of monkeys everywhere. Unfortunately, it was kind of hot, so most of them were in the trees where it was cooler instead of with the people. But monkeys are vicious! They will literally do anything for food. One of them climbed onto our car to find a snack, and some others were literally begging for people to feed them snacks (which is technically illegal).
Our first stop in Morocco was on Saturday morning. We drove to Tangier, a beautiful city located in the mountains. The views of the ocean were beautiful, and we stopped at a lookout point, called Cape Espartel to marvel at the beauty. That was our first place where we interacted with the street vendors. AGGRESSIVE street vendors. You have to bargain and negotiate prices, which is not a skill I really have. I was perfectly happy sitting and watching my friends fight with the vendors-one guy got this fez at half price!
The next thing we did is quite possibly one of the coolest things I have ever experienced-camel rides on the beach! It was INSANE and I honestly am dying to do it again.
We then drove through the hills of Morocco to another city, Chefchaouen. This is a tiny town located in the mountains where everything is painted in different shades of blue in order to repel the bugs that live in the mountains. The little streets were so beautiful, and I loved hearing the background about why they were painted in blue. The best part, though, was the different shades of blue. It was absolutely beautiful, and then I got to watch everyone haggle a little bit, which is always entertaining for me. Here, we went to a fabric factory, because that is the specialty of the area. They showed us the blankets and scarves that they had created, and there was a man working on the loom when we walked in. The works that he had created were truly works of art.
On Saturday night, we stopped for our “Fantasy Dinner” experience. As usual, I didn’t eat much of the food, but I will say that it was an experience. There were three musicians that performed while we ate, on a drum, a violin, and an oud, which is a fat, 12-string guitar. After the show, though, a belly dancer and a group of Moroccan dancers performed. Their energy was incredible, and the show was truly something I will never forget.
This morning, we explored the city of Tetuan. Here, we went to a Berber Pharmacy, where a man showed us all of his spices, herbs, and oils that he sells. Their uses of spices is fascinating to me. In Morocco, they use common kitchen spices in a medicinal setting. Then, we were given free time to walk around and explore the markets of Tetuan.
“A la ocasión la pintan calva” pretty much means that opportunity only knocks once. Without a doubt, there were a lot of things that I did not really love about the tour that I went on. There were over 100 people on the tour, which made there be a lot of waiting time. But, if I hadn’t gone in an organized tour, I probably would not have made it to Morocco and seen the beautiful country. Though it wasn’t perfect, I would not have changed the way I did the tour.
I also met a girl on the group who quite literally changed my life. Her name is Rachel, and through her stories and life experiences, she taught me a lot of things about myself and the world. I am trying really hard to meet knew people and learn about their perspectives, and meeting here might have honestly been one of the highlights of my trip to Morocco. Seeing the country through her eyes was fascinating to me. I am learning a lot on this trip-about how to be approachable, friendly, and open, and I honestly feel like before this trip I would not have been able to initiate a conversation with Rachel.
Anyway, four continents down, three to go!
P.S.: For any people considering a trip to Morocco, make sure you do your research! If I were to use this tour company again, I would not book the optional trip to Gibraltar. Instead, I would have explored on my own, and paid for a cable car ride to the top of the rock and explored the cave and monkeys in my own free time. Also, having a large group definitely detracts from the experience. Morocco was amazing, but make sure you know more details about the trip before you book!