How often when we make plans to travel we think of places with tall and intricate buildings, places we often see in the movies and where celebrities are known to vacation. In the planning of the perfect vacation when we usually think of places such as Italy, Spain, France, etc we forget about some of the small treasures the world has to offer.
This weekend, my friends and I had the pleasure of traveling to a place many people often forget about, a continent that is usually thought of as a dangerous and poor place, Africa.
At the north of Africa, only a ferry ride away from the Spanish coast there is a beautiful country, full of happy and good-hearted people: Morocco, and despite the skepticism, many people have about this country, my friends and I decided to visit it for the weekend.
Tetouan: After getting settled in our hotel, we met with one of the local tour guides, who walked us through the Medina of the city. This Medina (a neighborhood in the downtown area) was full of narrow streets (even narrower than Sevilla’s) which were home to endless shops from wedding attire to jewelry and fruits. During this tour, we also learned that in Tetouan all mosques have green doors. Since the mosques in the middle of the Medina don’t have a bell tower, these green doors show people which are the places of worship they can use. As we walked through the Medina we heard a loud voice through multiple speakers around the town, this was the muezzin (the person in charge of calling all to pray) announcing that it was time for Muslim people to pray. After walking the streets of this beautiful city we got a pharmacy, a place where natural medicines are made and sold. We got to hear from one of the pharmacists about the process the herbs and flowers go through in order to be turned into oils and ointments, we got to try a few of them such as eucalyptus, and then had the opportunity to buy them.
After this, we headed to dinner at a beautiful Moroccan restaurant in which we ate some kind of chicken pastry, meat with eggs, and topped it off with some mint tea and nuts cookie.
Chefchaouen: Widely known as the blue city, this is probably the one and only place you might hear of when people talk about tourism in Morocco. After an hour and a half bus ride, we met our tour guide- a nice man who not only spoke Arabic but also Spanish, English, and French (most people there speak those languages). We walked around the city which definitely doesn’t let its name down, from the smallest door to the longest staircase, EVERYTHING is blue. Our tour guide said that this is done in order to keep the mosquitoes out of the town in the hot months, but others say that the city was painted blue in order to attract tourists… whichever reason you decide to believe the point is that the blue city is a beautiful sight for all to see. Not only did I love the different shades of blue that surrounded the city, but the mountains in the background were absolutely amazing and were something that I never thought of when I thought about Africa.
Asilah: This was the day that made me want to book the trip… CAMEL RIDE ON THE BEACH!!! This city is in the eastern coast of Morocco and has beautiful beaches. Most of the houses here were white, which created a beautiful contrast with the blue Atlantic Ocean. Our tour guides told us about a competition that the city has every year: since all of the walls are white, artists are given a wall in which they can paint their designs on, but only the winning design gets to stay painted on the wall, the rest of them are painted over with white paint. This gave the city a very “artsy” and unique feel, and it was an awesome way to make “street art” – something so frowned upon- a valuable piece of art. Asilah is also home to the Cave of Hercules, a complex of caves which were believed to be habited by the Phoenicians, who created an opening to the sea which is thought to be in the shape of Africa…
After eating lunch, the moment I had been waiting for finally arrived. We made our way down to the beach where we met our camels!! Being from Florida I am pretty much immune to beaches, I have so many of them around me that I don’t find these places as amazing as other people do, but Asilah took my breath away. The beach was empty, and extremely clean (something that thanks to spring breakers many FL beaches lack), and the only thing I could see was the blueness of the ocean. The sand was as gold as the skin of the camels and the only thing I could hear was the crash of the waves into the shore. I got in my camel –Fatima– and took a stroll down the beach. This was probably one of the most beautiful and calming moments I’ve had in my life. In a world where we are always racing against time, trying to get projects done, study for exams, go to work, spend time with our family and friends, and in a world where there never seems to be enough time it was so nice to just stop for a minute and take it all in while appreciating the beauty Mother Nature has to offer.
After spending my weekend in Morocco not only did I leave loving this beautiful country, but also loving the attitude of its people. Much like Spaniards, people there don’t worry about the stress the future brings, what they need to do, how much they need to get done, etc. They enjoy each moment and make the best of it in the present because at the end of the day we won’t remember the stress we went through, or the hardships life threw at us, but instead, we’ll remember the moments that made our life worth a while.
PS: If you ever want to travel to Morocco I recommend doing it with a tour/travel agency because if you do it by yourself I don’t think it is possible to truly get to know each city and understand the history and meaning of many of the sites.