It seems like I haven’t had a moment to catch my breath. When my flight from Poland landed, I went directly from the airport to choir rehearsal in preparation for our concert the following day. After a successful rehearsal, I finally returned home to catch some much needed R&R from the exhausting travels and busy weekend. Tuesday was concert day! The spring Gospel Choir repertoire included songs from the past concert as well as the addition of new ones. I even had a couple solos! I sang the female solo in the Glee version of “Somebody to Love” as well as the ending solo in an arrangement of Bill Wither’s timeless classic “Lean on Me”. The concert was in the auditorium at the Facultad de Medicina at the Complutense. It was so great to be able to perform with the choir again and sing my heart out in my solos.
There is only one more concert left this year and as much as I can’t wait for it come, I don’t want choir to end. My involvement with the Gospel Choir here has led to wonderful experiences, great friendships, and lovely memories I will carry with me for a lifetime.
The weather in Madrid has been awesome too! It’s been sunny and warm and as a result the cherry blossom trees located around campus and the city have been in full bloom.
On Thursday evening around 10pm I left for yet another adventure. This time for Africa (Waka Waka- for those of you that get the reference). I went with a couple of my friends Majah, Jenna, Rachael, and Maddy. We decided to go to Morocco with a group based in Madrid called Citylife. This group, along with Disfruta Madrid Más (DMM) are programs which offer special events, discounts, and trips to students and residents of the Madrid area. Morocco tends to have a negative stigma in regards to tourists and for the reason that it can be dangerous if you are not in a group. Morocco was a location that was on my list to travel to while abroad and with my pale skin and blonde hair, I did not want to to attract any unneeded attention. For this reason, along with the great price, itinerary, and fact I could go with my friends I opted to go with this group.
So on Thursday, March 12 at 10pm, 2 buses were loaded with people and excitement as we all left for Morocco. Sleeping on the bus was not ideal and my ears kept popping as would ascend and descend the terrain on our way to Morocco. We stopped twice along the 8 hour journey for bathroom breaks (there were no bathrooms on the coach buses) and finally arrived at Tarifa along the straight of Gibraltar at 7am. We then took the 30 minute “fast ferry” from Tarifa, Spain into Tangier, Morocco. It was interesting having to go through Customs on a Ferry but it was a wonderful moment to watch the sun rise on the ferry leaving Europe for the first time since I arrived in August.
When we arrived in Tangier, Morocco we unloaded the ferry, took our belongings, and got right back on a bus that would act as our transportation for the duration of our stay in Morocco. It was go, go go! The busses took off and drove through the city to our first stop, the Great Mosque Mohammed V. This mosque is located in the center of the city was dedicated to the late King Mohammed V, who gave the speech announcing Morocco’s independence from France. For this reason, you still have a society where many people are fluent in French as well as Arabic. Other popular and spoken languages are Spanish (due to the country’s proximity to Spain), and English (for the wealthy English-speaking tourists). We weren’t allowed to go inside the mosque but we acknowledged and appreciated the exterior architecture and design as we were told about the history as well as a bit about the call to prayer and the separation between women and men.
We got back on the bus and then made our way to the outskirts of town where there was a breathtaking scenic overlook of Tangier. On the bus, everyone was clearly exhausted from the nighttime travels and in need of freshening up, but we carried on nevertheless. When we arrived at the scenic overlook I was nearly blown off my feet by the gusty winds. I mean, look at these wonderful pictures of us at the overlook with our majestic wind-blown hair.
I think that says enough. Anyway, we did manage to snap a few good shots and take in the beautiful scenery before we hopped back on the bus and headed to the hotel for check-in.
Finally we had a bit of free time to grab some lunch, freshen up, and take a nap not in an uncomfortable bus seat. Before I knew it, we were already back on the bus heading to Cape Espartel, where the Atlantic ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea.
It was then time for one of the most anticipated events on the trip: CAMEL RIDING! As everyone waited their turn to ride the camel along the beach, we had the opportunity to sit and relax on the beach taking in the moment and salty ocean air.
My friends and I waited until we were one of the last groups and it was SO worth the wait. My camel loved me (obviously- look at that smile) and now I can say I rode a camel along the beach as I watched the sunset in Morocco. By far, one of my favorite moments thus far while being abroad.
Making our way back into Tangier we took a guided walk through the city center and market. There were little stores everywhere and so many twists, turns, and tiny alleyways that I’m glad I was with a guide otherwise I may have been lost in the labyrinth forever.
Everyone went to an herbal store where we had the chance to purchase natural products Morocco is known for. I bought Argon oil which is one of the main exports of Morocco and extremely sought after in the United States and all around the world.
As the day came to an end the group had the optional choice to go to a restaurant and have traditional Moroccan cuisine which consisted of soup, lamb kabob, and couscous. Everything was so delicious and it was the perfect end to an awesome (and extremely long) day. As we ate, there were a couple of musicians in the corner playing music while we ate dinner which added to the perfect ambiance.
Saturday began early as the group loaded busses for our day trip to the city “Chaouen” affectionally referred to as “The Blue City”. It was about a 2 hour ride across the mountainous terrain as the road flowed with the land back and forth and up and down. The halfway point we stopped at a scenic overlook and rest stop located in the countryside. The picturesque backdrop of a lake set within the mountains was so perfect and it was nice to appreciate the natural beauty of Morocco outside the touristy cities.
We made it to Chaouen around midday and went on a walking tour right away. Immediately I fell in love with the city. Around every corner was another surprise and as its nickname suggests it’s a city that’s ENTIRELY PAINTED BLUE and it’s blue-tiful (sorry about that).
Again there were many nooks and alleyways to venture down as we discovered the city. I learned that in order to keep the city blue, the women of the city are required to re-paint their house at least 2 times a year.
The city is situated within the mountains and along the outskirts you see the dramatic and beautiful natural scenery that surrounds the city. It reminded me a bit of Ecuador in this respect.
Along the tour I had the opportunity to meet and take a picture with two adorable parrots. I got to hold them and have them sit on my shoulders and the grey one would even give me kisses on my cheek. So cute!
As the city tour concluded everyone had free time to eat lunch and explore the city on their own and go shopping. My friends and I grabbed lunch and then went to explore the blue city and shop on our own.
Morocco can be a really inexpensive country to shop in if you do it right. That said, you need to know how to barter with the sellers. Luckily, this is something I consider myself excellent at. Never pay the first price they tell you, it’s always insanely marked up. Also, never be afraid to walk away from something you feel is being sold for too much, more often than not they’ll chase you down and give in to your price. I ended up purchasing two small canvas paintings and and decorative knit to hang on my wall.
Everyone made their respective purchases and we finished wandering through the city with the stray cats (because they’re everywhere) and made our way back to the group meeting place.
There was even an instance where we almost got mauled by a goat in an alleyway, but that’s something we’re able to laugh about now despite being absolutely terrified in the moment.
I wish we could have stayed in Chaouen longer, but it was time to bid adieu and head back to Tangier. That night the tour group was hosting a mixer at one of the clubs on the beach but my friends and I decided that we’d rather get a nice dinner, stay in, and get to bed early.
The last day in Morocco we got up early and headed down to Tangier’s city market where we took a walk through various sections including fish, meat, fruits and vegetables, goods, tapestries, and much more.
We made our way to one more scenic overlook of the city, threw up the “W” before getting some last-minute shopping done.
Morocco was so different from anywhere I had traveled to in Europe and I loved the change of pace and opportunity to experience a drastically different culture (and continent for that matter!). Looking out on the city I reflected that I finally made it to my 4th continent. In my lifetime I hope to make it to all 7. However, it was time to pack up and take the ferry back to the continent that I currently call home. But not without the amazing memories I made while I was here. Thank you for everything, Morocco!