More of Morocco

19 Nov

The weather in Morocco has gotten fairly cold since the end of October, something I did not quite expect to happen in Africa. Even more mindblowing is that the town of Ifrane (not far from here) actually receives snow and operates a ski resort. Are we not at the doorstep of the Sahara?! There have been several major holidays in Morocco, Religious and non-Religious. I mentioned in the last entry that I was going to attempt a trip to the Western Sahara(the disputed southern claim of Morocco). My friend Ben and I were unable to make it that far, however, we stumbled upon another great Moroccan secret, which turned into one of the best excursions so far.

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Eid Al-Adha is a significant holiday in the Islamic world. Held towards the end of October, it is to remember the Prophet Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, based on a commandment from God. Across the Islamic world sheep are bought, slaughtered and eaten during a special feast on the day of the Eid. The language program was closed for a week due to observance of this holiday, and to give students a break between terms(there are 6 week study periods here). Most students arranged to travel during that time, some to Europe(Spain is a 5 hour trip from here) or to other nearby cities. My friend Ben and I wanted to explore Southern Morocco. I went to Casablanca for a day and saw the King Hassan II mosque, the 7th largest mosque in the world! Ben and I met up later and then hit the road for the South.

As we planned our trip, it became less feasible to go down into Western Sahara due to time constraints, so we planned on the coastal town of Agadir, a few hours south of Rabat. We made a hostel reservation in what we thought was Agadir. However, upon arriving in Marrakesh on our way there, we discovered that the hostel was actually in another town several hours from there, and buses were booked solid due to mass holiday traveling, whoops! No problem though! After successful price haggling and 3 taxi’s(Imagine a 2-3 hour trip in a beat-up Mercedes 190E, 4 people in the back, no air conditioning…and three of those trips in one day. It was awesome.  We made it to the hostel in the little town of Mirleft.

Mirleft is a coastal village deep in Southern Morocco. On the day of the festival most shops were closed, so this was a ghost town for a little while, with some individuals out “preparing” sheep for the holiday dinner. The hostel was situated along the beach front, it was cool to watch the sunset over the Atlantic and occasional storm off the coast. Over a 4 day period we had a blast with hiking, cave exploring and surfing. This area also had much to offer in regards to rural Berber culture. Berber is the collective name for the various groups of the original inhabitants of Morocco. They are a well intregrated part of the Moroccan community, while still maintaining their own written and spoken language, in addition to the mainstream languages of Arabic and French. On the way home we spent a night in Marrakesh, known for its beautiful structures of red clay, and for its massive antique market in the town center. Fantastic trip! Alot of road time, but it was worth it!

After the break a new 6 week study period began, and the homework load went way up! But I have seen a significant increase in my Arabic abilities since Jordan. The classes here are fantastic! I have been going to Rabat on the weekends for church, it’s a great uplifting experience plus an awesome trainride across the country! I am also learning to play a musical instrument called an “Oud”, very similar to a lute. I am also working on an interesting media research project for another class (In addition to Arabic, we are also taking courses on Moroccan culture and Islamic influence in Morocco). Stay tuned for more on these experiences, as well as background info on other recent holidays. Also coming up: What my host dad does for a living in the Old Medina, pretty cool!

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