Before I start this post here is some essential Arabic vocabulary:
Shukran: Thank you
Salam walaykoom: Hello (formal), Good Morning, Good afternoon, Good evening
READY? Practice! There will be a quiz at the end of this post! ha, gotcha.
I never thought I would have the chance to step foot on Arica. Lucky me I have some awesome parents (thanks again mom and dad!) who love me a lot and gave me probably the most chulo (cool) Christmas gift ever: a 5 day trip to Morocco AND THE SAHARA DESERT. Yes, folks, that’s right I said SAHARA DESERT!
We sailed for Africa, ok we took a ferry…and landed in Tangiers, Morocco. It was literally a 14 KM ride from the port of Tarifa, Spain. We then head by bus to Rabat for lunch. We also had a chance to see the Hassan Tower (that is modeled after the Gilada in Sevilla) and the Mausoleum of Mohammad V. The Hassan Tower is the largest minaret in the world, but it actually unfinished.
One thing I should mention is that everyone I talked to in my pueblo told me how the food in Morocco would be terrible…along with many other things too (Spaniards aren’t really desiring to visit Morocco). Oh that were so wrong. The first meal we had in Rabat was AHMAZING. We really didn’t know what it really consists of, but there was Chicken, veggies, Moroccan spices, and cinnamon and sugar. I know the cinnamon and sugar sounds a bit different, but it literally made the dish. It was only a preview to the amazing food we would be eating through the whole trip. Moroccans eat a lot of fresh veggies and fruit. Of course they love their pastries and tarts, and I do too! There were a lot “hotdishes” that included couscous, veggies, chicken, and spices. YUM. No worries friends, I eat for fun, not for fuel, so I defs tried everything.
Then we headed to Fez for the night before we set out for the SAHARA DESERT. You are probably wondering how we got the Sahara, here you go:
Bus to the city of Xaluca-> 4×4 jeeps with some crazy Berbers-> CAMELS to the Desert Oasis
Before I hop into my adventures in the desert, I should explain the interesting discoveries we ran into on our way there. We called this day the day of four seasons…Keep this in mind: when we left Fez it was fall-like weather for Morocco.
Anyways…back to the camels…YES, CAMELS. I RODE A CAMEL IN THE SAHARA DESERT. Actually I rode two camels, but who is really counting! We stayed in a tradition Berber (And just so you all know, I’m not mistaking Berber for BARBER) camp for the night were we got to experience traditional Moroccan/Berber food, traditional Berber music (Shakira and Gangam Style may have been mashed in…), and BERBERS THEMSELVES. Again, never would I think I would be hanging with some Berbers in da desert. NEVER.
After an amazing night under the stars we packed up our camels and headed to our desert hotel! En serio, it’s like we are riding through sand dunes with our Berber friends singing “Waka Waka by Shakira” and BAM there is the hotel. We got to spend the day in the nearby Berber village and hanging out in the dunes. It was honestly the perfect day. I kept reminding myself that:
A. This is REAL life.
B. This is MY life.
C. I freaking love the desert, berbers, camels, and riding camels through the desert while hanging out with Berbers.
It wouldn’t be an authentic end to the desert without one last ride with Loco (our Berber friend) in the 4×4 through the desert. No pasa nada amigos (no worries friends), Loco is my first and real Berber friend. He was a great insight to the traditional Berber life in the Sahara Desert. If you don’t know, Berbers are a group of Arabic people who live in the Northern regions of Africa. Back in the day, Berbers were nomadic people. Which means they travel with their animals throughout the desert for them to feed. Ahora (now), many have built homes in villages throughout the desert and have become stationary nomades (the desert is full of paradoxes). These villages are fully functioning, with “electricity” and water wells for water. Many of the Berbers have their own shops and businesses (for example: Berber leather and Berber woven cloths!).
The last lag of our adventure we traveled back to Fez to do some shopping (CLARO!). We hit up the old Medina of the town, which is very similar to the old historical part of the town. In this area is a market area that has all the traditional Moroccan items such as leather goods, spices, herbal medicines, food, cloths, etc. Our group got to tour a lot of shops while we were there. The most interesting was the Tannery, where leather is made. It smelled terrible (so terrible that they gave us mint to smell), but it was such an interesting process to learn. In this area in the back there are many tubs of chemicals that are used to treat different animal skins. Each worker is trained in one step of the leather making process, and is paid based on the number of leathers they make. To make a leather jacket we found out it could take 3 to 5 days to complete the whole process.
By the end of my trip I was exhausted, yet so happy. This was a trip of a lifetime where I got to experience many things that I will never ever get the chance to do again. I got to witness many different cultures and their traditions that will stick with me for the rest of my life. And let’s be real, I have never valued clean tap water more so than I do now. How many people can say that they have been to the Sahara Desert and back?
Now I’m back to reality, wrapping things up before Christmas. I’m currently teaching all of my 6th level students “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” for the school Christmas program…it has been very entertaining teaching them how to pronounce “Boughs of holly.” I’m also in charge of creating dance moves as well…OI VEY.
You all are also probably wondering where I could POSSIBLY be traveling to, so here is the line up for Christmas:
December 21st-December 26th-Galway and Dublin, Ireland
December 26th to December 30th-Budapest, Hungary
December 31st- January 3rd-Prague, Czech Republic
I hope you all have a great holiday and happy New Year! Hasta Luego!