Wow. So much has happened in one week it is going to be hard to sum it up in one post - but I'll try my best!
I spent the first half of the week with a group through AUI's Explorers club on a trip called "Trip to the South". Our bus finally took off, bright and early, at 4:00am on Saturday, March 7th. After a long bus ride, we finally arrived to Erfoud and we got into SUV's and headed to Merzouga. The ride was a blast - in order to avoid getting stuck in the sand, the SUV driver drove through the sand like a maniac. Eventually we made it to our "hotel" for the first night. Although a beautiful hotel ran the place we stayed at, we were lucky enough to get the full Sahara Desert experience and we slept in tents! After exploring the desert, a group of girls and I rode on three camels to the bottom of a large dune. Once we reached the dune, we got off and climbed up it - which was absolutely exhausting, but totally worth it when we saw the view from the top. I plopped down once I reached the top and we waited for the sunset. The sunset in the Sahara Desert is definitely one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my life.
Sleeping in the desert, although it was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had, was god-awful. I could not sleep at all because apparently I'm allergic to the desert and on top of that I thought I'd lose my toes the next day due to frostbite because it was FREEZING at nighttime. But it was a good time, I guess. Although I was bummed that I slept through the alarm for the sunrise, I still caught a beautiful view in the morning of the sun. After breakfast at the hotel, we headed to Ouarzazate. This was another wonderful hotel and it is located in the middle of movie studios where many movies have been filmed. At our dinner buffet, we ate inside of the set of King Tut and even had a dance party inside it! The next morning we had a Moroccan breakfast buffet and I even learned how to prepare Msemen (a Moroccan bread). Afterwards, we toured the other movie sets where Cleopatra and Game of Thrones were filmed.
On the way to Marrakech we paused and shopped in Kasbat Ait Ben Haddou. When we arrived to Marrakech, we entered another beautiful hotel for the next two nights. The next morning we had a breakfast buffet and we headed to Terre d'Amanar where we did a high ropes course and went ziplining. The view from the place we went to was stunning and the staff made us a delicious three-course meal. Once we arrived back to Marrakech we went shopping through the old Medina and then at night we went to Chez Ali which hosted a Moroccan show, music from all of the Berber groups, and a traditional Moroccan tajine meal.
The Old Medina of Marrakech
The next morning, Nikita, Wendy, and I left the Explorers Club and caught a bus to Essaouira. Essaouira is definitely one of my favorite cities I've been to in Morocco. All the buildings were white and splashed with blue, the people were so friendly, and the overall atmosphere of the city was so friendly and energetic. Makes sense why this town is supposedly where all the hippies came in the 1960s. We explored the fish market and stumbled across a couple of fish stands where people were grilling up fish for customers. We sat at one of the tables and ordered fish, shrimp, sting ray, and sea urchin. I'm all about trying these new foods! The seafood was so fresh and delicious. After our lunch, we shopped through the souk. Essouaira is known for their wooden products - I even spotted the Moroccan Ben Stiller (pictured below). Later, we watched the sunset over the ocean and treated ourselves to some Berber massages.
On Thursday morning we got a grand taxi for Agadir. What a taxi ride... Thirty minutes into the drive, the man next to Nikita began throwing up from car sickness. After he threw his puke-filled bag out the window, I handed him a plastic bag that I had in my purse. About two hours and four puke-filled plastic bags later, the guy sitting in front of the man who was throwing up began to throw up because he could hear the guy behind him getting sick. After we FINALLY got out of the car, we realized we actually passed Agadir and had to find another taxi to take us 15 minutes back up to the city. What a day.
On the bright side, we found a gorgeous, apartment-styled hotel in Agadir that was a short walk away from the beach. We explored Agadir and then came back to disappointing news. Although around 3 o'clock our cruise, that was scheduled for the following day contacted us and told us that they would pick us up from our hotel the next morning, we arrived to our hotel and were informed that our cruise was cancelled. Many hours and phone calls later, we realized our plans for the next day were ruined and we would have to work to get refunded for the day-long cruise. The next morning, we spent some time at the beach and around 1pm we were invited to Tanirt's house -a girl we met during the Trip to the South - for lunch. Her family greeted us and her mom prepared us an amazing meal. First she prepared a huge seafood pastilla. Afterwards, thinking lunch was finished, she brought out a couscous taijne - my favorite couscous meal yet! When we finished eating, we went downstairs for dessert. Tanirt's mom baked six cakes. Take in mind, there were only six girls eating. Moroccan moms definitely know how to fill us up!
On Saturday, we had a tour scheduled for Paradise Valley. A man picked us up in a van and took us through the mountains and we first stopped at an Argan oil cooperative where we tested multiple honeys made with different flavors. When we made it to Paradise Valley, we hiked up the mountains and went cliff jumping in the pools. It was such a great, relaxing day!
Later that night, I tried another new dish - camel tajine!
On our last day, we rented private beach beanbag beds and spent the entire day on the beach. It was well needed! We even met some guys part of a surf club who let us surf for an hour and a half for free. It was definitely the perfect way to end our spring break!
Spring break was such a great week and I cannot believe that it is already over and that I am back at school. I also cannot get over the fact that I have hit the half-way point for my time in Morocco. I have done so much already and I cannot wait to keep exploring on the weekends that I have left!