A Travellerspoint blog

Weekend in Rabat & Kenitra

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Wow, what a weekend.

On Friday, Nikita & I started off the weekend with a delicious lunch in the marché. At night, we brought a cake with us to La Paix and celebrated Najoua's birthday. It was a fun night with a great group of girls!

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On Saturday morning, Nikita, Mary Kathryne & I got an early start and headed straight to Rabat. Once in Rabat we had sushi for lunch then we went to Oudayas, which is an old kasbah on River Bou Regreg. We explored the medina and I fell in love with the white and blue walls of the town. Later, Hajar (a student at AUI) and her brother came and showed us around the town. Afterwards, we got a mint tea and cookies at small cafe that overlooked the ocean.

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The ocean was absolutely beautiful to see and we could not have asked for better weather when we arrived!

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Around 4pm, Rania (my roommate) and her mom picked us up and took us to Kenitra. On the way there, we stopped at a Moroccan cultural history museum that featured ancient furniture, jewelry, wedding gifts, horse saddles, carpets, and more. Afterwards, we arrived to Rania's beautiful Moroccan-styled home. Her family surprised us with pastries, cookies, coffee, and tea when we arrived. Rania then took us to the center of Kenitra and showed us around her hometown. My goal for every weekend now is to try a new/weird type of food, and this weekend snails were on the menu! When we got back to her house we had a huge couscous tajine meal. It was a lot of fun hanging out with her family; however, they only spoke French & Arabic so it was difficult to talk to them. I did get some practice in with my Arabic though and they seemed to get some entertainment out of it!

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On Sunday morning, I woke up to a large Moroccan breakfast and was served coffee, steamed milk, tea, boiled eggs, deli meat, cheese, french baguettes, pastries, cookies, olives, fruits, and an assortments of jams. After filling up on a week's worth of food, Nikita, Mary Kathryne, Rania, Rania's family & I went to Surfcamp Mehdía in Kenitra and Rania's aunt's friend got us an amazing deal for an hour of surfing! An instructor lead us through a short run and exercises, then we hit the water. Nikita and I were excited that we were able to stand up for one of our waves. This was definitely my favorite part of the weekend!

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After surfing, we went to a beautiful park in Kenitra known for all of its birds. Then after the park we did what I have been waiting for - we went to the hamam! A hamam is a traditional bath in Morocco. In only our underwear, we walked into a steam room and lathered ourselves in an olive-based soap. Then, an older- and very much naked- Moroccan woman came and exfoliated our skin with a cloth that felt like a cheese grater. Layers of skin later, I felt as if my skin could blind people when sunlight reflected off of it. It was definitely an interesting experience and Nikita, Mary Kathryne & I entered a new level of bonding. Once we got back to Rania's house, her family served us another traditional tajine meal with lemon chicken, salad, bread with eggplant dipping sauce, artichokes, and dessert. We never knew what being hungry felt like thanks to Rania's generous family! Her family spoiled us and I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality. Overall, we had an amazing weekend and it was definitely my favorite adventure-filled weekend so far.

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Posted by htoberman 09:34 Archived in Morocco Tagged surfing rabat hamam kenitra Comments (0)

Trip to the Roman Ruins of Volubilis

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This past week of school went by quickly! Of course, we were hit with a bunch of snow again, but it looks like this coming week is about to warm up to the mid-50's! On Thursday night this week, we went downtown to Ifrane for some tea at La Paix. However, after pushing Meryem's car up a hill once it stalled out, the car slid down a hill on ice and almost T-boned another car. Morocco does not use salt on their streets, so after the snow had melted and it got cold at nighttime, the street was an entire sheet of ice. Luckily, we avoided hitting the car when Meryem slid onto the sidewalk, but of course another car came and hit Meryem's car! Fortunately, everyone was okay. But unfortunately, we could not get tea that night.

On Friday night, I went downtown to Ifrane again. We planned on taking it easy this weekend since last weekend was full of travelling and exhaustion! In Ifrane we had sushi and then cheesecake for dessert. It ended up being a fun and relaxing night!

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early and eventually headed to the grand taxi station. From there we headed to Meknes, a city about an hour north of AUI. I gotta say, I love being able to escape the cold of the Atlas Mountains. As we drove north, the snow slowly disappeared and the palm trees popped up everywhere! Our taxi driver cracked us all up. On the way there, our taxi spun out of control on the ice and we had to get out to push it since it was stuck in the snow and mud. Later, we were stuck behind some traffic and he got out of the car in order to see what was going on and to tell everyone to clear his way. Once in Meknes, we went to a restaurant for some paninis and then got in another taxi to go to Volubilis.

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Volubilis is a site of Roman ruins located outside of Meknes. Once we arrived, we were taken away by the perfect weather and the breathtaking view of the mountains. The clouds looked like they were painted perfectly in the sky and the mountains were like nothing I've ever seen before. My pictures cannot even do the scenery justice. The Roman ruins were amazing to see, and I loved the mosaics on the ground and the detail on all of the pillars. Volubilis was a beautiful place to explore.

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After two hours spent at the ruins, we made our way back to Meknes. We got some coffee, tee, and pastries at a local cafe and then we were ready to come back to Ifrane. At the taxi station, there were some food stands. One of them had some sort of meat that Wendy and I decided to try. Later on, we discovered that we ate lamb intestines. Hey, you gotta try new things I guess. It wasn't all that bad!

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Once again, this weekend has been full of adventures and I cannot wait to see what next weekend will bring!

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Posted by htoberman 05:21 Archived in Morocco Tagged volubilis meknés Comments (0)

Marrakech Weekend

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After leaving at 12:30pm from school on Friday, Nikita, Darron, Scott, & I finally arrived in Marrakech at 10:30pm that night. We were grumpy, tired, and starving after a long train ride! When we arrived, our hostel ended up being too far away from Djemaa el Fna, which is the center square and market place in Marrakech. So instead we stayed at a beautiful hotel with the rest of the 11 exchange students from AUI.

In the morning, we went to breakfast, bought our bus tickets, scheduled a new hotel for the next night, and then headed to the Photography Museum of Marrakech. Afterwards we went through the souk. Once again, the narrow streets were filled with shops full of lamps, shoes, bags, and more!

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In the souk we went to this one shop that sold argon oil, spices, dyes, and all-natural medical products. The salesman of the store cracked jokes & hit on a British lady. He showed us all of his products and let us smell and test everything! The amber soap smelled delicious and it is used in place of perfume since perfume contains alcohol. My favorite product was the black seeds. He placed a handful of black seeds in a pouch, placed it up to our nostrils and told us to breath in. Instantly our sinuses were cleared and we were all amazed!

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In the square, Djemaa el Fna, there were snake charmers, men with dressed-up monkeys on leashes, people selling toys, tajines, and drums, children playing, a fishing game to win bottles of pop, and many more people and activities! We all enjoyed many glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice and grapefruit juice from the fruit stands throughout the square! Walking through the crowds we got some interesting compliments - such as the Spice Girls, Lady Gaga, Shakira, and even an awkward poke in the butt. A man came up to us and put snakes around our necks. The worst part is that they expect Americans to tip and they got one of the exchange students to pay 200 MAD just for snapping a photo! Some of the store owners were fun to bargain with; however, there were plenty of people that were reckless when it came to bargaining!

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Later we went out to eat at a cafe. My favorite part about the restaurants in Morocco is that you can sit on the rooftops and enjoy the view of the city. I was really looking forward to seeing the mountain landscape behind Marrakech, but unfortunately it was too foggy to see the mountains!

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That night we went to 555, a night club in Marrakech. There were a ton of old people there, but us internationals still hit up the dance floor!

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The next day we shopped a little bit more and spent the rest of the day resting in the mall food court because we were exhausted! Finally, at 12:00 am, on my birthday, Nikita and I got on our bus and headed back to AUI. After sleeping for most the bus ride, we made it back to school at 7:20 in the morning before classes. Overall, it was an exciting, yet very tiring, weekend!

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Posted by htoberman 12:24 Archived in Morocco Tagged marrakech Comments (0)

Operation: Monkey Hunting

sunny 50 °F
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Today I went to Azrou with Nikita, Candace, and Wendy. Our goal was to succeed at monkey hunting! When we arrived to Azrou we explored the city and gazed at the view of the town surrounded by mountains. We then began to hike up a mountain to follow the crowd of people trying to make it to the peek. However, 3/4ths of the way to the top we heard whistles blowing at us. We turned around, disappointed that we didn't make it to the peek, and realized that what we were doing was actually illegal.

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As we looked around for the Cedar Forest, where the Barbary monkeys live, we had no idea what direction to head in. So we decided to ask the police officer, who whistled at us to get off the rock mountain, how we should go about getting there. Eventually, we met the entire police force and they took us under their wing. About two and a half hours later we finally got into a car and headed toward the Cedar Forest!

When we arrived to the forest, it was jam packed with people sledding down the mountains and playing in the snow. The street was only made for one car, yet cars were parked on the side and two-way traffic still, somehow, proceeded. When we almost reached the Cedar Forest we were told that the road is blocked off due to the snow and that we had to turn around. We were disappointed after going through all that trouble and not getting to see any monkeys! But then, at that moment, I looked at a tree and saw a little Barbary macaque sitting in one of the trees! It was destiny!
Wendy, Candace, Nikita, and I got out of the car instantly and went to see the monkeys. They were everywhere! We even got to feed them apple slices.

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All in all, this weekend has been perfect and I have fallen in love with Fes and Azrou!

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Posted by htoberman 15:07 Archived in Morocco Tagged azrou cedar_forest barbary_macaque Comments (0)

Exploring Fes!

sunny 56 °F
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Yesterday I went to Fes with Nadia, Najoua, Meryem, Wafae, Nikita, and Wendy. We took a grand taxi with 5 girls. Grand taxis normally take up to 6 people, two in the front seat and four in the back. So trips later on will definitely make us closer when we squish in the back seat together for many hours!

After an hour drive we made it to Fes and took a "Honda" to Jardin Jnan Sbil, a beautiful park. Here is where I came across this interesting "toilet" :

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The park was gorgeous and my favorite part was all of the orange trees throughout it! After we toured the gardens we went to the old Medina of Fes. We entered the souk through a gate with gorgeous architecture. First we stopped at a fruit stand and tried cactus fruit. It was delicious, but it stained our teeth bright pink!

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Nadia, Najoua, Meryem, & Wafae were our moms for the day! They lead us through the maze of the souk and first brought us to one of the stores that sells traditional Moroccan dresses. Wendy, Nikita, and I tried dressed on to take photos and they told us we looked beautiful then surprised us by insisting on buying us the dresses!

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After purchasing our dresses the Moroccan girls helped us bargain for shoes and purses. We wandered through the narrow streets and explored the pottery stores. Soon we came across a family-owned restaurant. We trekked up the steep steps of their house and finally arrived to the roof of the building where we all split a couscous and chicken tajine meal. The food was great and our view of Fes was unbelievable!

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After our meal we found our way to another balcony where we could see the leather tannery. Then, the girls got us out of the market maze by asking for help at every corner! It was definitely an adventure and one of my favorite days by far!

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Posted by htoberman 14:48 Archived in Morocco Tagged fes Comments (0)

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