1. Eat snails: I always imagined that my first escargot experience would be at a fancy restaurant in Paris, but when I found myself in Jamaa el Fna, a square full of food trucks and performers, I decided to give them a try. The taste was fine, but I didn't love the texture.
Jama el Fna
photo credit to Kate McDonnelll
3. Shop til you Drop: The Marrakesh Medina had really unique items. I'm used to seeing very similar things in Rabat, and I bought some cool felted wool products in Marrakesh. Here's a picture of the workshop:
I also got some poofy pants, sandals, and two hats along the way. I felt more confident bargaining in Marrakesh because I knew what the prices should be in Rabat.
Astrid and I modeling our new hats
5. Explore a secret garden: The designer Yves St. Laurent had a property in Marrakesh which was donated to the city after his death. The Jardin Majorelle is a beautiful garden that and I found some quiet moments among the bamboo trees to take it all in.
7.Go swimming: Our hotel had a pool and despite the temperature in the low 60s, Charis and I briefly jumped in.
photo credit to Kate McDonnell
8. Dance the night away: In Essouira, our wonderful group leader arranged a private Gnoua concert for us. Gnaoua music (African Islamic spiritual and religious songs) comes mainly from Moroccan and Western Algeria, though many influences are from sub Saharan Africa. We had the chance to watch a m7lem (a master) perform and then we joined in and danced! If I didn't love gnaoua before this trip, I certainly do now! Here's a video of gnaoua. Typically, gnaoua is performed in an all night festival, called a laila. (I would love to experience a laila at some point in my life!)
10. See the sunrise: On both of our mornings in Essouira, I woke up early to watch the sunrise from the rooftop of our hotel. The hotel was in the Medina, right next to the ocean, and the silence was broken only by sound of waves breaking and seagulls crying. I loved watching the sun's rays illuminate the rooftops of the city.
11. Ride a camel: Before coming to Morocco, I had my heart set on riding a camel. Though camels are not native to Essouira, I had the chance to ride one on the beach. I was pretty terrified when the camel stood up, but I can check that off my Morocco bucket list now! Someday I would love to do a camel trek in the Sahara!
12. Eat some great food: Among lots of good food, the highlights were: orange-grapefruit juice in Marrakesh and the dinner on the rooftop that followed, a grilled fish fest in Essouira, and several warm nutella crepes in between.
juice man in Jama el Fna
dinner in Marrakesh
13. Fall in Love: ....with Essouira. Essouira is a smaller town, located right on the coast, and the wind blows constantly. It's small enough to be manageable and touristy enough to feel safe without being spoiled (in my opinion). The second we stepped off the bus, I felt the calm vibes of Essouira, in contrast to the fast pace of Marrakesh. I really hope I make it back someday!
on the roof of the hotel
The trip ended with the news that our return date to the United States is June 11. We'll go to DC for a day or two after that, but I'll be back in my hometown by June 13th, a little over 3 months a way. It's a little weird to think about seeing everyone and doing all the things I used to do again. I'm sure I'll become more excited as it gets closer, but right now I feel a bit of sadness mixed with determination to make these last few months AMAZING!
Also, a big thank you to our group leader for organizing this trip! I am so grateful for all your hard work and insight!