Guys, this is a long one. But this trip was one of the highlights of my traveling life and unlike any place I’ve been to before, so I’m not about to skimp on pictures or words. It was my (and Ben’s) first time in an Islamic country, too, so it was extra unique and interesting for us. I hate the word unique, but that’s the best word I can think of to describe it.
|At the Chellah in Rabat.|
We were very, very lucky to have connections in Morocco that made our experience there even more amazing. Our family friend, Kent Crookston, has lived, researched, and taught in Morocco for many years (everyone we talked to who knew him says he’s a legend there) and was able to put us in contact with some of his friends there. In Rabat we stayed with an awesome LDS couple who work for the U.S. Embassy, and we absolutely loved them. Kent also put us in contact with a couple, Julie and Zach, that are about our age and are working there for the Peace Corps.
Our visit to Morocco happened to be at the very end of Ramadan (Islam’s holy month where everyone fasts from sunup to sundown), which was both slightly inconvenient (not often) and incredibly interesting and enlightening (mostly that). It was fun to see how alive everything became at night; once the sun goes down, everyone is feasting, partying, and as happy as can be. Most people would just shift their eating schedules completely and eat a couple of big meals during the middle of the night—so for some, Ramadan was more a sacrifice of sleep than of food and drink. (Though going without water during the day in that heat is not easy, either.)
Our flight from Madrid to Rabat was slightly chaotic and confusing up until takeoff, and we took off more than an hour late. I was nervous because our Embassy hosts were picking us up from the airport, and I had told them what time we’d be landing. To make matters worse, it took us an extra 40 minutes to get through passport inspection/customs.
But when we got out to the small greeting lobby, our hosts were nowhere to be found. We walked around the inside and outside of the airport for a while just to be sure, but they were definitely not there. I wondered if they turned around and went back home because we were so late. And then the possible scenarios started going through my head: we would have to sleep outside of the airport; we would have to ask someone who looked like they spoke English if we could stay at their house for one night; we would have to find a taxi and go . . . to I have no idea where. We knew nothing about where we were and were totally reliant on our hosts picking us up and telling us everything we might need to know (oops).
This semi-anxiety went on for about 20 minutes, until at last we saw an American couple smiling and trotting toward us. Carole was laughing and admitted that they got lost on their way to the airport, but fortunately they were still able to get there on time. We were so confused. How were they on time? She showed us her watch, and sure enough, they were right on time. Apparently Morocco sets their clocks back an extra hour during Ramadan so that it’s light out for less of the day, and Ryanair failed to inform us of this. It was a stressful evening, but it all ended up working out in the end—as it always does.
|Flying into Morocco at sunset.|
|Sundown during Ramadan = party time. After we dropped off our luggage, our hosts took us around a little evening bazaar by their apartment.|
|Carole checking out some pillow cases.|
|The Maroc Telecom building was all lit up our first night there because it was the Night of Power.|
|This mosque (and you can see another one just behind it) was right outside our window. I definitely woke up to the call for prayer in the middle of the night, but Ben didn’t because he could sleep through a volcano eruption.|
|Petit taxis here are the bomb. A 15-min ride costs the equivalent of about $3.|
|The entrance to the Chellah.|
|Sleeping cat inside the Chellah. Don’t understand how it was sleeping with its head like that.|
|Chellah = land of the storks. Or luk-luks as they’re called in Arabic.|
|This feisty little baby luk-luk jumped onto this tree, clinging on for dear life with its beak, and fell to the ground below—luckily he landed right on his two feet.|
|Mr. Security-Guard-Photographer knew what he was doing.|
|He explained some of the history of the Chellah to us, too. Moroccans are the nicest, loveliest people.|
|It was kind of amazing how little everything was blocked off or protected. We were climbing all over these Roman walls and pathways and rooms, which I feel like would never be allowed with something of this size in Europe.|
|Praying mantis friend.|
Rabat is Morocco’s capital, so there are tons of government buildings and official-looking people. I loved the look of the red flags against the white government buildings as well as the cool outfits the guards were wearing, so I took out my camera to take some pictures of one building across the street from us. But as soon as the guards saw me pull it out, they turned their faces and then started yelling at me, telling me I couldn’t take any photos. I put away my camera, but one guy who was yelling at us followed us for about five minutes to make sure we weren’t secret-agent spies trying to take down the country.
|Flags and government-type seals everywhere in Rabat.|
|Cathedrale Saint-Pierre. Yes, a Catholic cathedral in Morocco.|
|The guard horses were so beautiful—their coats seriously looked and shined like copper.|
|All of these little stumps were part of the mosque’s construction.|
|The tiles and decorations on the inside of the tomb building were UNREAL. I just stood there with my mouth open for a long time.|
|Julie, Ben, and I (Zach was fasting) took our bread and some prickly pears into an alleyway to be out of sight of everyone else who was fasting.|
|Scrawny, sleepy kittens everywhere.|
|This cutie followed us all around the beach and became Julie’s BFF because she petted her.|
|Love at first petting.|
|Back at the medina.|
|So mad at myself for not buying that blue camel rug.|
|After the main course, they brought out this powdery paste of peanuts and honey and other things I can’t remember. It packs a lot of calories and protein in one punch.|
|Trying to eat as much of the peanut powder as possible.|
|The dining room.|
|On our way to get pictures taken. The little one in the white was SO sassy and my favorite. She walked the whole way there and the whole way back with her hands on her hips.|
|We stopped at a little store to rent some accessories. When she came out, her chin was held at least two inches taller for the rest of the night—we were dying. Gotta showcase that bling.|
|The girls each got a turn to be paraded in the bride chariot. (Little Miss Sassy was anxious for her turn, but Miss Sassy II was not about to share her moment with someone else.) 🙂|
|The gang of gals.|
While we were waiting for the family to return the accessories, this little girl came up to me and just kissed me on the cheek. Then she stared at me with this huge smile and just giggled. I used the two phrases of Darija I had learned from Zach to tell her Nt zween (“You are pretty”) and Wesh yimkin soadek? (“Can I take your picture?”). I also told her my name and found out her name is Miriam.
|Have you ever seen a more beautiful child?!|
|Said goodbye to our friends and guides, for now.|
|Funny pics are always awk.|
|Our tour guide, Hassan.|
|One of many community ovens. Everyone brings their bread to be baked in one of these. We bought one freshly baked piece for the equivalent of $0.12.|
|Somehow this ancient city still finds satellites a priority.|
|SO MANY SATELLITES.|
|Women and men were separated.|
|Copper pots and pans.|
|Donkeys, donkeys everywhere.|
|Narrowest of alleys.|
|Our cute little riad.|
|The day we left was technically a holiday because it was the end of Ramadan, but some people were still semi-open for business ha.|
|Our riad host walking us to the blue gate (it’s green on the inside and blue on the outside).|
|At Bab Bou Jeloud, The Blue Gate of Fes el-Bali.
Bislama, Morocco. We promise to come back as soon as we can.