For a lot of people, summer is the time to post artsy photos onto Instagram and Facebook to see how many likes you can get and to make people jealous of whatever you are doing after a stressful year — I am definitely not an exception to this. When I was planning on where to go this summer, I had one of those cliché moments where I felt the need to be spontaneous for once in my life. So, I decided to go to a completely foreign part of the world where I never would have dreamed of going. Finally, I picked my destination for the summer: Morocco, and got accepted to go on an exchange where I would blog about my experience to increase tourism. Located in Northern Africa, Morocco is known to be an exotic and spiritual country full of countless amazing photo opportunities with intricate architecture and colorful scenery, but I discovered so much more.
During my first week in Morocco, I visited Rabat, which is the capital of the country. The majority of the people in Morocco are Muslim, so many people were celebrating Ramadan while I was there. At this time, people would fast throughout the day and only eat and drink after a certain time at night. Due to this, many restaurants and shops were closed, which was inconvenient for me to find food during the day. However, it allowed me to explore more of Rabat and understand more about the Moroccan culture and luckily, I managed to keep myself satisfied with Western fast food places, such as McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, which was still open during the day. In addition, I was a bit unsure of what kind of clothing I should bring to Morocco, but I soon found out that I was perfectly fine with t-shirts and jeans. Even though I brought shorts and dresses for the summer weather, I found that women did not usually wear revealing clothing and I felt a bit uncomfortable wearing my shorter clothes. Although there was a language barrier with the Moroccan people, I was surprised to learn a majority of the people knew how to speak French and some Spanish.
In Rabat, the taxi-filled streets are scattered with small shops and bazaars where the local people sold everything from fruits, vegetables, meat, jewelry, shoes, and other things. While I was walking inside the Medina, I realized a lot of people were staring at me and the other interns, which made me a bit uncomfortable at first, but I soon got used to it. There were not many tourists in the Medina and I understood why everyone was paying so much attention to us; they were not used to foreigners. I also learned that it was a good idea to ask before taking pictures because in Morocco, it may seem rude or disrespectful to just whip out your camera and snap photos. Throughout Morocco, there are many hidden gems, such as the Riad Kalaa, a gorgeous restaurant and inn that I had stumbled upon in the Old Medina. From the outside, there was just a small door, but once I stepped inside the space was beautifully designed with geometric tiles and elaborate molding. The next day, I went to the Kasbah Oudayas, which was a charming little town near the Old Medina. As I approached the entrance to the town, it seemed like an ancient ruin with dull tan walls, but once I entered and turned the corner, there were vibrant walls of blue and white, which made it seem like I was transported to Santorini, Greece for a minute.
As I trekked down the cobblestoned pathways of the Kasbah, I noticed stray cats lurking about. If you are a cat lover, then you should book a flight to Morocco because I noticed that there was an abundance of stray cats walking around everywhere in the country. This was very unfortunate for me because I am allergic to cats. During dinner one night, there was even a cat that jumped up next to me at the restaurant we were eating at! To end our tour of the Kasbah Oudayas, we explored the town's garden, which was so serene and a relief from the usual bustling city.
Another attraction that I visited in Rabat was the Hassan Tower and Mausoleum. Throughout the site, there were many royal guards either on horses or walking around on foot, which was quite intimidating because they would never smile, even when I took a ridiculously "touristy" photo of them. Inside the entrance, the Hassan Tower and Mausoleum stood directly opposite of each other and in between the structures were ruins from a mosque that looked like roman pillars. Inside the Mausoleum, there was a balcony that went around the whole room and overlooked the tombs of the Moroccan king and his two sons, late King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. Also, there were ornate golden doors that complimented the colorful geometric tiles on the walls and the row of Moroccan flags in honor of the king and prince. The site was just an amazing architectural dream and was definitely one of my favorite places to visit in Rabat.
Finally to end my first week in Morocco, I visited the Twarga (Royal Palace). Outside of The Twarga was a small city surrounded by a wall, which looked substantially different from all the other cities I had visited in Rabat. Near the Twarga, many people who worked with the government or the Royal Palace lived there and it was a more high-class area with cleaner streets and renovated buildings. Upon arrival at the Twarga, there is a small office where you had to present your passport, in order to enter the gates of the palace. In addition, they held onto our passports and only gave our passports back once we leave the Twarga. I was a bit disappointed with my experience visiting the Twarga because I was not allowed to go into many of the mosques. Also, I was not allowed to enter the actual Royal Palace and many guards stood outside of the palace and told us that we could only take photos from the outside. Overall, my first week in Rabat, Morocco had been quite an experience. It was a bit difficult to get use to things, such as currency, communication, and transportation, but I finally got the hang of it, especially with the help of my fellow interns. I even learned a bit of Arabic, such as "Yalla", which means "let's go" or "hurry up" and we tried to incorporate that phrase quite often, even mixing it with English sometimes, which was funny at times.
It was just one word that we all used but to me, it represented the purpose of my exchange in Morocco.
Not only to increase tourism through blogging about Moroccan culture and attractions, but also creating friendships and memories with people from all over the world and bonding over this amazing experience in Morocco.