I spent the past five days traveling throughout Morocco with a group of study abroad students from all over the world. I was initially skeptical about traveling with tour agency, but the trip proved to be nothing short of amazing.
As the trip was called the “Sahara Desert Adventure,” we had to eventually make it to the Sahara. This required some long days of travel. On the first day, we left Sevilla around 5AM and took a ferry to Morocco. After we arrived in Africa, we drove pretty much all day until we arrived in Fes. The trip was incredibly long and we were all exhausted. I was just hoping that the time spent on the bus would eventually be worth it! Things started to pick up a bit on the second day with a tour of Fes. We walked through the Medina (the city center) of Fes, as well as the Zoco (the marketplace). The city was like something I’ve never seen before. There were donkeys carting carrying trash throughout the city, goat heads waiting to be purchased in the market, and a million stray cats. There were a million street vendors all selling mainly the same food, fabric, and leather goods.
We got to visit a leather tannery in the city center which was interesting. When we neared the area, there was an awful smell. When we entered the building, however, a man gave us each a piece of fresh mint to hold to our noses to distract from the smell. As you can see in the picture, there are various different types of animal skins being dyed various colors. In the tubs of dye is a mix of water, limestone, and pigeon droppings (!!!) to help soften the skin and remove the hair. I guess that seeing this process is supposed to make you want to purchase the leather goods that they are selling, but I can’t say that it had that effect on me.
After the tour of Fes, we had another few hours (more like seven) of travel before we arrived in Rissani. We arrived around midnight and ate dinner before heading straight to bed. Day three was when things really got interesting. First thing in the morning, we toured the city of Rissani and saw the market, a Mausoleum, a handmade pottery factory, and a fabric factory / store that produced handmade Moroccan rugs, tapestries, etc. I bought a lovely little black tapestry that I am excited to put on my wall. In Morocco, bargaining with the shop keepers is the thing to do. He originally quoted me at 55 EU and I got him down to 20 EU. SIDE NOTE: Truthfully, this was all I had in my wallet after my debit card nearly got eaten by an ATM. Thankfully I was able to get the card back after nearly causing a scene inside the bank, but I was still unable to withdraw any money. That was an adventure.
After the tour of Rissani, we had a 4×4 tour of the desert. We whipped through the dunes in an old Mitsubishi and made several stops along the way. The first was at the home of a Berber nomad. She served us Moroccan mint tea (this quickly became one of my favorite drinks) and told us about her life in the desert. We also stopped at an archeological site which, at one point, was the bottom of the ocean. That is just insane to think about. You could see all the little fossilized critters in the sheets of rock – insane.
After the 4×4 tour, we mounted our camels and headed straight into the Sahara. We were told that we would ride two hours before arriving at our campsite (Berber tents). After about fifteen minutes, we were all in pain. Turns out that riding a camel isn’t the most comfortable experience out there! To make things even more interesting, a giant sand / wind / thunderstorm rolled in. The dark clouds were looming above, rain was coming down, sand was crashing against my face, and I was on a camel… in the Sahara Desert!! It was a memorable experience, to say the least! Eventually, we arrived at our campsite where we had dinner, a bonfire, and were joined by nomad musicians. The storm clouds cleared up and we were able to have great views of the stars.
The next morning, we woke up (in the Sahara desert!!), and rode our camels back to where we began. Luckily, there were no storms this time. Once we made it back, we had the chance to shower before beginning the long drive back to Fes. We stopped at the Ziz Valley, which is an oasis. That was cool to see.
On the final day, we stopped in Asilah for some free time. We grabbed a traditional Moroccan lunch, did some shopping, and got to see the ocean. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details of our final day because, as you might imagine, it was a long day of traveling. By my calculations, we had spent thirty-five hours on our bus by the end of the trip. Somehow, every minute of it was worth it. This was one of the most incredible experiences and I am thankful to have it in my heart forever.