After our stay in Fes, we ventured into the Sahara desert. Here, we rode camels through the sand dunes, and experienced a climate that none of us had before. It was HOT and DRY (well over 100 degrees), but we managed to stay hydrated and enjoy something few people ever get to see.
At night, four Experimenters and I decided to sleep outside under the stars… a night in the Sahara Desert! The galaxy was so clear it looked fake- both beautiful and incredibly overwhelming, and is one of those images I could never truly explain to another person. Sleeping under the stars, I was inspired to write this poem, “A Moment Larger than Life:”
have you ever felt a moment larger than life?
one that holds your body slightly above ground,
not daring to let you slip away just yet into the cold earth
where your feet leave prints
that tomorrow you’ll forget,
and the next day a stranger will follow
somehow never colliding.
in this moment you forget about the trails
that hurt your feet
and your head.
in this moment you feel the
breath of the trees,
the whisper of the wind.
in this moment you learn more than you could ever teach,
but it’s for you.
this moment is yours,
and that’s enough.
After the orientation in Rabat, everyone was looking forward to the rest of the trip. We began by going to the old Roman settlement of Volubilis. Here, we were fortunate enough to experience old mosaics and a wealthy patrician’s house, as well as many other staples of their civilization such as a church, aqueducts, and the stage where speeches were made, and the time spent walking around in the heat was worth it.
Since this was a side stop, we continued on to the city of Fes. A common opinion was that this place was much different from Rabat, for many reasons. The city itself was much more modern, and the people’s curiosity towards us was much more obvious. After learning about the gender roles in Moroccan society, it was clear to see while walking the streets how they differed from place to place, and how the people, men especially, would pay more aggressive attention to anyone foreign. As we expected from what we saw in Rabat, the women acted more conservative in their glances, and they wouldn’t openly say something, however their interest was apparent.
While in Fes, we took a guided, six hour long tour in the old medina, or marketplace. The heat combined with the walking was not ideal, but those canceled out with the sights. The sheer volume of what was being sold (food, clothes, animals, etc) and how the people spent their days in the small winding streets where you can get lost in the blink of an eye honestly shocked me, and overwhelmed my senses. The aromas of the spices, the slightly more potent scents of certain other foods. The rainbow of colors from the hanging assortments of dress fluttering in the occasional breeze. All in all, a fulfilling day. After having lunch we continued on with seeing a weaving shop and a dye shop, both incredible experiences.
Marrakech was a city of history and a blending of cultures mixed together to create a diverse and inclusive environment. Though more westernized than the previous cities we had visited, Marrakech retained its Islamic and Jewish origins in the médina, a quintessential part of Morocco as a whole. After visiting the Square and learning the history behind the buildings, gates, and varying types of cultures and how they arrived here, I found myself invested in the city and it’s people.
My favorite place in Marrakech was undoubtedly the Square. Hearing the music and seeing the snake charmers while drinking fruit smoothies left me immersed in the environment around me. I managed to hold a snake and buy unique spices for my family, as well as seeing several horse drawn carriages and monkey trainers. Another gorgeous place was the palace we’d been through, a place the king sometimes visits and holds meetings in. Though it’s now primarily used for tourists, the patterns on the walls and tiles, stained glass, and gardens clearly communicated Moroccan history and tradition.
Walking down the streets, you can see everyone wearing something different than the person next to them. They were in western clothes or Moroccan dress, but there were also many that combined both together. Some were speaking in Arabic, some in French, Spanish, English, and anything in between. Though I was nervous in this new place at first, I quickly discovered the people in Marrakech were just as kind as the people I’d seen in Rabat and Fes. Even though our experience in Marrakech was short, it was memorable in the people we met, places we explored, and memories we made.