Our week in Morocco was by far the best week of my life.
Excitement was a great distraction from the 5 a.m. departure to the Malta International Airport on Saturday, March 24. By late afternoon we arrived in Fes, Morocco after two flights and a ten-minute sprint through the Amsterdam airport.
Our first day of Spring Break was my twenty-first birthday! Thankfully Cafe Clock (where we ate camel burgers for dinner) was very accommodating. They brought out a cheesecake with "Happy Birthday Erin" drizzled in chocolate on top! The waiters were so concerned about how to spell my name that they had me write it in pen on one of their hands! They lead our group in singing Happy Birthday in both English and in Arabic. What an experience!
From the waiters we met at Cafe Clock to the vendors in each souk, the people we interacted with around the country were unbelievably friendly. Everyone seemed so eager to show off their country. Our bellhop at the hotel in Fes made sure that fresh, Moroccan mint tea was poured and ready when we walked through the lobby door.
A huge highlight of the trip was our tour guide, Mohammad. He emphasized learning about the culture and understanding the lives of Moroccans. Mohammad made sure that we experienced his country as travelers, not just tourists. When tourists visit a new place, they go to major attractions, take photos, and then leave. Travelers, according to Mohammad, visit to immerse themselves in the culture and learn. Because of the emphasis on having a traveler mindset, Mohammad translated various interactions with locals.
Our first interaction was with a woman selling textiles in the mountain town of Azzrou. We got to ask her questions about her work and life. At the end of the interaction, our tour coordinator, Liz, handed the woman a tip equivalent to $2. I have never seen anyone smile so big or look so proud. She showed off her 20 dirham bill to the crowd that had gathered around our group. I will never forget that moment.
Throughout the week we had multiple interactions including conversations with herders, children, and fruit vendors. One man even gave us a full bag of strawberries (after taking off his jacket and asking us to root for his favorite football team, which the jersey he wore represented). We learned from the people we met, and in return they learned from us. Although most did not speak English, we showed our thanks through wide smiles and bright eyes. This was by far my favorite part of the trip.
Traveling in a place with a completely foreign culture was rather intimidating at first. Thanks to our guide, I began to feel more comfortable each day. We all picked up on cultural norms and even learned a few phrases in Arabic.
The week in Morocco forever changed the way I look at the world.