Southern Sunshine

This past weekend I decided to travel south, away from the snow and wind. Of the 65 new international students, about 25 headed in the same direction, some electing to stay in Marrakesh while others, myself included, trekked all the way to the coastal city of Agadir. We left Ifrane by bus on Friday night at 9:30, and reached Marrakesh by 5:00 AM. By 8:30, we stepped off the bus into the sunlight of southern Morocco. The trip was the most uncomfortable bus ride I’ve ever experienced: two passengers lost their dinners within the first two hours of windy mountain roads, and we stopped every two hours, making sleep nearly impossible. All those frustrations were forgotten as soon as we stepped onto the sandy beach Saturday morning.

For lunch about 10 of us headed to the port and chose fresh dorado, shrimp, and calamari, grilled and fried to order, with salads and bread on the side. It cost about $7 USD per person. Next we headed up to the kasbah, the ruins of a stone granary mounted atop a large hill to the north of town. We were able to see the entire city and coastline of beach while the sun set over the Atlantic horizon.

On Sunday six of us hired a grand taxi for the three-hour trip north to Marrakesh while the rest either stayed in Agadir or set off further south to the old Spanish town of Sidi Ifni. We arrived in Marrakesh just around sunset, and walked straight to the Djemaa el-Fna, a vendor-filled square of massive proportions. Literally hundreds of shopkeepers ringing the square set up their wares every morning, selling bags, wallets, jelebas, pets, jewelry, even swords and rifles. After sunset, the center of the square becomes populated with row upon row of food stalls with meat and seafood, bread, harira soup, pastries, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

This weekend was absolutely incredible, and I know that I’ll be back to Marrakesh in three week’s time. A few friends and I are returning to purchase tailor-made suits from a merchant we met. This week I have a midterm exam in my History of Sub-Saharan Africa course, and a quiz each in French and Arabic. I also joined the basketball team and the Rhythm and Unity club; our first game is this Thursday and I’ve got band practice Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. The weeks are filling up rapidly, but each weekend I am still more or less free to roam. Next I’m either heading for a day trip to Meknes (only an hour away) or all the way to Tangier and Tetouan in the north.