I can first open by saying that Morocco is AMAZING! In 7 days we climbed the highest mountain (in North Africa anyway), sailed the shining seas (or at least stared at them), and crossed the scorching deserts (in an air-conditioned train car). Before my friend Rose suggested we go, I had no intention or interest really in visiting Morocco. I had heard different things about it...but I didn't put it at the top of my list. However, after our quick 7 day tour, I am already planning my return trip.
It is impossible to even begin to compare Burkina Faso to Morocco. Everything is different from the landscape, the culture, the people, the food, and the level of development. It is like taking a step in to Europe or Israel. Morocco is crazy and vibrant and alive...and it was an interesting contrast. I think I am having culture shock just coming back to Burkina.
On our first day we headed straight to Marrakesh to get a taste for the bazaars, markets, and lively Moroccan culture. The market streets and alleys wind for miles and we could get lost for hours just walking, staring, eating, drinking coffee, eating some more, and drinking coffee some more (I thought no one could bypass me for coffee intake...but I can't hold a candle to these caffeine-infused Moroccans...you might as well hook me up to a coffee IV to keep up). On our first day in Marrakesh I don't think that we were prepared for the forwardness and abrasiveness of the Moroccans. Within our first 10 minutes walking through the main square
we were accosted by pre-teen henna girls. Before I knew it they had grabbed my hand and were squirting the henna cream in a design and saying "No money, no money! Good luck husband! Henna good luck husband!" Well shoot, if it's no money, and I get good luck in the husband department...SIGN ME UP! Yeah, well, that is until the moment that they finished. "Money. Give Money. WE WANT MONEY!! GIVE ME MONEY!" I tried giving them 10 durhams (a little more than a dollar), but they threw it on the ground in a theatrical display...to which I took it back and said, "fine then. You get nothing." She then gets very close and agrees under her breath to take the money. Me and my friends agreed that the next time they girls tried to attack us we would bitch slap them...little twerps. For the rest of the night we walked around with this ugly smeared henna on our hands, and with the shame of knowing that two 10 year-olds basically held us up. Sadly, this wasn't the only time that we got cheated, hosed, rinsed, etc. for money. Thanks to a pretty horrible deal on a wooden camel...we nicknamed getting ripped off as "getting camelled." Oh well, I think it is the Marrakesh experience.
After a wonderful time in Marrakesh shopping and eating and eating and eating some more, we decided to get our fat rear ends in to the mountains for a hike. We took a taxi to this quaint little village called Imlil, which sits at the base of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa--around 12,000 feet. Our first mission was to find the hotel, which my friend Leslie had booked for us. She had no idea where it was and as we asked around we kept being pointed up the mountain. Here we are, hauling all of our luggage hiking up the side of a mountain...not even knowing if our hotel was that way or this way. 10 minutes into our hike sweat is pouring down my face, and I proceed to curse Leslie out for her poor choice of accomodations. After asking 5 different people, and walking through various courtyards we come upon a metal door with the hotel name scrawled in chalk across the top. VOILA! Our hotel...way to go Les. Upon entering though, we discovered that we had found quite a gem. All that hiking to get to the top of the cliff paid off as we had amazing views from the balcony. Like most Peace Corps volunteers we came mostly unprepared and me and my friend Rose only had flip-flops. We had no idea that an 8 1/2 hour hike on the highest peak in North Africa laid ahead of us. As we start the hike we pass people in full mountaineering gear...hmmm....and we in Chaco flip-flops. It was a 10k hike both ways...so about 12 miles on some seriously rough terrain in Chaco flip-flops, and aside from a pretty nasty stubbed toe we did pretty well. It is also worth noting...for those that like to get a kick out of bad things happening to people, that I got pooped on twice by the stupid pigeons that fly around on the mountains . TWICE! Someone told me that was good luck...but at the time I don't think I saw it that way.
Here are some pics from the hotel, and one really bad one of my feet (beware!).
While we were there we met a Peace Corps volunteer that gets the lucky fortune of living in a nearby village in these mountains. I have to say that I was VERY jealous!
After our mountain climbing adventure...which even to now is leaving my calves screaming for mercy, we decided to fit in the last of what Morocco has to offer...the beach. Off we went to what most volunteers in Morocco refer to as the best place in the country, Essaouira (sp?). It is a little fishing village south of Casablanca. It has a huge market (Medina), and fresh fish everywhere. The city itself was beautiful, and the food was amazing (as it always seems to be here)...so we couldn't complain. It gave us all a chance to relax, eat some more, drink even more coffee, and again...eat. Honestly, if one verb had to be used to describe our trip it would be "eat."
After lazing at the beach we hopped an overnight bus to get back to Casablanca so that Rose could get her flight back to the good ol' US of A. Leslie and I hung out for the afternoon exploring the city...which really just consisted of oohing and aahing over all the wonderful things to eat (including McDonald's and KFC!!)...and then eating all of those things...haha! We took a trip to see the 3rd largest Mosque in the world, which was quite a site. It is built right along the water, and it was beautiful to see. After that I convinced Leslie to come with me to "Rick's Cafe" which was built in memory of the movie "Casablanca." We walked in and were greeted by the most luxurious looking restaurant we had ever seen (or maybe we've been in Burkina too long). Here we were in jeans and tops...and we just waltz into this 5 star restaurant. We sit down at the bar and realize that we can't afford anything that is on their menu and we start discussing whether it would be appropriate to split a daquiri. The bartender sees our discussion and offers up wine by the glass, which is much more in our range. As we browse the wine list we glance at the menu and immediately our mouths start to drool. Leslie gives me a look, and I look back at her, and before I know it I am asking the bartender if they take credit cards and we are ordering ourselves a goat cheese and fresh fig salad....and then the roast duck entree...and then another salad. Hahaha! We couldn't help ourselves. It isn't like food like that comes along everyday in Burkina...give me a break! As we ate our fabulous meal the music of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole streamed over the restaurat and we really felt like we were transported back to a time of class and sophisitication...that is except when I caught of whiff of how we smelled. It was a great way to end our Moroccan vacation!
All in all we did a lot, saw a lot, drank A LOT of coffee, and ate a HELL of a lot of food. Aside from another onslaught of Staph infection in my foot, it was the best vacation I have been on in a long time! We thankfully made it back to Burkina in one piece..happy and healthy, and that is all you can really ask for.
Alright...well, I will update you guys later as I prepare for my final departure from Burkina Faso...Stay safe!