I got my bags packed and was ready for the trip to Morocco. I didn’t know what to expect, I was honestly anticipating pleasant surprises. I had initially planned to go to Morocco with some friends but that fell through. I finally decided to book one with an agency in Madrid. None of the people I knew in Madrid were able to come along with me, so I ended up signing up alone. “I guess I would make new friends on the trip” I thought to myself.
The bus from Madrid to Tarifa was to leave at 9:30 pm. I got on the metro to our meeting point in metro Moncloa at 8:30 pm. Upon arriving Moncloa, I searched for about 15 extra minutes for where we were to actually meet. I knew this was going to happen. Whenever I go to a new location, I give myself ample time because I always get lost. After walking three blocks past where we were supposed to meet, I came back and stood for a while to observe anyone that looked like a traveler and ask them if they were with our agency. I noticed a girl looking deeply into the screen of her mobile phone. She didn’t have much on her, just a little duffel bag and a hand bag. The way she looked eagerly on the screen, I knew she was going the same place as I was. “Hello are you going with ****** to Morocco” I asked. “Yes I am!” she replied looking relieved. I felt relieved as well that I had found someone on the trip. “My name is Ycianda” She told me. Ycianda was from the U.S and she had been living in Korea for 2 years. I found out that Ycianda worked in the same Madrid program I did for teaching English. We had some things in common. While we were talking, we noticed a huge bus that had the logo of our travel agency. “That must be our ride!” I exclaimed. We got on the bus, “Would you like us to sit together” Ycianda asked. “Of course!” I replied. As we got to know one another, other travelers trickled in the bus. It seemed like all the individuals trickling in were girls. I said a brief hello to the girls as they passed by our seat. Many of the girls came along with one or two of their friends. There was a girl who came by herself and sat down in front of us. She smiled at us shyly. We decided to say hello and chatted with her. “My name is Kumri and I am from Tajikistan” she said with a grin on her face. I had found another Muslim sister from a part of the world many people didn’t know existed. I felt honored. The three of us instantly became friends. Everyone had finally come. We were 30 in total ( 23 girls and 7 guys). I wasn’t surprised by the number of girls, this was the safest way for us to travel to Morocco. “kkgggvroom” the driver ignited the engine of the bus and our adventure had finally begun. We had two tour guides. One from Spain, the other from France ~Paco and Matieu~. Paco welcomed us while Matieu gave each of us a pamphlet of our itinerary. Our drive from Madrid to Tarifa where we were to take the ferry, was 8 hours. I had taken a book to read but being late at night, I couldn’t read a thing. I chatted a bit with Ycianda and slept off. Our first stop was at a mini mart in a town I can’t remember. ” Wake up everyone! we are stopping for those of you who want to buy some snacks and to use the bathroom as well” announced Paco. I rushed down the bus and ran to the bathroom. It was really cold that night. Once I was done and came out, I found other travelers hanging around and chatting. I couldn’t find Ycianda and Kumri, so I sat by two girls and introduced myself. These girls were best friends and I found out that they were from the Netherlands. One of the other girls was originally from Iran. They were lively and fun girls to talk to. We all got back on the bus and continued our journey. I looked out towards the window, I could see silhouettes of what seemed like mountains. “How I wish we were traveling during the day so I can see these beautiful landscapes” I thought. It was also a pity that I couldn’t see what Andalusia was like as we were passing through it. My eyes felt heavy, I shut them and before I knew it I fell asleep again.
Someone tapped on my shoulder lightly. I opened my eyes to see Ycianda, ” We are here” she said. We all got down the bus and picked up our bags. I looked straight on and there it was, the Atlantic Ocean. The one I had crossed so many times by air only that this time was different because I was going on a ferry. Paco picked each of our tickets from the port office and handed them to us. We got our passports ready, passed through security and headed to the ferry.
It was 8:30 am and we were all on a line in the ferry waiting for our passports to be stamped. “boom!” I had my first stamp from Morocco. I felt elated and hoped to get more stamped in the near future. Ycianda, Kumri and I were set on sitting by the window. We placed our bags on four seats on the first floor of the ferry and of course it was by the window. After sitting for a while, we decided to explore around the ferry. We found a stair leading the top floor. We climbed up, only to discover the most breathtaking view. “Omg! we should totally sit here, the view is a 100 times better” I suggested. “Um yes, I totally agree” replied my friends. I asked the attendant on the top floor if this was possible. He said that this floor was usually designated for VIP guests but since we were in a group it was fine that we sat there. “Shukran laka!” I squelled. The girls and I rushed downstairs and grabbed our bags. We got upstairs again as fast as our heavy bags could allow us. We set our bags again on a four chair arrangement by the window, we rested, panting after our mini marathon . The view was totally worth every pant.
We decided to explore our new floor. Kumri and I went to the balcony of the ferry where there were many other tourist there as well. The sight was just breathtaking. I tried to take a selfie but it was so windy. Our ferry started to sail after an hour’s wait. We were finally on our way to Tangier.
2 hours later we had arrived Tangier. I was so excited. At this moment I felt like Sira from my favorite Spanish T.V. series El tiempo entre costuras.
I couldn’t believe it! I was in Morocco, the country I had dreamt of visiting for some years. “Alhamdullilah!” I thought to myself. We all got down the ferry and waited for the next instruction from Paco. Paco gathered us around and explained that there would be two vans, so our group would have to be split. The vans were going to take us around Morocco and our first stop was to be in Casablanca. A Moroccan man walk towards our group and introduced himself. His name was Mo. Mo could only speak Arabic, Berber and Spanish. So English was not in question to communicate with Mo. “I guess, this would improve my Spanish further” I thought to myself. I got on the bus with Ycianda, Kumri and the other 13 fellow travelers. Mo was on our bus, “Yalla, Vamos!” he exclaimed. Our adventure had begun.
Driving through Tangier, the city that once was a major hub for international trade (and still is to some extent) was so much take in. On our drive, I observed as drivers drove mercilessly and pedestrians crossed the road almost carelessly, running as fast as they could before the cars reachrf them. There was no pedestrian crossing on most of the roads, so this was their only way. As we stopped during a traffic light, swarms of kids rushed to our window begging for money. This moment instantly gave me nostalgic memories of Nigeria (the country I was born in). While driving through I also observed several pictures of Morocco’s King, Mohammed VI. He was basically everywhere from pictures of a professional portrait to pictures of him playing golf or hanging out with his family. It was almost as if he was revered to the highest level.
While we kept on our journey to Casablanca, the Moroccan police stopped us. They kept asking our driver questions like where we all were from? what we were doing in Morocco? how many were we? and so on. The police said he wanted to see one of our passport for proof. Matieu, volunteered and he spoke to the Police in French confirming what the driver had said. After a couple of brief glances, the Police let us go.
I stayed awake during our 6 hour ride to Casablanca. I was just taking in my new environment and observing carefully. I concluded that Morocco was still an agrarian society. From our drive through, there were a lot of lands tilled and reserved for planting crops. The Moroccan people tended to use animals like donkeys and horses for the labor. I barely saw any machinery like tractors being used.
By the way, if you google Tangier to Casablanca it takes 4 hours but due to unexpected events and periodic stops for bathroom breaks etc 2 hours was always added to our actual commute.
6 hours later we arrived Casablanca. Our activity was to just check out the Hassan II mosque, a very popular sight to see in the area. The mosque was beautiful. The entire mosque was painted in beige and elton blue. It had a really long minaret (The longest in the world). Besides the mosque’s grandness, it had a really nice tiled space where people strolled around, ran, and did whatever activity pleased them. It was mentioned that nearly every material used to build the mosque were from Morocco. My favorite spot in the mosque was a nice hand made mosaic design which had a protruding pout for water where people sat on its edge to take pictures. Hassan II mosque is also by the Atlantic ocean. This was an extra bonus sight. We couldn’t get in the mosque because (1) it was closed at that time for tourists (2) Non-Muslims can’t enter the mosques in Morocco.
After taking a couple of selfies, group pictures and the likes; we continued our journey to Marakesh (The most visited Moroccan city and my most anticipated city). This was where a lot queer and interesting events happened. Stay tuned folks!
To Be Continued………