Semester At Sea is coming to an end, our last port, Morocco.
The first day in Morocco my friends and I walked through the biggest commercial port in Northern Africa. Outside of the port we found a train station with Starbucks ❤ ❤ ❤ My friends who were heading out on their own that night were able to get their train tickets, leaving from another station. This was all so much closer than what we had been expecting! It makes a huge difference when your first hour in a port goes better than expected! After finishing all our practical business at the port train station, we walked through the Medina. The medinas in Morocco are markets, most of the time they also operate as labyrinths. Today, they also characterize the old part of cities. We walked briefly through the market on the way to the Hassan II Mosque. This Mosque is one of the largest in the world, I believe it is only second to the Blue Mosque. The Hassan II Mosque was built fairly recently, I think 80s or 90s but I don’t have the wifi to double check. It was built directly on the coast so if you look out the windows you can the waves lapping against the rocky coast. The roof is retractable! The roof weighs many, many, tons, but they made it retractable because there is not any air conditioning. There is of course a net to keep any unwanted birds out. It takes 2 minutes to take the roof in and 3 minutes to put the roof back out. The roof is very rarely opened, and it was opened while we were there! After our visit at the Mosque, we went and got lunch at a bistro. We did a very slow walk back to the ship after that, walking through the Medina. Many people say Salaam Alaikum, Bonjour, or Hello, occasionally Hola, as we walk down the streets. At one point, we ended up in a conversation with a Moroccan English teacher who was sitting on the side of the street with two of his students who were probably in their mid-late twenties. We chatted with them for a bit about languages and Casablanca before continuing. Most of our group had plans by this point so went back to the port train station, where I got Starbucks again which was a good thing because it ended up being the last time for all of Morocco (and thereby SAS). Another friend joined me and my one friend left from the day’s adventures at the train station, we decided to walk to “Villa de Artes” which was labelled as a “Cultural Center,” once there we found out it was currently housing an exhibition for a French artist. We spent sometime there before walking back toward the ship. We had dinner plans with some other friends and realized we needed a taxi if we were going to make it in time. The taxi was not a good decision at 6pm in Morocco’s largest city but we made it. We were supposed to eat at Rick’s Café which was established from the Casablanca movie but for some reason we could not, and we ate at a restaurant I had passed in the morning. This was where I found out I love lamb tajine. I did the short walk back to port with a friend after dinner.
Okay, now for the story of my next 4 days in Morocco. On the second day, I started a field program with my roommate called “Blue City and Fes.” Field programs can end up being a bit of a blur because you are constantly getting on and off the bus and all there is to do on the bus is sleep. The first day we went to Volubilis which was a site of Roman ruins. We visited Meknes for the afternoon where we toured a Riad (Moroccan House)-turned-hotel before driving to our hotel in Fes. The next day we explored Fes, we visited the outside of the King’s Palace. The King has a palace in every city and his wife is “missing” and there’s rumours the King is gay, and homosexuality is very illegal in Morocco, so the monarchy seems very interesting. We explored Fes’s Medina and got to “see” some local handicrafts being made. The next day, we drove to Chefchaouen, also known as the Blue City. We got to eat lunch and walk through the Blue City. Our trip liaison decided dinner at the hotel was optional so we went to a restaurant with local music. The last day in Morocco, was us pretty much just trying to drive back to Casablanca but we stopped in Rabat, the capital. We toured the old part of town and drove by the palace.
For about 14 Semester At Sea students, Morocco was the last port. The Schengen Area Visa, which is basically a visa for Europe, has to be applied for at an embassy (preferably in your home country) within 90 days of arrival into Europe. Semester At Sea is just over 100 days long (and started at the New Year) so for many students this was impossible, some managed to get a visa at the embassy in South Africa. They were from a variety of countries including, China, India, Sudan, and Madagascar. Also, in Morocco, some Semester At Sea employees and some faculty’s family members got on board. The ship definitely feels very different these last five days at sea. Most students do not have class, the last day is tomorrow, and many of us have begun packing. I’ll be home in about a week!