an chronicle of my adventures in Ifrane, Morocco and travels within the surrounding area

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

So finally, at about 11AM GST (5 hours ahead of CST, for the record) I arrived at the University in Ifrane, Morocco. It was quite a trip to say the least. All day long I had had the feeling that I was forgetting something, but I didn't figure out what that was until about five minutes after my plane took off from Chicago for London. It was then that I realized that instead of forgetting something replaceable like toothpaste or deodorant, or even something more crucial like a voltage converter, what I had actually forgotten was the notarized letter from the University telling the customs officials that I am a student and should be allowed into the country. So when I got to London I made a $23 phone call home from a pay phone asking my mom to scan the letter and email it to me, and then begged the desk attendant at the airline to let me use his computer to print it. Well, after all this work, the document didn't scan and so I printed another email from the University, though I really needn't have gone to all that trouble. The customs officials in Casablanca were lax to say the least. I beeped when I went through the metal detector and they didn't stop me, and the man who was supposed to be watching the X-Ray machine was texting as my bags went through. Needless to say, I got into the country with no problem.

So after begging a favor from the airline attendant and checking in London, I had six hours to peruse the Heathrow shopping mall.

I hear you can get flights there, too! Seriously, you could buy everything from fine French wine to designer handbags to luxury cars in this place. It's a little obscene. I did, however, find the third season of The West Wing for just £7.00 so it wasn't a total waste. I did enjoy my brief stint in London quite a bit. I find the British perpetually charming, whether it be their constant need to remind you that there is in fact a gap between the platform and the train,

the way they refuse to beat around the bush,

or the funny signs on the "loos."

I did not experience the same fondness for the people or the culture when I arrived in Casablanca. I did, though, feel like a total jerk for being the monolingual American who gets frustrated when people on another continent don't speak her language. I think I spent an hour in the Casablanca airport trying to figure out which way to go to get through customs, how to change money, and where I should wait for my next flight. Once I figured things out and found a nice comfy metal bench on which to spend the night,
I wondered the airport, and man was that place a trip! I hardly know where to begin. The funniest thing I think is the No Smoking signs posted all over the airport in which EVERYONE smokes. The man who exchanged my money for me was smoking while he did my transaction. The man at the luggage desk was smoking when I checked on my bags. I wanted to snap a picture of a couple of men smoking in front of one of these signs, but figured it might be wiser to tattoo AMERICAN TOURIST to my forehead. Another crazy thing about the airport are the golf carts they drive around the place. I think every time I got to sleep another one whizzed by and woke me up. The highlight of the night was the kitten friend I made, who evidently lives in the airport.
I thought this was strange at first and pretended not to be petting it when some security came by, but they didn't seem to be surprised to see it there, so I continued.

Finally, after hours of checking my watch and waiting for the sun to rise, it was time to head to my final airport, Fes. The plane we got on was tiny, and we rode a bus out onto the tarmac to get on.
I think we left late, but I slept from the moment I was in my seat until I felt the plane hit the ground.

From then on, things looked up. The ride to campus was gorgeous and I spent most of the rest of the day exploring campus and the town with the friends I made on the bus. Campus is absolutely beautiful, my dorm room is much nicer than the one I had at Miami, and the library is the biggest one in all of Africa! Below is the mosque in the center of campus and some of the other buildings, all in Swiss chalet style.

Dining has been an adventure thus far- I had a dry salad for lunch, as it seems salad dressing is not commonly used here, but also some pears in a sweat syrupy sauce which was absolutely delightful. I had a nice hearty supper of lentil and chickpea soup, a tuna pastry, and a hard-boiled egg, but I don't know that I'll get so lucky when it isn't Ramadan (these things, from what I hear, are traditional things eaten to break the fast). One of the Moroccan students with whom I had supper tonight upon hearing I was a vegetarian said "you're going to have a hard time in Morocco. We like to eat meat all the time." Also, salt and pepper don't seem to be available anywhere, though there was a plate of salt and cumin served with the meal tonight which served me acceptably. I bought some hot sauce tonight when we went into town to spice up my eating life. I'm sure I'll get the hang of things soon enough.

Well, while I have a million more things to say, I also have orientation to attend at 9AM tomorrow, so I'm going to say goodnight. Thanks for reading, more later!


P.S. The weather is absolutely gorgeous! It's hot but the humidity is extremely low. My friends from Seattle and Montana are complaining, but after a summer in Missouri this is quite a delight!


  1. Holy shit, West Wing season 3 for $7?!

    looks fuckin gorg

  2. It looks beautiful, and sounds amazing! Good luck spicing up your dining experiences, I hear Moroccan spices are incredible, you probably just have to find the right place. I look forward to seeing more.

  3. It's so pretty, have a blast!