Just as the weather in Morocco was becoming uncomfortably cool, it was time to leave the country and depart for Bolivia, where the weather is warm—and will only get warmer.
Transitioning from an Islamic nation to a primarily Catholic one has been one of the most noticeable differences of my study-abroad program thus far. Religion has been a large cultural aspect in all of the nations that we have visited. In Vietnam, my host family brought me to numerous pagodas; in Morocco, calls for prayer woke me up every morning around 5:30; and now, in Bolivia, my host family is preparing for Christmas. On my first night in Bolivia, my homestay family ordered beer for my roommate and me at dinner. After a month in Morocco, I was taken aback at the thought of drinking with my family.
Because I have not been in Bolivia for long, I cannot say much about the country. So, I’m going to instead talk about my short break while I was in Morocco.
We had our first break of the semester for four days during the middle of our stay in Morocco. Half of the students in my program, myself included, decided to take a trip to the eastern part of the country. We left the evening before break technically started for the city of Marrakech. Marrakech is a pretty big tourist destination and our night there was quite overwhelming. Rabat, where we were based in Morocco, is not a big tourist city, so it was quite a change. Our hostel was full of animals, much to the dismay of some of some of my travel companions who are allergic. We woke up the next morning and had some time to explore before leaving for Ouarzazate. The city is known for movies that are filmed there, as well as its beautifully preserved kasbahs. We enjoyed a long dinner at a restaurant, and in the morning, visited one of the kasbahs. That afternoon, we were on the road again, headed for Merzouga. It was my first time going to a desert, and I was surprised by how quickly the landscape changed. We spent our first night there in a hotel. The city is really spread out, so once we arrived at the hotel, we did not leave. We had a beautiful view of the Sahara and were finally able to relax a little bit. The next day, a lot of my group went sandboarding. I was hesitant to do so, because I am not a graceful person and there were not nearby medical facilities, which I knew would be needed if I gave it a go. Luckily, only one of the 13 in our group injured himself.
That night, we rode camels at sunset into the desert. The ride was two hours long. Our legs were so sore by the time we arrived at our tent! We had dinner by candlelight, followed by music by a fire. So far from the city, we could see the stars and the moon very clearly. The temperature dropped quickly once the sun set, but the tent was surprisingly warm at night. We woke up early with the sun, and after watching the sunrise, we hopped back onto our camels and rode back to the hotel. The rest of the day was spent in our van, driving back to Rabat.
Visiting the Sahara has been a dream of mine for years, and it was surreal to spend a night there. Next up, I will be visiting another location to which I have dreamt of going: Salar de Uyuni!