The fact that Spain is located in such a perfect spot in the Mediterranean makes it an ideal destination to travel to and from. During my travels throughout Spain this summer, I was lucky enough to visit Africa for the first time.
I embarked to Morocco on a Friday, taking advantage of some free time I had on the weekends. A group of about 40 of us left Seville to Tarifa, a southern city in Spain, where we would take a ferry ride to the port of Tangier, Morocco. For the majority of us, it would be the first time in Africa and we were ecstatic! We could hardly contain ourselves as we disembarked off the ferry. I even held hands with a group of my friends as we first stepped foot onto African land and yelled “AFRICA!” at the top of our lungs. Yes, it was a very touristy thing to do but we couldn’t contain our excitement.
Our hotel was not in Tangier but actually a three-hour ride East from there. As the sun was setting, we were able to see a famous Moroccan sunset while on the bus ride as well as some African countryside. We arrived to the town of M’diq just in time for dinner.
As we entered our beautiful four-star hotel, we had just enough time to set our bags down in the lobby and proceed to the dining hall where our welcoming dinner would be served. The waiters emerged with beautifully decorated plates of salad for each of us. Some of us were reluctant to eating the produce because we’d been warned that the water from Morocco was note entirely potable. But there was a group of daredevils who took the risk and devoured the salad. Next, terra cotta tagines were presented to the table, filled with couscous, lamb shanks and roasted vegetables. As I ate my first bite, I could taste the new and delicious spices. The food was amazingly tasty and so packed with flavor. Being the foodie that I am, I could tell this would be one of my favorite parts of my time in Morocco: the food.
The next day, we left our hotel bright and early to visit the town of Chefchaouen, located just about 2 hours south of M’diq, in the mountains. Much to our surprise, the mornings in Northern Africa are relatively cold! We emerged from the bus, with some light jackets and shawls, and greeted our tour guide. He was keen on telling us the history of his town and showing us all the beautiful scenery Chefchaouen had to offer.
We walked along tiny streets that were dotted with white and blue houses. The houses were very small but the bright white and eye-catching blue made them seem like they came straight out of a luxury travel magazine. Our guide explained to us that the white and blue color scheme of the houses made them repellent of bugs like mosquitos and also made them cooler in the warm afternoons.
Later, we had lunch together and then wandered along the town’s plaza while we bargained with vendors. Many of us bought souvenirs for families and also indulged in something for ourselves. I was lucky enough to find an authentic camel backpack for about $40! I also bought an authentic Moroccan dress and a romper/pant set for very affordable prices. Towards the end of our time at Chefchaouen, my friends and I decided it would be a good idea to get henna tattoos as a more authentic way of experiencing the culture. Many of the women in Chefchaouen had their hands beautifully adorned with henna so it wasn’t very difficult for us to find someone to design these temporary tatoos. For only 2 Durham each, the Moroccan currency, we were able to get authentic Moroccan henna tattoos.
After Chefchaouen, we went back to our hotel for the rest of the afternoon. Since our hotel was in front of the ocean, we had a relaxing afternoon by the beach. We even saw a man with camels right on the sand! To our right, we had a sprawling mountain range so it was a beautiful sight to have both the ocean and the mountains in our view.
The next day, we checked out of our hotel and took a bus ride to Tetouan, a city to south of M’diq. In Tetouan, we were met by a new guide and he showed us the town center and its surrounding marketplaces. Our tour guide showed us a huge government palace in the middle of the city. With its majestic palm trees and clean, white exterior, it was no doubt just what an important building this was for the city.
On the streets, there were all sorts of vendors. From fruits and vegetables, to gold and silver and even chickens and rabbits, there was absolutely everything in the market. We later visited a specialized spice vendor to see what the different Moroccan spices and herbs were used for. Many of us bought bags of spices to bring home and show our families. I splurged and bought a considerable amount of teas, oils, curries, balms and spices. In fact, when I opened my suitcase when I returned from my trip, everything smelled of the Moroccan spices and teas!
We had a delicious lunch, complete with Moroccan belly dancers and regional music. Many of the spices we had bought from the spice vendor were used in the meal we had so it was a great way to taste what we had bought.
After that, we took a bus ride back to Tanger where we had a camel riding excursion planned for us. Our camel ride was right by the beach and it was truly a beautiful day to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Camel riding is sort of horseback riding except camels are much taller than horses, at least in my opinion. In groups of about six people, we rode our camels while our camel guides sang. Our guides were really charismatic and made us laugh during the whole ride. Some daring people even stood up on the camels while they rode!
On the way back to Tangier to board our ferry towards Tarifa, I took a chance to look back at this magical weekend in Africa. All sights I saw, the memories I made, the tastes and smells I experienced, they all made my time in Africa spectacular. I never thought I’d be left so lovestruck by a country like I did of Morocco. Africa was indeed one of my favorite places I’ve visited.