We are back in Casablanca following some fun travels in Morocco!
As I mentioned in my last post, my first few days in Morocco were very nice and relaxing. It is so fun to get to hang out with Kevin and Keely, and such a blessing that they have enough room for me to have my own bedroom here in their apartment:-). I got sick about the time I got here, which was pretty much perfect timing (if I needed to get sick at all)... it would have been much worse to be traveling hard while not feeling great.
I mentioned before that we met an American couple in Aswan, Egypt. Michelle has been traveling for the last 9 months, primarily in the Middle East as a couch surfer, and met up with us here in Morocco (her boyfriend is now back in the states). Kevin and Keely hosted her for dinner on Tuesday night, and she, Ryan and I left Casablanca for Essouria and Marrakesh on Wednesday morning.
Essouria is a beautiful coastal town, and we enjoyed meandering through the streets of the Medina (old city), visiting the local port/fishing hub, and buying fresh and dried fruit and nuts. On Thursday afternoon, Michelle and I sat on the roof of our hotel overlooking the ocean (a wonderful view complete with sea gulls, surf hitting the rocks, and clear skies). In the late afternoon another traveler came to the roof to watch the sunset. He said that he had been at a Hammam (Turkish bath house), and RAVED about his experience there. Michelle said she's really enjoyed Hammams in the past, and I was feeling up for an adventure. We decided if they were still open we would go.
We ended up being at the bath house when many, many local women were there, in the early evening. A lady scrubbed us, and without being graphic I'll tell you it was quite an experience. A combination of events made the experience really awkward and completely hilarious. Overall a very fun memory, although not entirely relaxing:-).
The next morning we left for Marrakesh, a very popular European travel destination. It was really cool, seeming just like a maze of alleyways full of vendors. Behind the walls, however, were amazing Riads -- traditional mansions with rooms surrounding a mulit-level courtyard. We went to a few high end hotels in Riads before getting to our hotel, which was nice but much less pricey.
Marrakesh is famous for a large square with tons of street food and entertainers. Michelle and I had a great time trying the food. I had my first sheep's head (and since I know you're curious it was just skin and a little bit of juicy meat from the face area), escargot (I ate three or four snails), and very cinnamony gingery cake and tea. We also had a few glasses of freshly-squeezed orange juice, a real treat at about $0.25 each.
The very spicy spice cake.
As we left the Medina for the train station I realized that I didn't have my jacket with me. I couldn't remember where I left it, but ran (literally) back to our hotel to check for it. I didn't find it, but we were then in a rush to get to the train station on time. We ended up jumping in a cab and our driver asked us if we were trying to catch the 7:00 train, which was in about 25 minutes. When we said yes, we realized that he had made it his personal mission to get us there on time. I think he did a 30 minute trip in 15 minutes, and did it like a pro. I wish I could recommend him to all of my friends -- it was an amazing driving feat. We even had time to pick up some dinner at the McDonald's at the train station before heading back to Casablanca.
Today has been relaxed -- all of us doing some catch-up on the computer and planning for the rest of our time in Morocco. I am officially headed back to Maryland from Morocco on the 11th of March. Because of the cost and some of the details not working as I had hoped, I decided to spend some extra time in Morocco and fly home from here rather than going to Europe from here. I would like to go to Haiti if I can be of help there in April (let me know if you have any suggestions about needs there), and/or might try to do some traveling in Europe this spring. I think I realized the "Laura Travel Adventure" will not be ending when I go home... so it made more sense to book that flight from here.
Thanks again for all of your prayers. I am looking forward to seeing many of you within the next month!!!