Archive for the ‘Purpose of Blog’ Category

Marrakesh

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

I knew when we arrived at Marrakesh due to the sea of clay colored buildings that seemed to go on for miles. The ISA group would be staying in Marrakesh for two nights until we head for Meknes which gave everyone enough time to explore Marrakesh. Now, Marrakesh is known in Morocco as a huge European tourist attraction, so therefore, it’s more liberal and more open to other ways of life than the more traditional city (like Meknes). Like any other western city, Marrakesh has an interesting night life; however, it’s not all sex, alcohol, and club, there is also the medina which gives any foreigner the perfect picture of the traditional Moroccan way of life.

During the first night the whole ISA group decided to explore the city and go to the Medina. You can tell when you’re getting close to the medina with the growing density of people and traffic and overall excitement of the atmosphere. The entrance to the medina is an open, brick courtyard with a wall to the left and a row of horse drawn carriages to the right. From the courtyard you could see lights, smoke, and a mass of people that seemed to move in unison. There were these bright, blue toys that were launched high into the night sky that gave the medina a carnival/farmers market on steroids type of vibe. There were an array of different noises and smells (some good, some not so good). There where live bands playing for those who passed by and numerous shops yelling at the tourists in French and English. My group walked towards a row of booths that have been around in the medina for many, many years. Once we got close enough for the individual booth keepers to make eye contact with us, they swarmed around us trying to convince us to eat at their booth. We eventually came to a booth were the keeper promised us free green tea (which we did get). For the most part, our meal was very nice, the food was excellent and it was interesting to see the medina in action while we ate. At points the chaos of the medina was a bit overwhelming with shopkeepers constantly trying to get us to go into their shops to buy something. The locals were constantly asking us where we were from and were very pleased to hear that we were American. Those that knew English attempted to use what English phrases they know like, “Obama number one” and “Fish and chips mate”. For me, if one wants to know the true pulse of a Moroccan community they need to go to the medina. The new city is nice and is unique in its own way, but I feel that the tradition and culture can be found in the medina.

The next day, the ISA group took a guided tour through the entire city of Marrakesh. We even visited the medina again, which had a much calmer atmosphere during the day but can still seem chaotic at times. After the tour some friends and I explored the medina and came across a snake charmer. Personally, I don’t mind snakes unless they’re the ones that kill you; however, the snakes that were displayed were two big rattlesnakes. There were some harmless garden snakes as well, which the snake charmer took one and put it around my neck, for” good luck” he said. I thought that experience was kind of cool and it made me think on how unpredictable things can get in a foreign country. Morocco was already having a profound effect on me and I was excited on what I will experience for the next three months in Meknes.

The Arrival

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

I arrived at Mohammad V airport in Casablanca around 9:30 am after an eight hour flight from Montreal. Despite the fact that I only had a total of 2 hours of sleep, I was excited to finally reach Morocco. I first applied to study abroad in March, now it seemed like a sort of twilight, a dream that I had to continually pinch myself in order to make sure that I actually made it to Morocco. I got off the plane onto the landing strip and entered an airport shuttle that took the passengers to the main airport. The shuttle took a small stretch of road that led parallel to the main airport and dropped us off at the customs checkpoint. It took forever to get through customs, but honestly I didn’t care, in fact I was too dazed to care. After I claimed my luggage I went into the welcoming area relieved to see other Americans. The usual fluff was exchanged: “what’s your major”, “where are you from”, and “why did you chose Morocco” (essentially that’s how every conversation went). After everyone arrived and gathered at the ISA checkpoint we headed towards the bus to take us to the heart of Casablanca.

We arrived at our hotel, all exhausted. For the next 5 hours or so I was busy exploring Morocco’s economic capital; however a quick observation of the city would make you think otherwise, to me the infrastructure was lacking and the city, for all the hype it gets, isn’t that appealing (but don’t let my opinion change yours by all means). It was strange to see signs in French and Arabic; I really felt lost and confused at some points, but getting lost is one points of traveling isn’t it? After getting lost I, along with a couple other acquaintances, looked around in shops and even ordered some Moroccan tea at a small café. I noticed a couple of intriguing aspects right away while I was exploring Casablanca. One, there are numerous stray cats roaming the streets (I think my sister would love this), they are everywhere. Two, I did not realize how prevalent French is within Moroccan society; for example, whenever I spoke to a Moroccan on the street or in a shop, they would always speak to me in French which I find very interesting. Three, I already, in a way, knew this aspect of Morocco, but it’s the dominance of the religion of Islam. Unlike in the United States, religion is integrated into the very fabric of every Moroccan’s (well… at least 99% of Moroccans) everyday life with the 5 daily calls to prayer and minarets and mosques virtually on every corner. Fourth, life in Morocco (at least in Casablanca) is very slow and steady, no rush to go anywhere and sense of urgency from anyone. I think the Moroccans know how to live, no stress. Finally, the traffic is essentially organized chaos with pedestrians weaving in and out of oncoming cars. Our director said jokingly that every Moroccan gets hit by a vehicle at least once in their lives…I wouldn’t doubt. Next on the itinerary for my little adventure in Morocco is Marrakesh, Morocco’s hottest tourist attraction.

!مرحبا A Note To The Reader:

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Hello! My name is Gorden Struck, and welcome to my blog! Here, I will be documenting the many sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that I will encounter throughout myepic journey in Morocco. I wish, that as the reader, you will be able to experience what I will experience through my words and photos (in which I plan to post as often as I can), and that you will find this blog interesting, thoughtful, and maybe even a little hilarious at times. I do hope you enjoy this adventure as much as I do, and that it will be as eye-opening for you as it will be for me.

-Gorden