Courtney Manning is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Convergence Journalism major at the University of Missouri-Columbia, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
In this week's post, Courtney goes on a spring break trip to Marrakesh, Morocco.
For my spring break trip, I went to Morocco, and it was the absolute trip of a lifetime. I had never been to Africa before, and this was definitely the most unique place I have ever traveled to. While in Morocco, I was on sensory overload. The noises, the sounds, the smells, the bright colors- Morocco is like no place I have ever been. I felt like Indiana Jones while walking around the markets of Marrakesh.
We spent our first and last nights in Marrakesh, which is a city just as crazy as London, but in completely different ways. I never really felt unsafe there, because there are tourists everywhere. The Souk (the market in Marrakesh) was cool, but a bit overwhelming. The shopkeepers will do ANYTHING they can to get you into their store. The good thing is that you can bargain for everything you buy- the rule of thumb is to try to get whatever you’re buying for half the price you’re originally offered. Marrakesh is beautiful and wonderful, but I could only spend a few days there at a time, as it’s exhausting being there. I got to buy a lot of beautiful scarves and bracelets and argon and rose oils, which was really nice.
After our first night in Marrakesh, my friend Ali and I traveled with a personal tour guide through the Atlas Mountains. I had no idea that Morocco’s landscape was so diverse- there are giant mountains like Colorado, a beautiful coast (which we unfortunately didn’t get to see), rose valleys, tiny villages built into the mountains, and of course, the Sahara Desert.
I’m glad that we got to drive through the so-called countryside of Morocco, because you really got to see how everyday people live their lives there. My life is so incredibly different from these people’s that it was honestly a bit shocking. Wi-Fi is sparse in the country, even in Marrakesh. Most people still wash their clothes in the river, and there is no alcohol served at most restaurants. The most popular drink in Morocco is lovingly called “Berber whiskey”- it’s really just mint tea (which is delicious, I might add). The Berber people are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa.
On our second to last night in Morocco, we camped in the Sahara Desert. We rode camels for about an hour out into the desert, (which was fun, but very painful after a while- I was sore for a few days after) before arriving at our beautiful camp among the giant sand dunes. This was probably one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far. We hung out with the local people working at the camp at night, and they cooked us tagine and couscous (traditional Moroccan dishes) and taught us to play traditional Berber music on the drums by the bonfire.
We talked a lot with these people, and it was absolutely astonishing to hear about how they had never traveled outside of their little village, and how they had never done things that are so common in our world, like using a computer.
Visiting Morocco really broadened my mind about how different people’s lives across the world are, and how blessed we are to have what we have. The poverty of many people in Morocco is shocking, and it made me feel blessed, but also rather guilty, even though no one gets to choose their life or their social class.
I definitely want to return to Morocco one day, especially to see the coast and experience their famous Rose Festival. Morocco is one of the most beautiful and different places I have ever visited, and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to travel to this wonderful country.
Courtney's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.