Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Weekend In Africa!

Andalucia is a wonderful region of Spain to live in because of the beautiful weather, food, cities, and of course the culture. However, last weekend I discovered that living in Andalucia means living in very close proximity of the Spanish/Moroccan border and therefore opens doors that I never imagined it would! Yes! I couldn't resist going to visit Africa when I discovered that one of the Erasmus companies would be going to the north of Morocco for a few days! So now I am going to tell you all about this adventure that I will definitely never forget!

We (a very large group of international students) set off from Plaza de Cuba in Sevilla at approximately 3pm on Friday 20th March 2015 all feeling very excited yet slightly nervous about what was awaiting us at the other end of our journey! Having never been to Africa before, I had absolutely no idea what to expect and therefore spent the three hour bus journey to the ferry port in the south of Spain imagining what would be awaiting us just across the narrow stretch of water between the south coast of Spain and North Africa.

The ferry crossing to Ceuta, Africa was pretty rough to say the least and therefore not the most pleasant of crossings as you can probably imagine! However, it was only an hour long so half an hour of feeling on the verge of throwing up was not going to stop me from enjoying my time in Morocco! In fact, as soon as we could see land, an overpowering feeling of excitement took over me as we approached the ferry port in Ceuta. I was in Africa which is something I had never imagined in my whole life!

When we got off of the boat we drove through the city of Ceuta to the Moroccan border in order to get our passports and documents stamped so that we could enter the country. However, before I move on, I think I had better explain to you that Ceuta is actually a Spanish city even though it is located on the African continent. Therefore, when you cross the water from the south coast of Spain, you do not actually arrive in Africa until you are through the border which is at the other side of Ceuta. However, it was not long before all of our passports were checked and stamped and we were driving along the North Coast of Morocco with our tour guide who would be with us for the whole weekend.

On the Friday night, we stayed in a lovely Moroccan four star hotel called Golden Beach which is located right on the beach. We enjoyed a very tasty Moroccan meal of chicken in some kind of spicy sauce, soup, and a lovely tart for dessert before heading off to bed after what had been quite a tiring day as many of us had gone straight from university or work to get the bus to Morocco.

The next morning we woke up for breakfast bright and early ready to set off to visit the city of Chefchaouen in the mountains! Chefchaouen was honestly one of the most incredible cities I have ever visited due to it's charm and incredible individuality! One of the things that struck me the most about Chefchaouen was the way in which the vast majority of buildings in the city are painted blue! Our tour guide explained that this is because the people of Chefchaouen believe that the color blue makes the city feel cooler during the hot summers which is the reasoning behind the appearance of the city. I absolutely loved it because it really made it different to any other city I have seen before!

Whilst we were in Chefchaouen we had a guided walking tour of the city in which we learnt about it's history and culture and enjoyed negotiating prices at the market stalls and meeting the locals! This was a fantastic way to experience Moroccan culture and to get a really good feel for the place! We then enjoyed a very tasty lunch in a Moroccan restaurant in Chefchaouen which consisted of a huge variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices! Definitely something I would eat again! We then spent the late afternoon and some of the evening driving though the moutains and enjoying the beautiful scenery that was the route to our destination for the second night.....the city of Tangier!

We did not spend much time in Tangier but once we arrived at our hotel, myself and a few others from the group decided to explore the city a little bit during the free time that we had before dinner. This was a very interesting yet slightly scary experience as we found that we were very much the centre of attention walking through the streets as the people were not used to seeing tourists. However, we enjoyed seeing a city that was completely different to Chefchaouen and trying some cakes in a bakery that we found in the city centre! I also got to speak some French again which was pretty difficult after living in Spain for a few months but nice to put it into practice again!

The next day (Sunday) we got up bright and early again as we had a lot to fit in before getting onto the ferry once again in Ceuta to return to Spain. The first thing that we did was visit the point at which the Mediterranean sea meets the Atlantic Ocean! This was lovely as it was a very good view point and also home to a small market at which I brought myself a little leather camel as a gift :) Once we had taken lots of pictures and learnt a bit about that part of the coast, we walked down one of the cliffs to the beach where we enjoyed a camel ride which was a new experience for the majority of us :) I have put a few photos along with others from the trip on the 'Extra Travelling' page of the blog as they are very interesting ones! You have to scroll through some of the pictures from previous trips to find them but they are very nice pictures so I would recommend looking at them if you are enjoying reading this post :)

After we had screamed, laughed, and held on for dear life whilst riding the camels, we got back on to the bus and drove to the city of Tetouan where we again had a walking tour of the centre and the Jewish quarter which contained lots of interesting market stalls. We then enjoyed a talk in a Moroccan pharmacy where a large variety of rare creams, oils (such as the well known Moroccan Oil) and herbs are made. This was fascinating as we also got to try out a few which was a lot of fun!

To finish off the day, we ate lunch in a beautiful Moroccan Palace in which I felt like I was in a dream world! We enjoyed a meal of soup, traditional Moroccan couscous and spicy vegetable recipes that are commonly eaten in Tetouan. We were also fortunate enough to be entertained by Moroccan dancers and musicians whilst we ate which was an incredible experience that I really am lucky to have had!

Once our meal was over we looked around the central market for an hour or so where I got myself a hand made couscous bowl and then we rounded up and headed back to the border where we started our time in Morocco! It was very sad to leave as we had all had a wonderful time and made lots of new friends! However, I came back to Spain with many happy memories from that trip and was also pleased to be back on familiar ground as going to another continent is always exhausting due to the many cultural differences! However, if I had the chance, I would definitely go back to Morocco and would highly recommend it to anyone who would like an adventure of a different kind! It is a very picturesque country with the mountains, desert, and glorious beaches and is home to a very friendly and beautiful culture that I hope many more international students get to discover in the future!

I hope that you have enjoyed hearing about my adventures in Morocco and also that you take a look at some of the photos on the 'Extra Travelling' page. Again, apologies that you have to scroll down a bit to get to them. My technology skills are not the best! :)

But for now, hasta luego! I shall be back very soon to tell you all about Semana Santa in Sevilla and potentially a trip to Portugal that I am currently planning for next weekend!

The adventures never stop!

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