Short-term Specials, Care & Community in Morocco by Stephen Tristan Pickett
I woke up early to the sounds of roosters sounding off and the Adhan (Islamic call to prayer) began to ring out, washing the streets with its verses and gravelly voice, I smiled to myself. It was another morning in Morocco.
I had always dreamed of travelling abroad, and I finally had made it. As a senior in High School with a little bit of Arabic studies under my belt, I chose Projects Abroad’s Moroccan programme. I had never met such a diversity of people, including my roommate.
My roommate’s name was Mohammed, a Muslim from England. He rolled out of bed, beginning his early morning prayer while I tried to keep my eyes closed. As he finished, I crawled out of bed, gave up on resting any further and began to pack my bag for the day. The group we were part of, the ‘two week special’ or ‘the specials’ were going to Fez and the Roman Ruins outside of it, about a three hour ride away.
Mohammed and I showed up with our bags slung over our shoulders and sleepiness still masked over our faces. The rest of the group was almost assembled, each of us having a different way of dealing with the early hours. Youssef, a Bahrain 17 year old from Sweden, could be found spacing out, as his roommate Tommy looked wide awake, discussing some political or environmental or musical topic with the talkers.
The tour bus engine was idling, adding to the morning heat as the sun just began to crease over the Rabat city buildings. Everyone found a seat as we boarded. The talkers stayed awake chatting amongst themselves while the sleepers snoozed as we all made our way out of Rabat. The dusty streets fell behind replaced by beautiful rolling Moroccan vistas as we left the city limits, and I took the time to write in my journal and listen to Dave Matthews nonstop.
Everybody fell asleep in turn, including me. The sound of an engine has always put me to sleep and despite fighting as hard as I could, I fell asleep behind my sunglasses, sitting up and looking completely awake except for the slight drop of my jaw and head. After falling asleep I found out that Asmaa, one of the Projects Abroad staff, and her accomplice, Adil, had been taking pictures of the whole group sleeping.
All of the local staff and guides were amazing but Asmaa was one of the best. A great staff member and even better friend, Asmaa made Morocco one of the greatest things that I have ever experienced. With great care and almost a motherly touch, I believe she made everyone’s, not just mine, trip worthwhile and something to remember forever.
As we made it to Fez, the third largest city in Morocco, we all began to awaken. The tour of Fez was amazing, if a little hot. What made Fez such a wonder and exciting part of the trip we made was it had the largest Medina (inner city) in the entire world. From my experience, I would believe that. We apparently only saw about a tenth of the Medina after what felt like several hours of strolling about.
We left the Medina in Fez to travel a short way up one of the nearby hills where a small shop made beautiful and complicated mosaics. Each mosaic was hand made with hours of concentrated hammer and chisel strikes, making small, almost quarter sized bits of coloured tile to fit perfectly inside the lush and intricate design of the mosaic.
After watching them work for a while, we went onto the Roman ruins. The bus ride was much shorter, only forty five minutes or so. We pulled up and quickly started our tour. The tour guide, a short but lively Moroccan, brought us about the ancient pillars and broken walls that made up the breathtaking sight that had thousands of years ago been a bustling and mazelike Roman Town.
We all took pictures of arches that made our jaws drop and scampered through and over fallen walls. The experience was amazing. Like many American students, I had spent many grades studying about Roman life, literature, and architect. To finally walk through it though, that was truly mesmerising.
After an hour or two we packed up and headed back to Rabat. Three hours later, Mohammed and I made our way through the bustling and loud streets of the Rabat Medina, passing beautiful wares and exotic items left and right. The Medina had several shops, all with items that an American couldn’t find anywhere in his home country.
Because of people like Asmaa and the great detail that they put into the work they do, Morocco was probably the most amazing experience of my life. From the crowded but eye opening streets of Rabat to the intricate Medina in Fez to even the ruins of a Roman town, everything about Morocco is amazing and foreign.