My Time In Morocco
My 5th month on Remote Year was spent in the African country Morocco. This was our first stop outside of Europe and was the first time in which I have ever been to an Arabic Country. I will say my time in Morocco was challenging, but my time there opened my eyes to things I would have never thought I would see in my life. It was hard, but I am so happy to have experienced living there.
Rabat was the city where we lived and my apartment was located a little outside the city center. I had a roommate for the first time since Belgrade. It was nice to have someone around and was nice to get to know another person in our group better. We made dinners, watched baseball, hung out, talked about a variety of topics, and I enjoyed living with someone again on Remote Year. Rabat is a unique city; it was full of life and people walking around. It was buzzing with the sounds of horns honking, and calls to prayer at various times of the day. It is located on the ocean however; it did not have much of a beach city feel to it. In most of the cities was have been to, I have walked around a ton and explored. For some reason, I just didn’t feel the same about Rabat. I feel I may not have had any problems, but I could not get over my fear of walking around with my camera and taking pictures, so my exploration of the city was limited to walking around when going out for meals and such. However, I did a variety of side trips this month that allowed me to see more of the country than I have in any of our others on Remote Year, more on those later.
One of the biggest challenges in Morocco was the language barrier. They speak French and Arabic there and I don’t know either. I made sure to learn the basic greetings and my favorite Arabic word of Shukran, which means thank you, to be able to at least talk a little bit to the locals. The month involved a lot of guessing and pointing.
Our workspace this month was a place called 7AY, which pronounced Hay. It was located about 25 minutes away from my apartment. We had a car service called Careem, which is Morocco’s version of Uber or Lyft available to take us to and from the work space. This was a great way to meet locals, and I had a few drivers that I got multiple times and could connect with. The workspace consisted of three levels. The top level was the roof of the building which had a Berber tent for us to work under. The layout of the workspace was great, and one of my favorites so far as far as space is concerned. One of my favorite things as well about the work space was that lunch was made available to us every day for $5. This was not some basic lunch either, it was a full spread of delicious Moroccan food and it was amazing. Moroccan cuisine consists of vegetables, chicken, lamb, cous cous, rice, more vegetables, and more cous cous. I thoroughly enjoyed the lunches every day, and was grateful to have them available to us. Near the workspace was a gym that was available to us to use free of charge. This was another great addition to the workspace as it allowed for a workout to occur in the morning and then I could work, and at 1PM it would be time for a healthy lunch. We even got Hassan from 7AY to join us for TRX, which was a great way to get to know him better. All and all the workspace was a great experience and I felt like it was a great place to get work done and be productive.
One way we handled the challenges of Rabat was to leave town on side trips and during our time there I took three different ones, all different and all fun. The first side trip was to a secluded beach house is Asilah, which is about 3 hours north of Rabat. We stopped in the city first and explored and then headed to the beach which took driving on a bumpy dirt road for about 30 minutes to get us there. Once there, we were in our own little paradise, there was 12 of us. The house was great and very simple. It had bedrooms and bathrooms and that was it. We swam in the ocean, chasing waves, and watching the sunset on the beach. We then were treated to a traditional Moroccan Tajine dinner. The next morning we woke up, had a traditional Moroccan breakfast consisting of Moroccan pancakes, coffee, juice and the signature tea of Morocco, which is a sweat Mint tea. We then proceeded to caves where Hercules rested while on his “Twelve Labors”. We then proceeded to spend the afternoon walking around and exploring Tangier, before making our way back to Rabat that evening.
The second side trip was my favorite. This trip was the exciting adventure of going into the Sahara Desert to ride camels and sleep under the stars. The trip started by us taking the train to Marrakech, and spending the day there. The group of us rented a Riad, which is a large open house. We explored the medina, which is the marketplace in each city. The next morning, our host provided us with a wonderful Moroccan breakfast and our tour guides picked us up and we were on our way to our journey to the Sahara, which would take us about a day and a half to get to. We drove through the Moroccan countryside seeing all sorts of sites, and all the different terrain of Morocco. After driving for the day, and exploring cities, mountains, villages, we settled in a Kasbah for the night. We were treated to a Moroccan dinner of Tajine, and mint tea. We were entertained after dinner by our hosts playing Moroccan drums and singing, which eventually lead to us all getting involved. The night ended with my buddy Sean wailing on the guitar while our Moroccan friends played the drums. It was a great night indeed.
The next morning, we woke up to a Moroccan breakfast and mint tea, and once we were done, we were back on the road making our way to the Sahara Desert. We drove through the day, listening to music, soaking in the sites, and anxiously awaiting our arrival to the camp where we would meet our camels and head into the desert. The drive up to the Sahara is amazing, it is very flat, and dusty, and then out of nowhere, you see the dunes of the desert. The moment finally arrived and we made it to our camp where we would pack a small bag of things for the night. We then were instructed to get on our camels. We mounted up on them, and started making our way. The trek was about an hour and a half. It was later in the day, which means we would be trekking through the desert at sunset, which made for some beautiful scenes. The camel ride was bumpy, but a lot of fun, they are very calm, and easy to ride. We arrived at our camp, and settled in to where we would be for the night. We were then treated to a traditional Moroccan dinner of Tajine, and mint tea. Our group then proceeded out to the dessert to watch the full moon rise. It was so bright, and beautiful. We sat in the sand, laughing, drinking wine and enjoying being in this beautiful place with each other. We then went to bed, in our tents, and woke up the next morning to watch the sunrise, which was beautiful and peaceful. The Sahara Desert is a massive beautiful place full of mystery and wonder. After a traditional Moroccan breakfast, we got back on our camels and made the trek back to our camp on our camels. Once we got back to camp, we showered up, and were back on the road. Our drive back consisted of more various landscapes. We saw mountains, forests, flatlands, and a variety of wild life, including monkeys. The trip ended with a beautiful sunset over the Atlas Mountains and being dropped off in Rabat. It was an amazing adventure and one I will never forget.
The next side trip was to city of Fez. This was a basic trip that consisted of taking the train to Fez, staying in a Riad with my fellow remotes. We explored the medina, had more traditional Moroccan Tajine’s and celebrated Halloween the best we could by getting together, dressing up, singing, and dancing. When that trip was over, we headed back to Rabat to wrap up our last week in Morocco.
The last week was a special week indeed. It consisted of the Cubs winning Game 7 of the World Series, which started at 1AM and kept me up until 6:30AM. I watched the game from my apartment. As hard as it was that I could not be in the states or near friends and family for the series, it was still amazing to watch, and will be cool to say that I was in Rabat, Morocco when the Cubs ended their 108-year World Series drought.
Our journey in Rabat ended with an amazing farewell event that consisted of us all dressing up in traditional Moroccan clothes, listening to music, dancing, and of course, eating Tajines. It was a great way to wrap up our time there.
In closing, the month in Morocco was a challenge. I felt very out of my comfort zone, and felt far away from everything. Although it was challenging, I would not change going through the experience for the world. I learned a lot about myself, about others, and about the Moroccan culture. The people of Morocco are warm, caring, and welcoming. On several occasions, they welcomed us to their country, wishing us a nice visit. They are a caring people, who love to walk hand in hand, or with their arms around each other. I hope they will improve how they treat and talk to women. I think it is a beautiful part of the world and provides an experience that everyone should see, to appreciate things we take for granted. Shukran Morocco, for welcoming me to your country, I will never forget you.