Hailey Donohue is a student at Northern Michigan University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She completed an ISA Service-Learning Program in Meknes, Morocco.
Studying abroad feels like one long weekend: a lot of things packed into a short period of time, a breakaway from the routine, and a chance to do the things you’ve been waiting to do… so what do you do with your actual weekends while abroad? Here are the three places in Morocco I wouldn’t want to miss:
Morocco’s “Blue Pearl” is aptly named. The city, a collage of every hue of blue, feels like a rare and dreamlike gift. Chefchaouen, or “Chaouen” for short, is nestled in the Rif Mountains. The relaxed atmosphere is an uncommon and welcomed one compared to some of the bigger cities. The all-encompassing blue, thought to be inspired by Jewish tradition, can be viewed from within the city or from above. Just a short walk upwards to the hilltop Spanish Mosque is rewarded by a surreal view of the entire town.
While a trip to Merzouga may require an extended weekend, it is well worth it. The Sahara’s endless expanse of desert sand, changing only to rise up and cascade back down in towering dunes, is a sight and an experience that can’t be imagined. The serene quiet, shining stars, and soft sand can only be experienced and felt to be truly understood. Similarly to Chefchaouen it prompts disbelief that an atmosphere and environment in such contrast to the typical bright and busy streets can exist so close by. A ride on a camel and traditional Berber music around the fire only add to that wonderful disbelief.
An imperial city, Morocco’s former capital, and the “cultural capital”. The medina of Fez is truly remarkable. Large and chaotic, the labyrinth of people and noise is completely unlike the two previously mentioned destinations. Even if it’s only briefly, the commotion of Fez is worth experiencing, and the maze-like medina is worth diving into if only for a glimpse of the tanneries. Getting a view requires finding a leather shop, making your way to the balcony, and suffering through the horrible smell, but the overhead view of the leather-making process and operation is one of a kind.
The beauty of the “weekend getaway” during your study abroad trip is the ability to maintain a constantly evolving perception of your host country, each getaway adding yet another element to the complicated conception of the complicated concept of difference.
If you’re looking to challenge yourself, check out ISA Service-Learning options here!