A month before my program started in Salamanca, ISA reached out to offer the optional excursion to Morocco that would take place in the end of March/beginning of April. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think. On the one hand, I was unsure about being so far out into the desert, in the heat and the sand. On the other hand, I could not pass up the opportunity to travel to Morocco with a program that I knew would keep me safe and taken care of.
In the weeks leading up to the trip I was a nervous wreck about what awaited me. I had heard mixed reviews from Spaniards about my trip to Morocco, most of which were particularly negative. I also struggled to find appropriate clothes to wear, not just for the heat, but also to be respectful of their ideas of modesty. Nearly all of my T-shirts were cropped or tight so I had to panic shop shortly before leaving.
Arriving in Morocco
Once we arrived in Morocco, I realized that this trip was going to be something I remembered for the rest of my life, and that I had made a good decision in signing up for this excursion. We landed in a city called Fez, which is only about an hour flight from Madrid. The next day we toured the city of Fez, where cars are not allowed in. The interior of Fez is absolutely mesmerizing, with its winding maze of streets filled with merchandise, it is one of the most interesting cities I have been to. We were taken to a rug store, a beauty store, and other typical Moroccan shops during our tour of the city.
The next day we embarked on our journey to the Sahara desert, which took about 7 hours by bus. Although the bus ride was quite extensive, I enjoyed having the chance to be able to watch the landscape change as we traveled across Morocco. I saw everything from monkeys to wooded nature preserves, to snow capped mountains and finally, the Sahara desert.
Once in the desert, I was absolutely astounded at the sheer beauty that the desert had to offer. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy camping out in the sand as much as I did. There is something about the smooth sand between your toes, the awe inspiring silence, and the irreplaceable feeling of tranquility that the desert had to offer. I woke up both days in the desert at about 5 AM to watch the sunrise over the dunes while I laid in the cool sand. These two nights in the desert made me feel reconnected with myself and nature, especially after living in a city and apartment building.
Although the desert was hot, wearing light clothes and a turban made the heat pretty manageable. A camel trip to a hotel pool nearby helped me deal with the excessive heat as well.
Final Thoughts on Morocco
In hindsight, I am so happy that I chose to come on this excursion with ISA. After visiting Fez, Meknes, and the Sahara, I know that I never would have been able to plan a trip to Morocco like this on my own. I felt really taken care of throughout the entirety of my trip, and I know this is an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. I made so many new friends, experienced a new culture, and became the first person in my family to visit the continent of Africa in many generations. I feel so lucky to have gone, and I definitely want to return to the Sahara sometime!
Michelle Johnson is a student at University of Minnesota Morris and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying with ISA in Salamanca, Spain.