One of the chapters in my personal book of travel is Paris, France. In the spring of 2013 I studied abroad for an entire semester in the beautiful city of lights and got the chance to see several European countries. I actually got the chance to see more places in 5 months than many people do in 5 years & I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. European cities in general are very similar to those we are familiar with here in the U.S. but little did I know, I would get the opportunity to visit one of the most naturally & culturally rich places on the globe.
In less than 4 hours, after departing the city of Paris I ended up in a land much different from any other I had ever seen before. I was now in Marrakech – the capital of Morocco. (For those of you, who do not know, that is a country in Northern Africa, in close vicinity to Europe). Stepping out of the airport we were immediately smacked with a completely different level of heat. It was 108 degrees and it was barely afternoon! I mean so hot that the shuttle bus air conditioning didn’t even produce cold air, just cool. I was in Africa. Beautiful would have to be an understatement in describing this place.
After arriving, one of the first things we did was visit an authentic Kasbah. We all reluctantly got out of our shuttle bus back into the heat to visit the restaurant and take a walking tour through the town’s exotic forests. Here is when it truly hit me. We are Americans. We think like Americans. We live like Americans. Our tour guides were children because here, children have to work and contribute to their households. We were bombarded with solicitation of dates, an indigenous fruit. It was almost as if they knew we were Americans and that when Americans come you ask them for money, because they have it. The kids were relentless and desperate and suddenly my heart was broken. Throughout the course of the trip we got many tours and even the chance to get authentic henna tattoos, probably much better quality than the ones you can get in New York. This experience was hands down the most eye opening part of not only my trip to Africa but the entire semester. A kind man of the town gave us henna tattoos free of charge and refused a tip. He proposed to us, “do not tip me, we do not accept tips. Tipping goes to only one person, while if you purchase from our town shop it goes to the entire community”. He may not have known it, but this statement from this very generous man spoke volumes about the world we as Americans live in. Not only do we accept tips, but we expect them! This Berber man taught me something that no other experience ever had. For a country that lacks in finances, I was completely floored by their level of resourcefulness. Americans take so many things for granted and we are all about self. The Berber people understand the value of using what they have to the greatest advantage and sticking together. With no indoor plumbing and some without electricity these beautiful people use every resource they have available to them to make a better a life. When I say resources, I’m not just speaking of the ones that grow from the land. They use their intelligence; they use their love, to build unity in their communities with the understanding that it truly does take a village.
I saw the Mona Lisa, rode camels in the Sahara desert, ate escargot & authentic paella in Spain but none of that equals the lessons I learned while in Morocco. I also saw women slave away to make the very oils we use to satisfy our vanity by simply going to the store and swiping a credit card. I learned a sense of true community togetherness and perseverance - What is more beautiful than that?
RIDING CAMELS IN THE SAHARA
PLAYING WITH MONKEYS IN THE OLD TOWN SOUK
MY ATTEMPT TO LOOK LIKE ONE OF THE BERBER PEOPLE
Xoxo, Brionna :)