Stepping off the Gulden Leeuw was definitely a change in this port, compared to the others. Personally, I have been to Morocco before, but most of the students onboard weren't used to the shock of such a different culture.
On the morning of the 12th, we awoke bright and early, ready to start our adventure at 6:30am. The bus ride was long, and some of us took the opportunity for precious extra sleep. We stopped for lunch in Taznakht, where we were introduced to the famous Moroccan dish tagine along with sweet mint tea, which always comes served in a fancy teapot on a silver platter. It’s safe to say that most of us didn't anticipate how much tagine we would consume over the next few days. While the mint tea was delicious, many of us never want to see a tagine bowl ever again!
We arrived at the hotel in Zagora later that night, exhausted but with just enough energy to do some Moroccan shopping. We bought Moroccan pants and turbans (known locally as a sheshes) for our trek into the dessert.
The people here are so giving. A group of us were invited to sit inside a shop and view the local traditions of music and tea.
After a restful night, the next morning we re-boarded the bus and made our way to Tamgroute to see local pottery-making. It was fun to watch the men shape the clay and then later, after it was baked, paint it in local colours. Some students were brave enough to buy bowls and tagine pots for souvenirs, hopeful that they wouldn't break on board.
After being on the bus for several hours, we finally reached the most exciting part of our adventure: a camel ride into the Sahara desert. It turns out that camels aren't that comfortable after all! Our bums were quite sore after the long trek to camp, but there was little time for complaining as there was so much to see and do.
After settling into camp, everyone climbed to the top of a sand dune to carry out a Class Afloat tradition: watching the sunset in silence. After dark, the music and dancing started. The Berber musicians put on quite a show for us with their music and culture.
As the night went on we started to notice what Tim, our tour guide, meant when he said it gets very cold at night in the desert. We quickly realized that one pair of Moroccan pants and a hoodie weren’t going to keep us warm through the night. The answer? Cuddle puddle! Just before bed, we bundled up and headed to the top of a sand dune to curl up into a cozy, warm cuddle puddle and star gaze. The stars lit up the entire sky, like nothing I have ever seen before.
With the stars twinkling all around us, we made our way back to the fire. As the night went on, one-by-one we drifted to our beds, with some of us staying up until 4am chatting and listening to music around the fire embers. Those times when we just sit around talking are the most special. Who could have imagined how close we would become?
The next morning we had a quick breakfast, packed our bags and headed back to the camels. We were exhausted from the lack of sleep and looking forward to reclining in our bus seats.
During the road trip, we stopped to watch local Berber women weave rugs, which Tim said could take three months to finish. A few people bought rugs to take home.
We stayed at a different hotel that night, and I was lucky enough to have a hot shower while everyone else was stuck with ice cold water. The next morning we went on a hike through Zagmouzen, where we watched local blacksmiths make donkey shoes.
Back on the bus once again, we headed to our last stop: the famous big market, called a souk, where people sell everything from spices and cookies to ponchos and pants.
On the last leg back to the Gulden Leeuw, we had the surprise of seeing goats climb Argan trees. It’s something we don't see much at home, that’s for sure! On my last trip to Morocco I learned that these goats eat the Argan nuts off the trees and local farmers pick up their droppings to extract the Argan seeds. The seeds contain the now famous Argan oil, which people buy in North America for cosmetic and hair products. I hope they will find an easier way to extract the oil!
By the time we got back to the dock, we were ready to get back to our comfort zone, and connect with friends and family to share highlights of our memorable week. We left the dock that night to anchor just offshore. With land out of reach, we enjoyed a relaxing last day in Morocco, catching up on sleep and finishing up homework.
I think the crew of Class Afloat would agree that our memories of Morocco will last a lifetime. I am more than grateful to say that I experienced this adventure with my “family” onboard the Gulden Leeuw.
Written by: Joanna Pecore, Class Afloat student 2017-2018