Semester at Sea: Morocco
Ellen Mitchell/Sun Star Columnist
Oct. 21, 2013
The ship engines are starting to growl again and pretty soon we’ll be lurching our way to Ghana. Morocco is the best place I have found yet on this trip. It is so comfortable, so beautiful, so wonderful. I can see Fairbanks in it sometimes in the patches of gravel and shrub near the road, the space between the homemade buildings
, and the rickety old cars.
I mostly saw it from an air-conditioned bus window since we had to drive for a day and a half to get to the edge of the Sahara, or the door to the desert as the nomads call it. There is still a population of traditional nomads who live mostly in the desert, driving camels by night and making camp during the day. They remain very traditional and separate from the rest of modern Morocco, which has a government system that is divided between Islamic criminal courts and a French supreme court that deals with the constitution. Morocco is a monarchy.
I, thankfully, didn’t experience the Islamic courts firsthand. Instead, we woke up, we ate, we drove, we drove, we drove, we peed, we drove, we drove, we drove, we ate, we drove we drove, we drove, we ate, we slept, we ate, we drove, we drove, we drove, we rode camels through the Sahara Desert.
Camels are indeed smelly and awkward, but not nearly as much as I thought they would be.
We lurched our way to a nomad camp a few miles from the road. It took about an hour and a half to get there by camel and the moment we slid off their backs, we swigged some mint tea and ran to the top of the tallest dune and gazed out at the (literally) breathtaking view.
The sand was so soft, I could hardly believe this was the same material that was clumped into sharp rocks back at the road. We, meaning almost all of the hundred SAS kids who had battled their way to the top of the dune, watched as the sun went down. You could see it visibly move and it was gone in only a few minutes.
At sunrise, we climbed to the top of the dune opposite the one where we watched the sunset. As the sun peeked over the horizon, I heard someone start singing the opening to the Lion King’s “Circle of Life.” We laughed, but a few minutes later, someone else burst out in the same song, having not heard the first person. He sang the few lines he knew and it was quiet again. Then, a third person finally just played the whole song on their iPhone speakers as the sun left the dunes behind.