Meknes, Meski, and Merzouga!

Last week, NSLI-Y and YES Abroad took our last group trip. This time, we went south and east to the Sahara. We visited Meknes, Azrou, Meski, Erfoud, and Merzouga. It was super fun, and I’ve wanted to visit the Sahara ever since I first read Le Petit Prince.

Saturday, April 7: 

At the ripe hour of 7 am, I met Maria and Dana to take a taxi to Agdal. It was pouring rain, and all of us were ready for some nice, warm desert weather. We then drove to Meknes, about 2 hours east of Rabat. I slept the entire time. In Meknes, we took a tour of all of the cities most famous places. There were some pretty doors, and a square that reminded me a lot of Jemaa El-Fnaa in Marrakech. We also visited an underground prison, and some really pretty granaries/ stables (depending on who you ask). We went to a chicken restaurant for lunch, and then we drove to Azrou. Azrou is right near Ifrane, up in the mountains. It was very rainy the whole time, so I just hung out in the hotel room. I left around 7 to get dinner with Hunter, but other than that I just journaled, watched 2M, and read The Sheltering Sky. A quick note about that book: it is very good, but don’t read it if you are about to visit the Sahara! It freaked me out a bit, and made me want to be anywhere BUT the Sahara.

Around 8, Dana came back to our hotel room and we hung out a bit. I was feeling a little antsy, so I showed her my dance to the song Sissy That Walk by RuPaul. I even managed to pull off a death drop, and then I went to sleep.

 

Sunday, April 8: 

Today, we basically just drove all day. We left Azrou in the morning and I read the whole entire bus ride. I actually read basically all of my Paul Bowles. We stopped at a restaurant in Errachidia before driving to Meski. Meski is a small village in the about 45 minutes away from Errachidia, and it is located on an oasis. I think that I thought the Sahara was all sand, but it’s really a lot of rock and dust. The oasis in Meski has a river and a lot of date palms! It was beautiful.

The first thing we did was have a welcoming ceremony in a very nice house. There were a bunch of cute kids who did dances, and we drank tea. Then, we got our host family assignments. Maria, Katie, and I were staying at the house where the ceremony took place. Our room was very cool and nice, and the host sisters were so kind! We spent our evening just hanging out in the courtyard listening to the birds and playing with our sisters. They taught us all kinds of clapping games, we sang songs, and played tag! Finally, around 10, we ate dinner. Our host dad was quite the hoot. He talked to us in a mixture of English/ Spanish/ German/ Arabic, and we had a ton of fun.

Monday, April 9: 

This day was really fun. In the morning, we took a tour of Meski’s oasis and Casbah. We started out by walking through the palm trees, and it was beautiful. I love nature. There’s also a lovely spring that runs in the middle of it. Then, we walked to the Casbah. It’s located on a hill, and people lived in it until the 60’s. There was a flood, and people then moved to the new Meski. Now, it’s in ruins because people took the roofs and doors with them when they left.

After the tour of Meski, we went back to our host family house. We had tea and peanuts, and then couscous! The couscous was different than in Rabat, I liked it a lot. I ate until I was absolutely stuffed. While everyone else took naps, I got a sudden burst of energy and proceeded to run laps around the courtyard for an hour. Then, we went to see a mural that NSLI-Y/YES painted last year. We also did an activity with old cups in a park. I’m not quite sure what the goal was, but we painted a bunch of plastic cups yellow and black. Then, we went home for dinner.

We played with our host sisters for a while again, until it was time to eat. After dinner, our host dad pulled out a ton of pictures and we sat and looked at them for a while. He also sang us some reggae, and screamed “mama africa,” a lot. I’m not quite sure I completely understood what was going on, but it was very fun.

Tuesday, April 10: 

Today, we had a tagine-making competition! We walked to the oasis, and set up all of our ingredients. My team consisted of Janie and Clay, and we cooked a vegetarian tagine. I hung out and read short stories from a book called Africa 39, it’s very good. My team won prettiest tagine!

Then, we headed back up to Meski. I took a shower to try and get some of the dust off of me, and then took a two hour long nap. I feel like the pace of life in the village is slower, and I have time to just move slowly and relax. After my nap, I went to sit in the courtyard. Our host mom brought us tea and peanuts, and we talked to her for a bit. She was so sweet! We also played tag with our host sisters again until dinner. Dinner was delicious.

Right after dinner, our oldest host sister and host mom whisked us off and dressed us in traditional Moroccan outfits! We tried on a few different caftans, and then they found us head scarves and belts that matched. It was so fun, and we laughed a lot. Then, everyone came to our house for a party! We danced to music, did henna, and ate cookies. It was super fun, I love Moroccan parties and dancing. The party lasted until probably 1h30, and we were all absolutely pooped afterwards. It was such a good last night though, I fell in love with Meski.

Wednesday, April 11: 

This morning we ate one final delicious breakfast with our host family before leaving Meski. We stopped in a city called Erfoud and met a Peace Corps volunteer and his English students. We at lunch with them, and then headed down to Merzouga. Merzouga is close to the Algerian border, and there are lots of sand dunes. Most people took camels out, but since I’m a vegetarian I really didn’t want to. I ended up riding in a Jeep, and it was really cool! We drove through a village of nomadic Berbers, which I didn’t know still existed! Our campsite was really nice, and had a really cool view of the dunes.

After the camel-riders arrived, we ran around in the sand for a bit. We also watched the sunset, and it was so pretty. I thought about Le Petit Prince a lot since it’s my favorite book. Dinner was tagine, and then we just listened to music and sang. The desert, although sandy and windy, was beautiful.

The next day, we just drove all the way back to Rabat. It was a long day of driving, but I was very relieved to be back. This trip was honestly probably my favorite, and I’m really sad that it’s over. I already want to go back to Meski and the Sahara! Thank you for reading!

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