Ifrane, and Other Adventures

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take a day trip to Ifrane. One of my roommates is involved in a service-learning program, and her organization was going up to Ifrane as part of their volunteer work. We were invited to come along, and I’m so glad I said yes! We had a great time playing and dancing with kids, doing henna, and distributing clothes and medical supplies. We also made a lot of new friends on this trip. Even though I don’t speak any Arabic, I was amazed at how far non-verbal communication can go. My emphatic nodding and smiling at the kids seemed to work well enough!

Of course, Moroccan hospitality often includes food, and this day was no exception. Even though we had a small breakfast in our apartment, we had a second breakfast and a massive couscous lunch with the group.

With my roommates Alex and Sophia on a windy hill near Ifrane

Ifrane is a mountain town about 1.5 hours from Meknes. The drive was through the country was absolutely beautiful. Plus it was far from boring- we listened to music (which I couldn’t understand, but still a good time) and danced the entire way! Even though we visited during winter, there wasn’t any snow in the town. The weather forecast said that it might snow or rain, but it was a nice day with only a few clouds and mild temperatures.

Henna art (L) Cute kids (R)

After lunch in the town, we continued to drive out into the country and arrived at a beautiful waterfall. The hike was short, but very steep! The views at the top were definitely worth the effort (and the muddy shoes) in the end. It was nice to get out of the Meknes for a day to explore more of my host country. The entire ISA group is actually returning to Ifrane for another day trip and hike in mid-March. This will be one of several excursions around Morocco we’re making as part of the program. I can’t wait!

The people in the top left corner give some perspective to the size of the falls
My roommate Sophie is a champ (L) The view from the top (R)

I’m continually surprised away by how friendly and hospitable Moroccans tend to be. We were all welcomed into both the volunteer group and larger community with open arms. One of the only downsides to this program is that classes and housing are both with American students only. Unfortunately, this means that genuine local friends can be hard to find. This trip was especially fun because of the amazing people, and I’m hoping to see them again soon.

Some of my new friends, including (a slightly unnerving knockoff) Micky Mouse!
Morocco is just so beautiful

In other news, yesterday was my first trip to the hammam. The hammam is a public bath, and it’s a very popular activity here in Morocco. You start by walking into the steam room, where you instantly start sweating. Then you sit down in a corner on your mat, and cover yourself with this black/green soap. It’s slimy, chunky, and smells a little weird, but it also starts to grow on you as you leave it on for 10 minutes. After that, you rinse the soap off using a little bucket and water from the taps on the sides of the steam room. You go back to your mat and a woman comes to scrub you with an exfoliating mitt. The amount of dead skin that comes from every crevice of your body is really gross but also very satisfying. After you’ve been 100% scrubbed, you rinse off again before washing your hair, shaving, etc. The hammam was different from anything I’ve experienced before, but I had a great time! I’m planning to go back, but maybe next time I’ll bring my own mitt and DIY it instead.

Obviously I don’t have photos from the hammam experience, so please enjoy these other random pictures that I’ve been holding on to:

Pain au chocolat (L) and Frangi Ban, a pastry with sweet almond filling (R)
The whole group earlier this semester in Casablanca

That’s all for now! Classes are still going well, the food is great, and my roommates and I are making big plans for later this semester. This weekend we have a group excursion to Fes and Volubilis. I’m looking forward to being with the whole group again, and maybe trying a camel burger in Fes!