I’m standing all by myself in London’s Heathrow airport; I take a deep breath and call home. Dad in on the other end to remind me that this a good experience – seeing the world and to enjoy its challenges, all on my own. I hang up. For the first time, I’m alone, in a foreign country. A few more deep breaths are necessary to gather my courage. I’m going to travel Morocco, something I’ve dreamt about for years.
Traveling Solo In A Foreign Country Comes With Unique Challenges
I’m supposed to fly Air Italia into Casablanca but due to the labor strikes in Italy, I’m transferred to Air Maroc. Mid-way through the flight, my nerves take over as I notice that everything is in Arabic (which I only knew very basic level) and French. Then, I realize it’s not even Arabic, its the Moroccan dialect, Daragh. Anxiety overwhelms me and all I can do is follow the crowd since I don’t understand any of the signs!
This was back in the day with the advent of AOL and trusting people you met online. Yes, I was the dumb-dumb that had trusted that my online friend would be at the airport to help me from the airport to the hotel, not to mention helping me find the train in the morning. I exit the restricted passenger area and there is no sign with my name. It’s a good time to remind myself to breathe. I can do this. There’s always a taxi, no problem. I stop to exchange money – no worries it’s only 11 pm at night! As I’m frantically in the middle of the process my friend finally shows up. We take off and in 40 minutes I’m checking into the hotel.
Every Moment Can Be a Teaching Moment
I’m in my seat traveling to Fez bright and early. I’m seating in first class, which is comfortable, air-conditioned, and “safe” from hagglers. As I watch the countryside go by I have one of the most profound moments of my life. I watch a man exit his brown garbage bag and cardboard hut/tent. He stands up fully reaches to the sky to stretch and yawn. He has nothing on but a pair of old baggie shorts and a worn t-shirt. As he inhales, he smiles and enjoys the sun’s rays on his face. I’m in complete awe – still speeding away because I just witnessed a man in the pure joy of waking up alive, happy, without a worry on his face.
Unawares at that exact moment, this is what my journey in Morocco is going to teach me. There’s so much more to happiness than material. There’s life. There are friends. There are family, love, and laughter.
My Temporary, Awe-inspiring Home
I get to Fez, ‘New Fez’, that is. I take a taxi to the Arabic Language Institute in Fez (ALIF). I’m there for a month to take Arabic language classes. It’s a nice little institute and I’m proud of my decision. Despite being escorted to the student villa, I don’t waste any time. I get right into to exploring my temporary home and set off on foot. I run errands while taking in the town, and meet other students before I call it a day.
The next day at school, everyone is talking about heading to the Medina for lunch after class of course I join. We drop off our books and head in a different direction than I took yesterday. I turn my head and see the old walled city. I can’t get it into my head that what I’m seeing is real. It was like a painting, a movie. OH, MY GOD, we are going there for lunch! I’m so excited that I can barely keep my cool!
Just inside Bab Boujloud (the Blue Gate), we take our lunch at the rooftop restaurant. Sipping on Orangina, we dive into the most amazing eats! And, today is just my first day!
Fez Is A Must
Fez is an incredible city. After three weeks there is the Old City – which I will always adore and love and the new City that I only spent 2% of my time in. From the people, Mosques, shopping, mint teas, carpets, laughs, olives, tanneries, henna, tagines… Just wow! Fez is a MUST! Travel Morocco, is a must.