That one time across the Strait of Gibraltar
I apologize for how tardy this post is, but I had good reason to postpone it for so long. Last week’s post required us to detail a moment while abroad that brought us to an epiphany. If I had written the post last Wednesday, it honestly would have been completely made up. While Madrid has been an amazing host city, nothing about it has been so impacting that I have been existentially knocked outside of myself. Yes, there was a slight amount of culture shock in regards to the lifestyle here, but it has never been completely non-relatable. Perhaps it’s the fact that it is still a wholly Western civilization, regardless of the Afro-European nation status that many like to give Spain. The fact that Madrid has so many influences, and seems almost undecided on how it wants to promote itself, has reminded me so much of home in New York, being that it is the world’s “melting pot.”
However, I had been planning a trip to Morocco since the day I knew I wanted to apply to study abroad in Madrid. The Islam and Spain course here had an optional 4-day excursion to Morocco as part of its syllabus. I obviously jumped at this opportunity, and had been patiently waiting for this past weekend. Leaving Friday morning and returning Monday night, our trip across the Strait of Gibraltar definitely held the most impacting experiences. Traveling into Africa for the first time, there was already an excitement building up in me since last March. I knew that this trip would ACTUALLY unlock a completely distinct world for me. And that it did.
Getting off the plane, the Spanish crewmembers (we flew Iberia) within the plane gave their farewells. Adios, Buen Día, and Ciaos floated out of the plane with us. However on the other side, we were welcomed by their Moroccan counterparts with both French and Arabic greetings. I just smiled and nodded, casually throwing a couple of “merci’s” out there. Definitely not in my comfort zone anymore. Although we never hit the desert, filled with the infamous camels and sand dunes, since we stayed in major cities, I did get to see something completely different from my usual environment. Walking through the rugged Medina of Fes, its open-air market, I was transported to place that struck both fear and intrigue. Fear because if there was anywhere I was going to be pickpocketed, it was here. Fear because I knew that every piece of food that was being sold, no matter how delicious it looked or smells, would probably lead to intense stomach aches and a painful recovery. Fear because there were so many people, so many stalls, and so many twists and turns, that getting separated from our group almost seemed inevitable.
However, there was also intrigue with every step that I took deeper into the Medina. I was excited to brush past the locals, as they went about their daily business. The multicolor clothes that were sold for all and any occasion fascinated me was I was lead by. I was enthralled by the not yet overbearing smell of fresh spices looming through the air. Mesmerized by the adhān
, the Islamic call to prayer, which is sung by the muezzin
five times a day from the tall towers in the many mosques hidden within the Medina itself. Being surrounded by an entirely different culture, including political and religious stances was incredible. Meeting Moroccan students, exchanging views and memories, and comparing lifestyles was an unparalleled experience. It all just helped me place a full grasp on what I have, what I have learned, and what I want to do with all of it.
(Image is my own. Fes, Morocco. Inside a mosque that is set aside for non-Muslims to visit. Awesome craftsmanship.)