If we say that Morocco is a place of contrasts, it's because...
...we drove through snowy mountains and desert and verdant valleys all in one day yesterday. It's because we see 14th century casbahs within kilometers of cybercafes. It's because we're hearing (and trying to say) "Uhu" and "La" and "Non" and "No" in a single conversation... it's because the architecture changes with each city, and the petit taxis follow suit. It's because our senses are challenged and stimulated regularly. Moroccan air greets with a chill and sun and snow flurries and driving rain! There's contrast in the patterns of the rugs we've seen on looms, expertly handled by weathered and agile hands - these very patterns exist in reality in the hills we drove through today as a wide rainbow led us to Zagora. Choukran, El Maghrib! -Sarinda
there are many different sides to this country. While we were in the city in Marrakech, I could've sworn that we were in the U.S; there were the same types of stores and boutiques, taxies going left and right, and of course there was a McDonalds. It was modern and beautiul at the same time. On the drive to Ouarzazate, Our surroundings transformed from the bustling city to snow capped mountains, to the vast, sandy desert. Approaching the occupied part of Ouarzazate, the scene was incredible. If you looked to the left, you saw mountains drenched in snow. To the right, sand dunes that reached toward the night sky. Looking forward, the bright lights of the city twinkled like a cluster of stars in the distance. It's incredible how you can find so many drastically different environments in the same place. -Claire
I have seen the veiled women walking silently on the male-domained, narrow streets of Medina and I have laughed with girls of my age so loudly on the wide roads with cars running by us. Seeing both sides of Morocco made the trip intense and interesting. My host sister and a bunch of her friends took me to a shopping center, where I found Zara and other brands. I have never expected to see those familiar brands in Morocco. When I walked into the shops, people from all over the world were doing shopping as in the states. It is hard to imagine that one day ago, I was in the market and bargaining for a leather bag from an unbelievable high price to an acceptable one. Moreover, when we walked into the private school, girls were all in heels, jeans, which was really contradictary from what we have heard or seen days ago. Even the food varied from places to places. In the host family in Fez, we had traditional bread, tajine, couscous., This time in Marrakech, I had the best pizza and cakes made by the host mother. The contrasts we experienced in these days made me think about China, the USA and other countries that I have been to. I want to be here with my parents, to see all the contrasts with them. That's one idea that the contrasts didn't change in my mind. -Nera
We just left Ouarzazate and are heading to Zagora through the desert ... We saw really cool stuff in the last couple of days, ranging from a melange of paysages (city, mountain and desert at the same time), the Atlas mountains, film studios and sets, women embroidering and weaving carpets. As our trip is coming to an end and as I look out the window and see the desert, all I can think of is that I am so happy I came on this trip. Right now, Morocco seems to be, for me, the most amazing country in the world, customs-wise, backgrounds, people and language-wise. I have seen the way lower class traditional people live, in Fez and the lifestyle of modern teenagers in Marrakech, I have seen medinas, Roman ruins, modern cities, desert, green fields, snowy mountains, sea and now I say that I cannot wait to learn more about this culture, about Islam and Arabic countries in general, Incha-Allah (if God allows.) I had a great time, Hambdoulilah (thanks to God). -Laura
Each city has its own characteristic and feel; Casablanca is green, Marrakech is red, Ouarzazate is orange, and Fes is a multitude of colors. When you get off the plane at Mohammed V airport in Casablanca, there are palm trees and lush, green farms that line the highway. Right now I'm on a bus in Ouarzazate, and the highway is an orange gravel path that cuts through endless desert mountains. There are no trees, grass, or even signs of life anywhere. Marrakech and Fes are two of Morocco's largest cities, both with a medina (the old, fortified city) and a modern city. Fes has high rise buildings, similar to Boston or New York City, but Marrakech city laws mandate that all buildings be red and don't exceed two stories. It's crazy to think that four cities of such wild contrast could belong to the same country. -Mackenzie
As we drove through the snowy mountains yesterday. It was freezing outside, but my face and arms felt like they were on fire from a sunburn, recived just the day before. Some days I walk around in a t-shirt and others I fall asleep under a foot of blankets. Climate varies by the hour here, but the trip has been amazing! -Geordie
We have gone from Casablanca, which was next to the sea to the top of the Atlas mountains, at just under 14,000 feet, in very little distance. In the US you don't reach such high mountains until Colorado, whereas in Morocco it takes about 5 hours in the car. Also, once we passed through the mountains we could see flat, sandy deserts with snow-capped mountains behind it and in the middle of the desert were fields colored as green as any golfcourse. Though it is very small, the country of Morocco sees very different types of land in not much space. -Nick
Morocco is full of all kinds of landscapes, there are snowy mountains, deserts, small city's , medinas. Then there are also all kinds of people, we have our traditional Morocans, our modern Moroccans and our in between Moroccans. My expectations have been completely shattered, and I have to say that I love it. I found myself completely shocked when I discovered that my home stay girl had a boyfriend who she texted with and skyped and facebooked and that her home was pretty similar to my own. Morrocco is full of contrast and everyone in the group has discovered that in only a couple of days. -Itzel
Morocco is a place of contrasts for many reasons, but the most prominent one is the contrast between the old and the new. The old way of living, old houses, and older languages that contrast with a more modern way of living, more European influence, and the introduction of more modern and international languages such as French and English. A prime example of this is seen in the medinas, compared to the centre villes, of cities such as Fes and Marrakech. The medinas obviously show an older way of living: the houses are not as luxurious, Turkish toilets are easier to find than regular ones, wifi is virtually nonexistent, and more people speak Arabic than French. However, in the more modern and higher class areas of the cities, even though Arabic is spoken at home, the whole family knows French, and sometimes even English. They have televisions with American channels, laptops with wifi, and the showers and toilets are just like the ones at home. Having done homestays in both of these areas, I have felt that its almost like living in two different worlds: that, in my opinion, is the biggest contrast that would define Morocco. - Jessica
All I think about is how much being in Morocco has shown me: the different people, different from the southern African countries I have lived in and visited, the differences between Fes, Marrakech and Ouzarzate, and the differences in the landscapes within Morocco - looking at the snow covered tops of the Atlas mountains having just been in green and fertile land, on our way to the desert sums it all up for me. I guess the word I am looking for instead of "contrast" is "difference." - Ruby
I am most struck by the co-existence of absolute conservatism and absolute warmth. I have never known such a conservative people, and at the same time I have never exchanged (with the exception of the one other time I was in Morocco) such warm, welcoming, radiant smiles. The public and private contrast is also remarkable and somewhat difficult to reconcile. On the streets, men are harassing and the women are either indifferent or moderately friendly, sort of like at home. But in the privacy of their homes, Moroccans, and perhaps particularly the Amazigh people, welcome us as both as a group and individually with a warmth, respect and generosity of spirit that match their incredible cooking and hospitality. I am also struck by their willingness to answer our questions and to receive our curiosity as compliments, at the same time as they are very discreet about the questions they pose to us. On a totally different note, the variety of modes of transportation here are amazing. Motorcycles, bicycles, donkeys, mopeds, foot, old mercedes, new hyundae (?) and tomorrow...camel!
We look forward to our adventure in the desert...