"Did Someone Say Road Trip?" by Ammarah Rehman
Did someone say road trip? This past weekend a group of ten Americans journeyed out to the beach city of Essaouira. The city rests on a windy port off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean with crystal clear beaches. Orange walls line the city and the old medina is filled with authentic Amazigh jewelry. It took approximately ten hours to get to Essaouira from Rabat! Yes, 10 hours! But the trip is totally worth it, and I would do it again. The entire train ride I practiced my Arabic and Darija skills with Moroccans on my train. Everyone I spoke to was super encouraging and told me that slowly I would be as fluent as they were.
On my first day in Essaouira, my friends and I decided to go to walk through the old medina. We followed the city walls and walked in and out of tiny shops filled with colorful clay pots and handmade wooden jewelry boxes. With my broken Arabic and Darija, I was able to bargain with shopkeepers for earrings and paintings. The shopkeepers in Essaouira are used to foreigners and want to genuinely talk to you and get to know you rather than just sell you something. I entered one gallery filled with artwork from local artists from the area. I started speaking to the man in Darija and then eventually switched to English when he found out I was from America. The man pointed to several pieces of artwork and told me the reasons why he made it. One painting was of a woman in a nikaab (a veil that only reveals the eyes). The man said it was the hardest painting to make because of how beautiful the woman was. It was remarkable to hear the man talk about the beauty of the woman was from just her eyes alone. The man told me to look around as he prepared tea for me. I said I was just about to leave, but he insisted that I stay for some tea. He told me I didn’t have to buy anything at all from him, but just to sit down with him. I told him I would be back another time to look at his paintings and enjoy tea. I was shocked by how hospitable the man was and how he genuinely did not care whether or not I bought his paintings. After walking through the medina, I headed over to the beach.
I strolled along the beach and stuck my feet in water as I watched people surfing and crashing into the giant waves. While walking on the beach my friends and I ran into a man named Aziz who convinced us to go horseback riding on the beach. Horseback riding, on a beach, in Morocco; it couldn’t get any better than that! We hopped onto the horses and galloped our way throughout the coast of the beach and ending up by the ruins of Sultana. My horse was a beautiful white and black horse named Latif. Since I barely had any experience on a horse I was followed by a guide, Anas. While riding the horse,I felt incredibly relaxed and a rush of excitement as the wind and sand blow in my hair. I was mesmerized by the smell of the beach and the sounds of the waves hitting the rocks. Anas would check in on me every few minutes to make sure I wasn’t afraid and I would reassure him that I was comfortable. Even though at times I was scared that I would fall off! Anas would point out different buildings and monuments along the way and tell me stories about Essouira. He told me his village where he grew up isn’t far from here. After finding out I am Muslim, he told me he believes that Islam is lost now and that not a lot of people want to follow the religion the way we are supposed to. He brushed off what he was saying and started asking me how I like Essaouira. I told him I never wanted to leave Essaouira or all the wonderful friendly people who welcomed me into their shops and homes.