Series: My Semester at Sea
By Chanel Watson
Morocco was definitely the most culturally different port we have visited. Everyone had to rapidly adjust to conforming to their religious dress, food, fast paced atmosphere, and polluted air. Despite all of the changes, this was the port where I definitely experienced the culture.
My first day In Casablanca was pretty easy. I had a field lab for my marketing class that required me to visit the Morocco marketing team for Coca-Cola. I learned about the differences in products and ingredients they provide in Morocco as well as the process for coming up with new marketing ideas to constantly reinvent the Coke brand; whether it is large scale, such as putting everyone’s names on a bottle, or providing personal experiential events that are for a certain community. Afterwards, my class was allowed to take a tour of the Coca-Cola bottling factory and see the bottling process and how the bottles are made. It was definitely a good start to an introduction of the country.
In Morocco the main attractions are the street markets where people will aggressively try to sell something. There are markets for everything including Moroccan and argon oil, food, shoes, oils and perfumes, clothes, and more. Because I was Black, many people would think I was African and spoke French before they assumed that I was American or a tourist, including the Africans that lived in Morocco.
People yelled prices at me, and constantly lowered them if I showed no interest. Needless to say, bargaining for products was definitely the norm. It almost scared me, because they were so aggressive with their selling techniques, but after a while I learned that it is normal and to just say no and keep on walking if I was not interested.
Later, my friends and I met up with our friend from Lincoln, Samantha Fitzpatrick, who is a senior studying abroad in Morocco during the fall semester. Luckily, she was fluent in French and some Arabic which made getting around Morocco much easier, especially when we traveled to the city of Marrakesh.
When we arrived in Marrakesh, we stayed in a traditional Moroccan riad, similar to a hostel that just provided 3 beds for my friends and me to share and a sink. There was no bathroom in our room because in riads, they keep the toilet in a room in the middle of the floor outside the rooms for everyone on that floor to share. This was actually much better than most places where you would have to use the Turkish toilet where you squat in a hole.
The next morning we went to a restaurant to eat a traditional breakfast that mainly consisted of tea, fresh-squeezed orange juice, an assortment of breads and condiments including honey with rose water, olive oil, butter and orange marmalade. Moroccans usually do not use utensils so everyone just uses their hands to grab and dip the food.
When we walked outside to the Medina, it was the Morocco we had all heard about. There were many markets all over selling everything from orange juice and peanuts to tea pots and camel leather bags. You could smell the lamb and chicken being cooked outside in the air. There were people who made Cobra snakes dance and had monkeys trained to obey their every word, women would grabbed my wrist, trying to draw henna and children would run up to me trying to sell items for money. It definitely came off as a very magical, storybook area.
At night we were able to eat dinner on the roof top of a restaurant where we were able to look down at all of the markets still selling to the locals and setting up tables for everyone to eat dinner outside. We had tajine, a Moroccan dish that included chicken in a broth of potatoes and herbs covered in a cone shaped lid and eaten with bread. Later, we finished the evening in a restaurant that had a show of belly dancers. Morocco is definitely a culture change.