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Showing posts from July, 2013

How to Go to a Moroccan Hammam (Public Bath)

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My trip to Morocco for Easter vacation was one where I went outside of my comfort zone a lot—even if it was with the help of the tourist trail. I had to manage daily life with a language I barely spoke (French) and one I didn’t at all (Arabic); there was absolutely no question I was a foreigner, being Christian, white, and non-fluent in any of Moroccan’s languages; and I basically winged transportation day by day, be it trains, buses, urban or interurban taxis.

One of the things I wanted to do to push myself out of my comfort zone and to *ahem* immerse myself in Morocco was to bathe in a traditional hammam, or public bath. Ideally, I wanted to try out a hammam in each of the three cities I would stay at (Fez, Meknes, Chefchaouen), but because it’s such a time-consuming process and I didn’t have much down time in the first two cities, I didn’t end up bathing (I did shower though!!!) until Chefchaouen.

I was a little uneasy about doing this whole public-bathing thing out on my own, espe…

Chefchaouen, Morocco: Photos of a Blue, Spanish-Style Town

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To finish off a warm, spring week in Morocco this past March, I spent two nights in the city of Chefchaouen, a cozy place set on a hillside about an hour or so from the Mediterranean coast. While researching for the trip, I kept coming across stories and pictures of this town that made it seem like a fantasy world, painted all-blue everywhere. Blue is my favorite color, after all, and wandering through a city completely blue sounded super cool, so I put it on my list.

Pronounced “shuf-SHAH-wehn” [ʃəfˈʃɑ.wən], Chefchaouen was settled in 1471 as a military town to counter the Portuguese, who had been invading the region from the Mediterranean coast (think Ceuta). Because of this (and perhaps because of its location in the mountains), the town was hostile to non-Muslims up until the mid-20th century, when the Spanish came in and colonized the country.

Today Chefchaouen is a fun and safe city to visit that welcomes tourists Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Its medina or medieval walled city i…

FAQ about Volubilis, Morocco: Roman Ruins in North Africa

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Although the fascinating mix of Arab and Berber cultures was what drew me to Morocco this spring, something else spoke to my inner history major: the crumbling skeleton of a once-flourishing Roman city. This place, called VOLUBILIS by the Romans and Oualili by the Berbers, is one of the most important Roman sites in north Africa, yet many tourists to Morocco have never even heard of the ruins or shy away from making a day-trip from the imperial city of Meknes. Read on to learn why it’s worth putting on your Moroccan itinerary.


How do you say “boloo-blah-blah”? Okay this one’s a little tricky. In Classical Latin it would have been pronounced “woe-LOO-bee-lees” [woˈlu.bi.lis], not far removed from the Berber Oualili or Walili. For English-speakers, however, it’s probably fine to voice the V since that’s what the French do as well. Go ahead—you can say it out loud if you like! “voe-LOO-bee-lees” with the stress on the third-to-last syllable, just like in the word “democracy.”

6 Weird Things We Do in the United States

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I’m now in my fourth week back home in the good ol’ U. S. of A., and I’ve noticed a few strange customs that we do here in America that would seem rather strange to an alien visitor from outside the States. They’re mainly just silly things, but they prove that Reverse Culture Shock is a very real thing. Enjoy!


1) Carpet What is this stuff if not wall-to-wall, glued-down rugs? It really is a strange concept but boy have I sure missed being able to sprawl out on the floor with things I’m working on or a movie. The linoleum is much easier to keep clean (and better for allergies), but is hardly an inviting place in which to cuddle up with a good book. Still, given how disgusted I was when I looked in the dustpan after my weekly bedroom sweep, I just don’t want to know how much dirt simply hangs around in the carpet.

Fez, Morocco: The Medieval City of 9,000 Streets

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I’m fully aware that I’m just now getting to blogging about Morocco well over three months after the fact. But even after being gone for that amount of time, one memory still vividly stands out in my mind:

After six hours of travel and one train transfer (not to mention an overnight ferry from Spain), I had finally emerged from the dreary rain to behold the houses and streets of Fez as we circled the city on the train tracks. The spring-green forests veiled the city once again, but it wasn’t long until we pulled in to the Fez Train Station, a white, horseshoe-arched structure that in Spain would be called Moorish Revival but in Morocco…simply the norm. Weary from a day of transportation, I strolled into the main hall and gaped at the beautiful wooden ceiling and tilework-clad walls. Although the beautiful interior was finished just three years earlier, it nevertheless linked the new part of town with centuries-old artisanal traditions found in the old town.

My sleeping arrangements al…

June Monthly Update: Coming Home Edition

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I’m writing this from my childhood bedroom, which means I’ve finally come back home to America after nine months living abroad in Spain. Whoa. It seriously feels like I just left Texas the other day, but this blog, of course, would say otherwise. Over this past month I’ve gone from one corner of Spain to another and back, hiked 204km (125 miles), explored two cities that celebrate their Roman heritage, and been reunited with friends from Spain no fewer than three times.


Mérida One of the places in Spain I had been longing to visit for a while was Mérida, the capital of the Extremadura region just east of central Portugal and a treasure trove of Roman ruins. This city’s got temples, forums, aqueducts, bridges, theaters, amphitheaters, circuses (and bread, too). To be honest, I exhausted all of the big Roman sites (sights?) in one day, but the oldest Moorish castle on the peninsula, free tapas, and a TEX-MEX restaurant kept me in town for two nights.

Camino de Santiago The Camino de San…