Worcester State University Faculty Led Morocco Program – 2013 (Day 1)
Day one…. Travel to Casablanca
Everyone arrived earlier than originally scheduled at Worcester State. University to give us plenty of time to drive in the rain. Today was very grey and gloomy.
—— *Blog Photographs are Courtesy of Christopher Lippmann, one of thirteen WSU Morocco 2013 Travelers | **Video Links are short ‘clips’ uploaded from the entire WSU Group to our WSU Flickr Account to enhance the blog experience. ——
My mother drove Christopher and I to WSU. The mist outside kept all of the travel group onside their own cars but as soon as the van showed up, we all hopped out and started dragging our bags over (laden with donated school supplies, clothing and toys for children that we would all visit in Morocco) to load them up into the van. There were not enough seats for all of us in the van so we got to know each other very well, very quickly by squishing onto the seats for our drive from Worcester, MA to NYC to catch our flight. We began our journey to Morocco together … but of course, we needed to visit Dunkin Donuts first before we left as a group. In New England…. Everyone runs on Dunkin!
Our trip down to NY was pretty uneventful, which I suppose is a good thing. We are a group of 13 travelers, including our Professor Brahimi. When we got close to the airport, Brahimi asked of we would like to stop at Little Morocco in Queens for a quick sandwich before we left. Everyone agreed to partake in this mini adventure.
We scrambled into a small food shop named “Little Morocco” owned by this really personable Moroccan gentleman. The restaurant was long and narrow and the smells – oh the smells! My mouth was already watering. The owner was quick with our orders and all of a sudden struck up a rapid-fire conversation with Professor Brahimi in Arabic. There was a lot of smiling and handshaking exchanged over the small counter. We then found out that the owner of the restaurant knows Brahimi’s brother and the two men had actually spoken with one another over the phone a few times but had never met. The owner was incredibly hospitable and kept op a steady stream of piping hot Moroccan mint tea to keep us warm outside on the terrace.
Our group exchanged stories and we got to know one another better. This is definitely a fun group to travel with. We arrived at JFK airport and went through security pretty painlessly. Christopher really disliked the body scan contraption that we needed to walk through. Once in, we all took turns walking the terminals while others stayed behind to attend the pile of carryon bags until our flight was called for boarding.
Let me be very clear… professor Brahimi knows EVERYONE. A quick conversation with someone at the flight desk had us upgrading our seats. So that we could all sit with one another right behind first class.
The flight itself was pretty quick. The only thing that I regret is not being able to fall asleep on the plane. I really wish I had those few hours because they sure make a difference. Most of our group was able to sleep and AJ turned onto a venerable zombie because he took two sleep aid pills. We arrived on the outskirts of Casanlanca at the Mohammad V Airport at approximately. 7:30 am. We saw a beautiful bright red sunrise as we were landing. We were lucky to get a few pictures of it as we were descending.
We were quickly pushed through customs, the exchange line to grab Moroccan Durham currency, and then we spent quite a bit of time finding all of our luggage.
Our first experience in Morocco was the trip to Professor Brahimi’s home. His father built the home in the 1970s. It is gorgeous with carvings all over the ceilings and so much custom detailing that is typical for Moroccan culture. We broke our fast with his lovely family, including his brothers, sister in law, mother and his nephews and niece. We chatted with Mohamed’s older brothers Abderraman and Amine, and younger brother Omar, who is a Northeastern University graduate who lives in Boston and is an Engineer.
There was goat cheese spread, a flavorful lentil soup called Moroccan Harira, various types of olives with nuts, honey, jams, home baked French bread and other sweet breads. The juice was fresh squeezed orange juice. We had Moroccan mint tea again which is the national drink in Morocco and SO DELICIOUS. I need to get the recipe for it. Brahimi’s entire family was extremely welcoming to us and greeted us with welcome arms and a few kisses on the cheek. The room we ate breakfast in was very opulent. Think of plush covered day beds. Now think of an entire room lined with these day beds without separation. You literally just lounge on pillows and kick up your feet on nine or ten giant stuffed ottomans around the room. There is no television in this room. Just good company, great conversation, and excellent food. When traveling in Morocco, always bring gifts for the people you meet. We gifted a small token of appreciation to Mohamed’s mother Saada as a courtesy for her hospitality in her home.
We have done so much more than just this so far, but I am extremely tired. I haven’t slept since Friday night and it is now 1am on Monday morning. We have been napping on our bus when we can but instead of doing that tomorrow on our 2 hour drive from Rabat to Fez, I plan on updating this blog about our adventures we had today when we drove around Casablanca; visited “Rick’s Cafe”, and then received a secret tour of the Hassan II mosque on the shore of the Atlantic ocean.