Student Spotlight: Selina Strawley, Spring Break 2013 in Morocco

Airports generally all look the same: plain and simple. Walking off the plane in Marrakech I was pleasantly surprised to see beautiful columns of mosaics throughout the room. I was even more amazed when we walked out of the terminal and looked up at the ceiling. The skylights’ intricate deigns reflected onto the floor, making it that much more stunning.

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Never in my life did I think I would ever be in Morocco. When I first came to John Cabot I only thought about the places in Europe that I would get to see, not imagining that I would ever travel to yet another continent. Yet driving through the streets on the way to my roommate’s house, where we were staying, I found myself unable to take my eyes off of everything around me. One minute I was admiring the women who are completely covered due to their religion and the next minute I saw a camel on the side of the road.

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We got to the house and I was in awe looking at the architecture. There were mosaics everywhere, each more beautiful than the one before, and then ceilings were even better. One was completely made out of carved wood and the other had panels and squares of different designs. In the backyard in the distance you could see the tops of the mountains still covered with snow. Something else I didn’t expect to see, especially because the weather was over 80 degrees!

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We head over to the medina and the bazaar, and as soon as we stepped foot into the square we were approached by a man with a monkey. Next thing you know, he’s letting us hold her and informing us her name is Julie. Having her on my shoulders made me laugh because of course I’ve never held a monkey before and I’m laughing even more because the guy is saying “Smile Julie!!”

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We we walked a little further in and I saw the thing I hate most in the world: a snake. Just hanging out on the ground under an umbrella. I looked to my right and there was a man coming toward me asking if I wanted to hold it. Not. Happening. I don’t think I’ve walked away from something so fast in my entire life.

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Once in the bazaar I was amazed at how much you can bargain with the sellers. I knocked off between 5 and 20 euros each time I bought something- not bad if you ask me! At one point we walked into a jewelry shop and I noticed a cat in the corner. I walked over to her and I saw a little tiny paw sticking out from underneath. I turned to the store owner and I asked if him there were kittens, and he responded that these were only 18 days old. I was as excited as a little kid in a candy store. I’d never seen a kitten so young before! They were all so cute and small I really considered taking one home with me. Walking into a store and seeing kittens, let alone animals, is something that you would never see in America.

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Another great thing about being in the medina is how friendly everyone is. They love showing and teaching things about their culture and if you talk to them long enough they’ll be your friend for life.

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Now onto the most important thing: food. The tea in Morocco is delicious and the traditional way it’s made is very cool to watch. The dishes are all incredible and the combination of spices they use is unlike any I’ve had before. Two traditional dishes that we tried are tajine and tangia. Tajine is a dish of meat and vegetables with spices that it is cooked in a ceramic dish. Tangia (my new favorite food!) is a dish that takes a total of 24 hours to make. It is marinated with spices and seasonings and put into a ceramic pot, then put into a ham am (turkish bath equivalent to a steam room) and slow cooked for the remaining time. Once finished you eat it with your fingers..no silverware. It was crazy but the food was so good I couldn’t have cared.

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All in all I am so happy and grateful that I was able to go to Morocco and experience another very different culture. It’s amazing how seeing other parts of the world opens your eyes to what’s really out there and how different everyone is. It just makes me want to travel more!

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Selina Strawley
International Affairs and Business Administration Double Major
JCU Class of 2015
Hometown: Paoli, PA

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