We ended up spending an entire week resting in Azilah and a nearby village. One of Abdulahdi’s friends, Faoud, set us up with a home stay near Paradise Beach. It is one of the most well-known beaches in all of Morocco!
Apparently the beach is packed full of tourists and bars during the summer months, so we were stoked to be two of the only people in sight. The one man we did see was setting up his beach bar before the others. It turns out the government does not allow the bars to be constructed until June, but this particular man did not care. When approached on the subject, he explains that he served the country for 20 years, and for that he deserves to do what he wants.
We sat down near his place and the owner came over to greet us. He didn’t speak any English, but Faoud was there to translate. The man asked where we were from, and we were quite surprised by his reaction to us being from America.
He almost looked in shock for just an instant, and then immediately gave Kyle a huge hug. It was a passionate hug, and it was even followed by kisses on the head. I was obviously quite surprised by his reaction. I have now been to twenty different countries, and have received very little positive feedback about America. Most people have what I consider to be an ignorant image of our country. We have so many negative stereotypes that I was wondering what this guy knew about America.
It turns out that he was a POW in Algeria for fifteen years until Bush pushed for his release. He thanked us many times, and soon brought us tea and a big lunch. He told us we were welcome in his bar anytime.
After an awesome first experience of Tagine (traditional Moroccan dish we would soon know very well), we headed back to our ‘home’ for the week. It was located in a very small village with no guesthouses, and we saw no other tourists there. We were happy to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city and turned down many invitations into town. We made the most of our rest days by truly letting our minds and bodies relax.
We slept ten to twelve hours a night, ate huge Moroccan meals, asked the locals dozens of questions, drank mint tea at least twice a day, and went to our first Moroccan bathhouse (hamam).
The men and women are separated in the hamams, so I got to experience this on my own. I paid one a one Euro entrance fee and three Euros for a lady to help me. I was surprised to see the women were all topless in such a conservative culture. Most of the women I had seen before this point were covered enough only to show their faces.
There were three rooms, each one slightly warmer than the last. I chose to fill my buckets in the middle room to call it safe. A lady directed me in what to do and referred to me as ‘madam’ rather loudly. She pored buckets of hot water on me and washed my hair. She then roughly scrubbed herbs all over my body.
I left the hamam an hour later feeling refreshed and cleaner than ever. I was outside my comfort zone, but hey, that’s one reason I travel anyway.
The girl living next door in the village would be getting married that week. Faoud and her father invited us to stay for the celebrations. Seeing weddings in other cultures is always a dream of mine, so I was willing to wait around for a few days.
When we arrived to the village we were told the two day wedding celebrations would take place on Wednesday & Thursday, which was only two days away. On day two it was clarified that the wedding would take place on Thursday & Friday. Well on Wednesday (day three),we found out the wedding would actually be goin’ on Friday and Saturday.
I actually wasn’t too bothered, because the break was exactly what we needed. It was a reminder of how to slow down and get to know one area.
We left the home-stay early Friday morning so the family could prepare for the Arabic Wedding. We assumed we would return later, but didn’t want to push any buttons. Faoud was kind enough to host us for free in town for the weekend. It was a nice apartment and really nice of him!
Long story short, we were only at the two day wedding celebration Saturday night. It was a really special experience for us and we were glad to share it with Abdulahdi (our Couchsurfing host).
We learned that the bride and groom have seperate parties and join only at the finish. We were of course at the bride’s party, so the crowd was around 80 to 90 percent women.
The women and men were separated for the entire night. A DJ played while one female stood up to belly dance at a time. I was envious of the way these girls could move! I was glad to see the boys finally doing some dancing of their own a couple hours later. They were dancing quite provocatively together, which was so foreign for me to see. The American culture would have considered them homosexuals, but it was all in good fun.
The women all sit together until around five in the morning when the groom comes to pick up his bride. That is when the traditional food is served. We unfortunately didn’t make it that late, because the taxis don’t run all night.
We were happy to have experienced
the Arabic Wedding. Kyle got a little bored and said he would prefer to be dancing with me :).
I learned and experienced a lot during our stay in Azilah. We created memories that I will always remember, and learned lessons that would prove to be important for our one month stay in Morocco.