Adventures on Mt Etna

This post was written by Caitlyn Connely, a senior accounting major.

I never thought that one day I would be able to say that I hiked up a volcano, nor did I think I would want to, but here I am! My name is Caitlyn Connely, I am a senior accounting major with a love for wine. On our first full day on the island of Sicily, Italy, we got to hike up Mt. Etna and learn all about the volcano and its surroundings. For some background, this volcano is located on the east coast of Sicily and is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Just this last year, it erupted fifty times, the most recent one being this past December.

view of mt Etna from cable cars, showing bright blue sky, snowy mountains.
The view from the cable cars up Mt. Etna.

We started off today’s adventures by grabbing some gear that was needed to head up to the top of the mountain. Luckily, it was blue skies and sunny all day which made the day even better. We hopped into some cable cars that took us to the top which was about a thirty-minute ride and let me just say, the views were incredible, you could see the whole city! From there, we drove some sort of a tank to the most active crater on the volcano, which had been smoking all day. The smoke is typically white which is a good sign, once it shifts to a greyish black, that can be a sign of an upcoming eruption. The tank (snowcat) we rode in was very interesting as I had never seen anything like it, it was definitely prepared for any and all weather conditions. When we made it to our destination, we met with a volcanologist who shared all about the volcano and the crater we were stopped at.

Cable car climbing up the mountain.
The “tank” that took us up the mountain.

I learned that Mt. Etna, unlike other volcanoes, is a mix between windy and cold desert environments that allows for many plants to grow and creates very fertile soil, which is especially good for wine grapes. There are more than three hundred craters on the mountain but only four of them are active. One thing I found particularly interesting is that even though there are eruptions every few weeks with emergency plans set in place, the eruptions really aren’t something the citizens are worried about. The eruptions are typically very controlled and if there is any lava flow, they can create a path for it so the surrounding villages are safe. My favorite part was playing in some Italian snow, which is surprisingly different than our stubborn Oregon snow!

Student posing in front of snow-capped Mount Etna.
The most active crater on Mt. Etna.

Ciao,

Caitlyn

Let the Learning Begin!

Today’s post is written by Jakob Longbottom, a senior majoring in applied physics and math, and minoring in wine studies

With the jet lag finally getting towards the end of its course, it was set to be a perfect Monday. To start the day off we took a short stroll down the road to theUniversity of Napoli Federico II, here we were able to listen to a couple of lectures given by professors as well as members of the Department of Agriculture. Weheard about research into different tressling systems and how they affected vines at a cellular level, how they were looking back in time to how vines were adapting in the past, how they were using 3D imaging of seeds to predict their effectiveness, as well as information about Mount Vesuvius, the great volcano that destroyed Pompeii.

Students facing a screen while sitting at tables, studying.
Professors and researchers from the University of Napoli Federico II shared information about their research.

The university is the oldest public university in the world and is housed in an old palace, so it had amazing architecture with wonderful views. The grounds housed at least 12 cats (we had a short walk, so I am sure there are many more) that roamed freely around. We then proceeded across the street to the Botanical Garden of the Faculty of Agriculture of Naples. This was home to plants from allover the world and allowed for a beautiful walk. Inside the greenhouse, there were more cacti than I think knew existed.

Cacti in a greenhouse.
The university’s greenhouse contained more types of cacti than we ever knew existed

For lunch we had some delicious food at a pizzeria that was life changing. I think everyone was able to leave both happy and full. Our perfect first Monday of the trip was finished off with a beautiful sunset that we all enjoyed.

students eating pizza
We have eaten a lot of pizza, but it’s unanimous that this was the best!
Students basking in the sunset over Herculaneum
Soaking in the sunset over Herculaneum

A Day in Ancient Rome

This post was written by sophomore Kate Stamper,  who is majoring in Wine Studies and minoring in Studio Art

Today was a gorgeous day in Ercolano. For me, the day started with a delicious Italian cappuccino and cornetti pastries. Our first stop: The Archeological Museum of Italy in Naples.The entrance was a gorgeous ornate wooden door, followed by rows upon rows of ancient Greekand Roman sculptures. Every room had anoverwhelming amount of works, eachsculpture more life-like than the next. The ethereal beauty started to fade after a couplerooms and the sculptures actually started tocreep me out a bit.

A statue of a female warrior who was slain on her horse.
A statue of a female warrior who was slain on her horse. I loved that this statue depicted a woman in a role which is perceived as male most often.

A nice break from the sculptures was a modern art exhibit comparing ancient roman children’s toys to Barbies and Disney characters throughout the past couple decades. I spent a solid half hour in that room because of an interactive art piece that used pegs to create a pointillism style art piece.

Many of the sculptures and artifacts depicted vessels like amphorae which were used to store wine. It was interesting to see them outside of a textbook and see the pottery up close and in person. Many of our winemaking techniques and technologies have evolved from Greek and Roman winemaking. The process is largely the same, but the materials we use are a bit more refined now.

This Roman statue of a lion carved out of marble.
This Roman statue of a lion carved out of marble. This statue guarded the staircase to the second floor.

After the museum, we stopped for lunch at a pizzeria with a stunning view of the sea in Ercolano. This was only a short walk from our next destination:  Herculaneum. This ancient city was preserved by the same eruption which coated Pompeii in pyroclastic material. The key difference between the sites is the nature of the materials which coated each city. Herculaneum contains many wooden objects like doors and furniture, which did not survive in Pompeii. The structure of the city is very different as well. Herculaneum used a brick-laying method involving diamond-shaped stones which were much sturdier and more earthquake-resistant than the architecture in Pompeii.

Stone ruins along the original coastline of Herculaneum, Italy.
This is the original coastline of Herculaneum. Many of the citizens of Herculaneum fled here during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius but were unable to escape.

Walking through Herculaneum felt like taking a walk through the past. The grooves in the roads from ancient chariots are still visible in the cobblestone streets. Ancient paintings and mosaics help mark important buildings and give hints about their purposes. It was fun to imagine the streets bustling with life thousands of years ago.

A tunnel leading to a city.
This tunnel leads from the original coastline and docks to the higher ground where most of the city was built.

Between the sculptures at the museum and the ruins at Herculaneum, I was able to understand the purpose and role wine played in Roman life. Wine was important, and it was consumed by everyone in Roman society. In American society less than half of us drink wine, but that isn’t truein many European countries. Wine is much more than a beverage, it is a product of culture and holds an incredible amount of traditions in cultures across Italy and the world. Wine is a way of life for many Italians today, just as it was for many Romans and Greeks.

paintings in Herculaneum, Italy
Many of the paintings in Herculaneum are still intact due to the type of volcanic material which coated this side of the volcano.

The Modern Wines of Campania

This post was written by sophomore Greyson Monaghan-Bergson, a wine studies major.

A group of students visiting a vineyard to learn about ongoing research.
Dr. Antonello Bonfante explains ongoing research in this vineyard that will help growers make adjustments for climate change. This vineyard is in the Greco di Tufo DOCG.

At the vineyard with the professors from the University of Naples, we were able to see some of the stuff we were lectured about firsthand. Namely the soil that Dr. Antonello Bonfante of the Italian National Research Council spoke of and the pruning methods that University di Napoli Federico II Professor Veronica de Micco touched on. On top of that, Arturo Erbaggio, also from the CNR,  showed us the experimental arch trellising method designed to create shade for the berries. They went on to explain that their goal for the project was to preserve the “freshness” of the wine which basically means keeping the acids high.

After the vineyard, we drove to Feudi di San Gregorio. The drive was only about half an hour but felt longer as the temperature of the bus slowly climbed to 30℃. At the winery, we got to look at the fermenting equipment. They had the biggest barrels I have ever seen! Their largest ones could hold 3000L. For comparison, the standard barrel used holds 255L, so those were pretty large. After that, we got to taste some of their wines. I’ll spare you the tasting notes but needless to say, they were very good. The wine they talked up the most was their Greco di Tufo. This wine is one of the most desirable abroad from Campania and for a good reason. This wine was just beautifully elegant yet took over your palate. On top of that, since it had high acidity it could be laid down and aged. I am definitely going to try that.

Next, we went to Quintedecimo to see Luigi Moio. He is a big name in southern Italian wine and certainly earned that reputation. Not only is he a professor at the University of Naples, the president of the International Organization of Wine and Vines (OIV), but he is also an amazing winemaker. We tasted four of his wines and once again the Greco took front stage. The best way I can describe it is as a wine whose depth keeps increasing with every sip. The thing that stuck out to me the most from all the wines today was that they were the opposite of anything people say about Southern Italian wines. They are usually described as big and jammy wines with no depth; but, these wines were insanely light and acidic making them taste super fresh!

students sitting around long tables tasting wine.
The wines of OIV President and winemaker Luigi Moio we insanely light and fresh, despite Campania’s repuation for wines that are the opposite

Strolling the Streets of Pompeii

Today’s blog is guest-written by Sarah Mainwaring, a senior majoring in business

Today we went to the ruins of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city that was covered in ash by the 79 CE eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Since the city was buried in volcanic ash, it was hidden and therefore preserved for centuries.

The entrance to Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius looming in the background
The entrance to Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius looming in the background

The city wasn’t unearthed until the 1700s and then it’s historical value was revealed. The ruins provided historians with an accurate picture of what life was like in the Roman empire. It showed that the Romans were a sophisticated society with things like amphitheater’s, markets and extravagant villas. Pompeii is also home to a significant number of ancient skeleton replicas from those who perished in the volcanic eruption. The originals reside in the national museum of Naples so they can be properly preserved. These remains give us even more clues about the lives these ancient people lead. From what they ate, to their social status and physical biology.

We began our tour at the city’s colosseum, where ancient gladiators fought to the death for the entertainment of spectators. Our tour guide took us through the ruins and explained what the different rooms were used for, and who would have lived there 2,000 years ago. We learned what was original and what parts of the city have been patched up during the ongoing restoration.

In addition to our human tour guide, we had a local dog join our group and accompany us through the tour. The locals call him Lupos and he’s apparently been living in Pompeii since he was a puppy. He was quite popular among the group.

A dog wandering the streets of Pompeii, Italy.
Lupos, a modern resident of Pompeii, stayed with us throughout our tour

My favorite element of Pompeii was the artwork. Some of the walls had beautiful mosaics that have survived the eruption and the course of history. The thing I was most surprised by was the sheer size of the city, which covers almost 170 acres. Not only that but also the amount of detail and sophistication that went into the construction of the city. It was truly remarkable for a society as old as the Romans.

Mosaic floors.
Elaborate mosaic floors are still intact in some villas. This was one of our favorites.

 

A serpent depicted in a stone wall carving.

Graffiti in Pompeii… from a Roman graffiti artist
Phallic symbols and graffiti at Pompeii…not so different from the Italy we know today.

Andiamo! We launch our study of the Volcanic Vineyards of Southern Italy

I’ve traveled all over the world. When I was the wine buyer for a regional grocery chain, I  accompanied my importer partners on visits to wineries and attended trade shows all over the world. My family still jokes about the dense itineraries for our family trips to Peru and England. When I began planning to take 14 Linfield students to Southern Italy to investigate the history of wine and modern viticulture in these volcanic regions, it seemed as though those trips would be adequate preparation. Then, Covid.

Every week it seemed there was a new form to complete, a complicated rule to untangle, and new hurdles to clear just to get the students into Italy. I’ve spent countless nights fretting about late PCR  test results and missing forms.

Some of those fears came to pass. A positive Covid test. A late PCR result. A suitcase that missed the plane. But we made it to our hotel – which just happens to be directly across the street from Herculaneum, a Roman town that was devistated by the same pyroclastic flow as Pompeii.

Over the coming three weeks you’ll hear more about our exploration of wine, food, and history of Campania and Siciliy from the students’ perspective.

Toni

Jan Term students on the plane ready for departure.
Linfield’s JanTerm 2022 gets underway aboard our flight to Italy.
Landscape in Italy with Mt. Vesuvius in the background.
Exhausted, nearly all of us fell asleep on the bus between the airport in Rome and our hotel. When I woke up, Vesuvius was just out my window.

Adios Madrid and Final Takeaways

Hola from Madrid, Spain!

Unfortunately, our journey is coming to a close. We took a plane from Casablanca, Morocco to Madrid, Spain on Saturday. We were able to relax a bit, went to dinner, and received the prompt for our last assignment of the class! We even got to go out on Saturday night, which was really fun! Sunday morning, we had a great tour of the city, where we visited the old royal castle and gardens, several parks, and other notable Madrid landmarks, like Puerta del Sol, a popular plaza.

A beautiful view of the castle and cathedral in Madrid
A beautiful view of the castle and cathedral in Madrid

We walked by the cathedral as the bells were ringing, which was an amazing experience and so unlike anything I’ve heard before. The sounds I’ve experienced on this course are so different from the US, from the call to prayer, to the ring of giant, hundreds of years old cathedral bells. I feel really lucky to have gotten to be in Spain and Morocco and get a feel, firsthand, for what it is like to be and have been in these spaces, throughout history. 

The Madrid Cathedral
The Madrid Cathedral

I was able to visit a notable local pastry shop and a market after the tour for lunch. I enjoyed my last jamon y queso bocadillo (sandwich) and a famous Madrid pastry, Napolitana Chocolate, which is basically just flaky bread filled with chocolate, but so much better, because I’m in Spain! I enjoyed just wandering around Madrid, and I loved visiting the market and bakery! 

Jamon y queso bocadillo from the market
Jamon y queso bocadillo from the market

After lunch, I went to visit el Museo del Prado, or the Prado Musuem. I showed my Linfield student ID card, hoping for a small discount off of the 15 euro price, and I ended up getting in completely for free, which was a great surprise! The museum was HUGE, so I had to pick and choose what I saw, because there’s no way I could see it all, even with a whole day at the museum! I visited some of the 17th century Spanish paintings, and I was able to see some of El Greco’s work. These pieces were meaningful because we visited Toledo when we first arrived in Spain, and saw some of his other works, as he lived in Toledo at the end of his life. I love that the museum allows you to get very close to the art, because it is so interesting to see the brush strokes up close, and then step back and see the full effect! I also visited one of the sculpture galleries and a special collection of royal dishes and vessels carved from precious metals and stones. I’m so glad I happened to be at the museum while that collection was on display, because it was astounding! A lot of parts from the dishes have gone missing over the years, most of which disappeared during the French takeover of Spain, but I can only imagine how amazing these pieces were when first created. 

Goodbye Museo del Prado!
Goodbye Museo del Prado!

As this adventure of a course comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on what a wonderful experience it was. My anxiety was incredibly high before leaving, as I worried I would forget something, show up  for my flight at the wrong time, or for some reason, not be able to make it through the high pressure of the month. However, at the end, I realize that a lot of this anxiety was unnecessary, and the growth that I experienced from being uncomfortable was priceless. It is uncomfortable to be unfamiliar, but that is the way that we learn and grow as people. 

A popular plaza in Madrid, legend has it that birds used to fly into the mouth of this horse statue and live in the stomach, so they had to weld the mouth closed
A popular plaza in Madrid, legend has it that birds used to fly into the mouth of this horse statue and live in the stomach, so they had to weld the mouth closed

I am also very thankful for the opportunity to interact with so many local Spaniards and Moroccans. Through CIEE, we were able to have several meetings with students, as well as lectures from local professors. These experiences were so valuable, and gave me a chance to see the countries through the eyes of someone living their everyday life in them. I am so thankful for these people who answered every question, helped us to think critically, and were brutally honest about their home. 

The beautiful gardens at the old Madrid palace
The beautiful gardens at the old Madrid palace

Overall, the biggest lesson that I will take from my experience in Spain and Morocco is patience. This means a lot of things, from slowing down to enjoy a meal with friends, to taking extra time and energy to help someone who is struggling with a foreign language. I notice that in the United States, we seem to be very sped up, and our entire lives revolve around getting things done quickly. We utilize anything that advertises as “quick” or “fast” from fast food to quick car service. I noticed that when life seemed to slow down, there was time to talk with other people and learn about their lives, there was time to enjoy food, there was time to appreciate sights and sounds. In addition to patience for a “slowed down life”, the patience that others had for us, as Americans, was so meaningful. In Spain, I made an effort to use Spanish, but I am clearly not a native speaker. Despite this, each person that I tried to speak to was kind, patient, and willing to repeat themselves or define a word in English if I wasn’t sure of what it meant in Spanish. They were also so willing to use English if it made us more comfortable, and to see someone put a stranger’s comfort over their own was impactful. In Morocco, I knew only a few words of Arabic, and I tried to use them. I made an effort to say “hello” and “thank you” in Arabic, and every time I did, I was met with smiles, and sometimes even a little pronunciation help. In my homestay, my host mother only spoke French and Arabic—I speak neither of these languages—but she was patient and kind while I struggled with basic Arabic and used Google Translate to try to talk to her. At no point did she make me feel bad or belittle me for trying. This patience made me feel more comfortable and at home, despite being so out of my element. The kindness and patience that I was shown by my host family will forever stay with me. I hope that I can incorporate more of the patience that I experienced in Spain and Morocco into my life. 

Beautiful colored buildings in Madrid
Beautiful colored buildings in Madrid

I am so lucky to have gotten to study abroad in Spain and Morocco for the past month. I had such an amazing learning experience, studying the history of civilizations and power in these two countries. This knowledge that I’ve acquired will forever change how I view European history, and just adds to the wonderful education that I am receiving at Linfield. Thank you so much to the International Programs Office for making this possible and for allowing me to share my experience through this blog! 

Every tower is unique!
Every tower is unique!

Thanks for following along with my journey!

Diving into Moroccan Identity and City Space

Salam from Meknès, Morocco! 

The last few days have been absolutely packed! We traveled from Chefchaouen to Meknès, which took about four hours. On the way we stopped in Moulay Idriss, a holy Muslim city, and Volubilis, a Roman city site. We took a day trip to Fes, and then spent a day in Meknès. These city spaces have been able to communicate a deeper understanding of what is at the core of Moroccan identity. The city space has a purpose and a specific function. For Islam, the city is the center, it is the most important space. These four cities shared that idea in a deeper way than the previous cities, and allowed me to see deeper into the core of Moroccan identity. Moroccan identity is fluid, complex, and ever-changing, and it is not possible for me to describe an identity of a group of people that I am not of, however, these city spaces reflect that complexity and interconnectedness of the Moroccan identity. 

I can’t help but think about cats when I think of Morocco!
I can’t help but think about cats when I think of Morocco!

Moulay Idriss is a holy city for Muslim people, and many make pilgrimages there every year. We are incredibly lucky, because it only became available for non-Muslims to visit a few years ago. The city was founded by a man named Moulay Idriss, who came to the area to escape being certain death. He was a member of the Umayyad dynasty, just like Abd al-Rahman—remember, the man who escaped Syria to Córdoba, Spain, and then began the building of the great mosque! Moulay Idriss wanted to establish his legitimacy as a religious ruler, and so he built his own city near the Roman site of Volubilis, overlooking the ancient site. He wanted to build an even bigger city, but it ended up being his son, Moulay Idriss II, who completed this ambitious project with the construction of Fes. 

The holy Muslim city of Moulay Idriss, Morocco
The holy Muslim city of Moulay Idriss, Morocco

After visiting Moulay Idriss, we drove about 15 minutes to Volubilis, an ancient Roman city. Volubilis is an active archaeological site, with roots dating back to the Phoenicians. Volubilis was damaged in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, but archaeologists have been working to restore the site for educational purposes. Sketches were made of the structure of Volubilis prior to the earthquake, so archaeologists are able to work from those to restore parts of the city. The site is expansive, and features several extremely large houses that reveal the wealth and status of some of the Roman families that lived in Volubilis. The site was chosen by the Romans for the fertile land, as they needed to produce more olive oil and wheat to sustain their large empire. After the Roman Empire collapsed, some Romans stayed at the site, and it also began to be inhabited by indigenous Amazigh people. Eventually, Moulay Idriss arrived to the area, bringing Islam with him. He founded the new city of Moulay Idriss, overlooking the old city of Volubilis. 

Arches at the Roman site of Volubilis
Arches at the Roman site of Volubilis

We also took a day trip to Fes, the cultural and spiritual capital of Morocco. Moulay Idriss wanted to build a bigger city, but he was poisoned and died before he could, as he was a member of the Umayyad dynasty that escaped Damascus. Those who had killed the rest of his family finally caught up with him in Morocco. His son, Moulay Idriss II, ended up building the city of Fes, as his father had dreamed of. The Almohad dynasty of Morocco moved the capital to Fes much later in history, and much effort was made to further the city at this time. The city features many Quaranic schools, mosques, and intellectual establishments. The city also features the oldest university in the Muslim world, Al-Quarrayywine University, founded by a pious woman. We had a great lecture from a local professor, who shared the history of Morocco and the Amazigh people with us, as well as discussing current Arab-Amazigh relationships.

The expansive Fès Médina
The expansive Fès Médina

We visited a ceramic workshop, where they produced all kinds of beautiful ceramic vessels, as well as mosaics. It was fascinating to watch, as all of the workers had a speciality in the process, and everyone was instrumental to creating the artwork.

Beautiful ceramics in Fes, Morocco
Beautiful ceramics in Fes, Morocco

We also got to visit a leather tannery! Fes is famous for its leather, and rightly so. The tannery smelled so bad from all of the vats filled with limestone and pigeon droppings (for the ammonia). The tannery workers gave us mint leaves to put under our noses so we didn’t have to smell the leather making process! It was really interesting to see, and I had no idea that making leather smelled so awful.

A sprig of mint given to me to mask the smell of the tannery in Fes, Morocco
A sprig of mint given to me to mask the smell of the tannery in Fes, Morocco

Fes was considered a sister city to Córdoba during the height of Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula, and many scholars traveled between the two cities. I am glad we got to visit both of these important historic cities and trace the Islamic influence between them. 

Beautiful metalwork at the Fes royal palace
Beautiful metalwork at the Fes royal palace

We also got to spend a day exploring Meknès! We visited the royal granary, built by King Moulay Ismail. He was a bit paranoid about a siege against the city happening, so he built notoriously thick and solid walls on all of his structures. The royal granary was filled with grain taxed from the subjects of the kingdom. The royal granary was connected to the royal stables. Legend says Moulay Ismail spent many years of his rule on horseback, moving from place to place, as he felt unsafe and a target. After the royal granary, we visited a few local workshops, one for traditional Amazigh textiles and one for silver and other metal work. We got a chance to walk around the médina souk, or market, which has a more open design than other Moroccan médinas, making it unique. The médina was very busy, and full of people and animals! There was a man with snakes, who I stayed far away from, and another woman with an ostrich and monkeys. 

Moulay Ismail’s royal granary in Meknès, Morocco
Moulay Ismail’s royal granary in Meknès, Morocco

Visiting these cities helped me to get a better look at Moroccan identity, and how the city space plays such an important role in Moroccan culture. I am so thankful for the opportunity to experience so many different cities in Morocco! Tomorrow, we will be traveling to Rabat, Morocco, where we will be moving in with our host families! 

Walls restored at the archaeological site of Volubilis
Walls restored at the archaeological site of Volubilis

Shukraan (thank you) for following along with my journey through Morocco! 

Emmaline

Welcome to Morocco!

Salam from Chefchaouen, Morocco!

We left Spain a few days ago and headed to Morocco via a ferry! It took about an hour, and it was a beautiful and easy ride. There are only about 9 miles between the two countries across the Strait of Gibraltar, so standing on the shore of one country, you can see the other.

Riding the ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco
Riding the ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco

We arrived in Tangier and took a bus to Tétouan, where we stayed for a few days. We visited the both the Tétouan and the Tangier médinas while here. Visiting the médina of each of these cities helped us to better understand the connections between Andalusian Spain and Morocco.  The city space is an incredibly important place in Islam, as life happens in the city: learning, trading, sharing, growing. 

The Rif Mountains, viewed from near our hotel, in Tétouan, Morocco
The Rif Mountains, viewed from near our hotel, in Tétouan, Morocco

In Tétouan, we visited our first Moroccan médina! Tour guides must be sanctioned by the government of Morocco, and we also had to have an undercover police officer follow our tour group. This was an interesting experience to have, as it was a huge difference from the United States. The médina was very crowded and there were people selling everything from fruits and vegetables, to live chickens and goats, to beauty products and clothing. There were also lots of cats everywhere, as Islamic law prevents animals from being spayed or neutered. The cats just hang out and enjoy scraps of food in the médina, so it’s a pretty good place to be a cat. The médina has small, winding streets, and the Tétouan médina features a “code” of sorts on the ground. If there are three rows of bricks in the center, the road will lead to a gate. Nevertheless, this was one of the most confusing médinas to navigate so I stuck close to the guide. 

Our tour guide instructed us to photograph “Tétouan medina’s most beautiful mosque”
Our tour guide instructed us to photograph “Tétouan medina’s most beautiful mosque”

When the Catholic monarchs took Granada in 1492, they changed the religious and cultural climate of the Iberian peninsula even further. In the years that followed, Muslims and Jewish people were expelled from Spain, or forced to convert. Most of them came to Morocco, and settled in cities like Tétouan, meaning their mark is left on the médina. There are some traditional Andalusian homes in the médina of Tétouan, which show the heritage of the people who came to the city.

Tétouan at night, viewed from my hotel balcony
Tétouan at night, viewed from my hotel balcony

We also visited the Tangier médina, which was a much different experience! It was much less crowded than the Tétouan médina, and if it had a “code” or map on the ground, it was not easily understood! Tangier is an international city, so it is much different from other Moroccan cities. The Tangier médina features influence from many cultures, not just Islamic and Andalusian that is more typical of Morocco. One great example of this is American presence in Tangier. We visited the American Legation building, which has stood in the Tangier médina for many years. This building is now a museum, filled with art from artists all over the world who found themselves in Tangier at some point in time. I enjoyed the art in the museum, and we were back on American soil for an hour! 

The American Legation building in the Tangier médina, Morocco
The American Legation building in the Tangier médina, Morocco
A view inside the Tangier médina
A view inside the Tangier médina

After leaving Tangier, we made two stops: one at the Northwesternmost point of Africa, and one at the Hercules Caves. These were interesting and fun sites to see, especially since we were so close! Legend has it that Hercules himself made the cutout of Africa in the cave wall, you decide if it was him or the waves! Either way, the cutout does have a strong resemblance to the continent!

The northwesternmost point of Africa, outside Tangier, Morocco
The northwestern-most point of Africa, outside Tangier, Morocco
A natural cutout in the rocks at the Hercules Caves, near Tangier, Morocco
A natural cutout in the rocks at the Hercules Caves, near Tangier, Morocco

Now that we are in Chefchaouen, the city space is very different. We traveled about 2 hours into the Rif Mountains to reach the city. Chefchaouen means “look at the two mountain peaks,” which are absolutely striking on the skyline.

A view of how Chefchaouen got its name, which means “look at the two mountains”
A view of how Chefchaouen got its name, which means “look at the two mountains”

The médina of Chefchaouen has been painted completely blue, which is beautiful and recognizable, but also communicates the city space’s history. Many Jewish people lived in Chefchaouen, many of them who were in the city prior to the expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula. Jewish people used to paint a thin blue line around their windows to protect against evil spirits. However, in 1994, Chefchaouen realized that tourists liked the blue so much, that they decided to paint the entire city blue. So, as beautiful as the blue is, it’s not entirely historically accurate, and is a bit of a tourist draw. Nevertheless, I found it beautiful!

A classically blue street in Chefchaouen, Morocco
A classically blue street in Chefchaouen, Morocco

The city space of Chefchaouen represents a growing tourist industry in Morocco, as well as an important history of coexistence. The médina has the same winding plan as others, and Chefchaouen features a beautiful kasbah, or royal fortress, like other médinas. Despite the position in the mountains, the Islamic city design did not miss Chefchaouen. 

Striking blue in Chefchaouen, Morocco
Striking blue in Chefchaouen, Morocco

I have enjoyed visiting these first three Moroccan cities on this journey! Morocco is a beautiful place that is so unlike anywhere I have ever been before. The mountains are stunning, the cities are full of learning opportunities, and I am trying to take it all in. I feel really thankful that I am able to experience this incredible country! 

A view of Chefchaouen from the Spanish Mosque
A view of Chefchaouen from the Spanish Mosque

Shukraan (thank you) for following along on my adventure! 

A Lovely Homestay in Rabat

Salam from Rabat, Morocco! 

Tonight is our last night at our homestay, which is bittersweet! Our host mom, Leyla, has been so incredibly kind and welcoming to us. We were split into pairs and divided among several homes. We have been fortunate enough to spend three nights at our homestay, which is not even close to enough time to integrate into and understand the Moroccan home, but for the length of this course, this time was so precious and important! We had three host siblings, a 22 year old boy in university, a 20 year old girl, and a 14 year old boy. Of course, I also can’t forget, our host cat, Queen! Queen was a beautiful white cat with one blue eye and one brown eye! Our host sister, Imman, took us out on the first night to walk through the médina and explore. I was amazed at how well she was able to navigate her way through the complicated street layout of the médina, but she told us that she has lived in the médina her entire life, and still gets lost sometimes!

My wonderful host family in Rabat, Morocco
My wonderful host family in Rabat, Morocco

Our host mom made us full breakfasts with different types of bread, cheese, jam, tea and coffee, and olives. She also served us a full spread for tea, which is between 4:00 and 7:30 every afternoon. By the time I’ve had tea, it feels like a late dinner for me, and I’m full, but dinner always comes even later, around 9:30 in the evening! We had delicious chicken tagine one night, soup and potatoes another night, and then spaghetti with chicken! Moroccan families share one big plate, and eat off of it with bread, forks, or just their fingers. It’s a great strategy to have less dirty dishes!  Each night, we would watch TV, usually American movies in English, with Arabic subtitles, and our host siblings and mom would use their phones, which felt very much like home. It was casual, comfortable, and normal! The TV is also always on in Moroccan homes, but it’s not as distracting as you might think! It’s more like background white noise. 

Beautiful flowers in Rabat, Morocco
Beautiful flowers in Rabat, Morocco

On our second night in Rabat, we went to a hammam, or public bath. It was an experience we were told was a necessity on a visit to Morocco! It was a very interesting experience, and a great normalization of all types of human bodies. This isn’t something that I usually experience in the United States. I was very nervous, but at the end, I don’t regret going, and I’m so glad to have gotten to experience this aspect of Moroccan culture—and my skin is really, really soft! 

Raindrops on leaves in Rabat, Morocco. It rained when we first arrived, but then cleared up for a lovely last few days!
Raindrops on leaves in Rabat, Morocco. It rained when we first arrived, but then cleared up for a lovely last few days!

In Rabat, we visited some local sites that are must sees! We visited Chellah, Roman ruins in Rabat. The ruins have public bathhouses, which tell an interesting story of a transfer of culture: the Islamic people were inspired by Roman bathhouses, and now, bathhouses are an important part of Islamic culture. The ruins also have mosques, built during Islamic occupation of the site.

Chellah Roman Ruins in Rabat, Morocco
Chellah Roman Ruins in Rabat, Morocco

We also visited Hassan II, a royal mausoleum where the late King Hassan II, and his father, the also late King Mohammad V, are buried. There is also the remains of a mosque that was started by the Almohad dynasty in Morocco, but was never finished. 

Inside the Hassan II Mausoleum in Rabat, Morocco
Inside the Hassan II Mausoleum in Rabat, Morocco

On our final day, we presented our final takeaways from the course, which was a really valuable exercise, and I have seen a lot of growth in myself, as well as my classmates.

Beautiful henna art in Morocco, as part of the goodbye programming
Beautiful henna art in Morocco, as part of the goodbye programming

We finished the day with a visit to a beautiful beach, where we were just across the Atlantic from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina! I found a lot of beautiful sea glass, which we were allowed to take with us as a souvenir.

A beautiful beach in Rabat, Morocco
A beautiful beach in Rabat, Morocco

We ended the day with some shopping in the médina! I bought spices, which I am really excited to use, as I love to cook. I also got a few gifts for my siblings. I enjoyed experiencing the médina with local students, because they were able to make the situation a lot less confusing! It is hard to not be able to speak the language of a country, which makes me remember the privilege I have as an English speaker in the United States! The patience that Moroccans have with all of us reminds me how important it is to take an example from their patience and enact it in my own life. I am looking forward to the “language comfort” I have in Spain, where I am able to communicate in Spanish. 

There are cats everywhere in Morocco! They don’t usually want attention, they just sit and watch!
There are cats everywhere in Morocco! They don’t usually want attention, they just sit and watch!

Morocco has been an amazing experience, and I feel so lucky to have been able to spend so much time in this country, and even get to stay with a host family! I have absolutely loved being here. Unfortunately, I have been feeling a bit sick these past few days, I think from the odd eating schedule (for me!) and insane volume of food at Moroccan meals, but I was able to use Google Translate tonight to communicate with my host mom that I wasn’t feeling good. This reminded me of the importance of advocating for yourself, even if it’s difficult, or you need a little bit of technological help! I am so appreciative of how kind my host mom has been to me to help me to feel comfortable and better! 

There’s no reason to feel bad about using Google Translate sometimes, especially if you need to say something specific!
There’s no reason to feel bad about using Google Translate, especially if you need to say something specific!

Shukraan (thank you) for traveling along with me through Morocco! Now, back to Spain!

Emmaline