A warm hug, a friendly smile. Familiar streets and well-trodden paths. These are just a few of the things that mark a homecoming and my return to Meknes certainly fits the bill.
I was exhausted from traveling all over Spain, France, and Morocco with my parents for a month but the new group of students for this semester arrived the same day they left Marrakesh. Wandering around Jemaa El Fna, buying candied nuts, dried apricots, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and hot brochettes with “free” mint tea from the square’s vendors occupied most of our evenings, and some hours of the afternoon as well. We witnessed story-tellers, acrobats, monkeys, musicians, and snake-charmers, all vying for money from the crowd.
During the day, ISA arranged some tours for the group around the city. We visited the Menara Gardens, wandered the Majorelle Gardens, went to the Saadian tombs, saw the Koutoubia, walked through the souk, and finally ended with the afternoon free to explore Jemaa El Fnaa and make our own way back to the Hotel Akabar.
The day was a whirlwind of new places, new faces, trying to remember everyone’s names, catching up with old friends, making new ones, and exploring more and more of the lively city of Marraksh.
We started the journey home the next morning, heading North East toward Meknes and stopping at the Ouzoud Cascades and Beni Mellal on the way.
Man oh man were those cascades awesome! They’re the tallest waterfalls in all of Morocco and they’re absolutely gorgeous. Calling it a hike is kind of a stretch but we left the bus at the top of the hill and walked down to get a better view, visiting a few different lookouts, both facing and below the falls. A couple of the guys decided they would be all macho and jump in. It was pretty cold outside (we were in the mountains after all) and I’m sure the water wasn’t much warmer but it was entertaining.
There were also some monkeys there, which proved to be a problem when we sat down to eat. Some came right up to us and snatched the khobz (bread) right off the table at Iman’s elbow. There was a kid working there whose only job seemed to be to chase them away but he started working a lot harder after that. After a great meal of tagine and tea, we headed back up to the bus and drove to Beni Mellal to spend the night.
We were scheduled to have an ISA program meeting shortly after our arrival, but the game between Morocco and Tunisia for the African Cup of Nations would be at the same time so they moved it to later that night (sometime after our giant 3-course meal). Only in Morocco would important meetings be scheduled around futbol. =)
We made it to Meknes by 2pm the next day and everyone was thrilled to unload their stuff off the bus and finally unpack. I ran upstairs to my old apartment to grab the last of my stuff from the previous semester so I could move in with my new host family. Somehow I found I had almost twice as much stuff as I came here with. It certainly doesn’t bode well for moving back to the US at the end of the year – I already have too much and I still have four months to accumulate more. I felt ridiculous hauling my plethora of luggage to my new family’s home, but was happy to meet them and move in to my new room.
I finished unpacking and came out of my room to find my host mom and her sister at the kitchen table making Tiramisu. I asked if I could help and before I knew it, I was set to work measuring different flours and sugars, dolloping custard on top of cookies, and saran-wrapping finished mini Tiramisu cups. In no time I felt right at home.
The following few days only increased this feeling. I ran into old friends on the street, I took taxis on my own, visited people now living where I used to live, exchanged greetings with shopkeepers and doormen that recognized me, and I showed the new students around “my hometown”. It hadn’t been that long since I was last in Meknes with my parents over winter break but the welcoming familiarity of this small city continually reinforces the feeling of homecoming. Man, it’s good to be back!