If you know anything about student life it is that we have next to no money when it comes to the summer; the new house deposit has been paid, your loan is gone, you have to pay for the summer rent… Therefore you may have a slight dilemma if you, like I, adore travelling. Travelling and immersing yourself in a new way of life is one of the best ways to grow as a person and be more accepting of people and cultures we do not understand. I’d like to stress the fact you do not have to pay top dollar to experience this.
Dipping into my savings (because you’re allowed to do that for things that will further your life experiences instead of just hoarding money for no reason) I could afford a Ryanair flight from Stansted to Rabat and back quite easily! My trip totalled five nights and I did some super research online with the assistance of Trip Advisor to find a hotel that suited me and what I wished to gain from my excursion, within my budget limit of course! We ended up at a small riad (translates to garden house) called The Repose, in a small town called Salé, within the Medina Wall. One of the hosts was English so this was doubly useful in that we never had any misinterpretations (my French and Arabic are below par to say the least). The hotel included our room and an insane amount of authentic glorious breakfast food.
In general I would recommend travelling with a group of friends; the more of you that can fit in the room the cheaper it will be if the room is a single charge (not per person).
The second thing to remember is to check the exchange rate. For Morocco the exchange is 15dh to £1 and each Dirham can get you a fair amount of stuff if you know where to look. For example, shopping in the souk; there are bakeries galore, women making bread on hotplates, fruit stands, meat and fish stalls and little ‘ATM’ style corner shops. A standard pain au chocolat could easily be bought for 1dh and a bag of 10 rolls (called batbout if you ever need to know that for a pub quiz) were about 5dh! That’s lunch/dinner for under a pound as long as you acquire some cheese (kiri was what we ascertained from a corner shop) or veg to stuff the bread with!
Now here comes the insight that I gained and the most personal part of this post/the most useless part for many of you, if you wish to stop reading then okay, but I really suggest you continue! I travelled to Morocco during Ramadan. For those of you who do not know what this is or know of it but do not know what it entails, let me explain. Ramadan is a Muslim tradition in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which involves fasting from food, water, smoking and sexual acts during the daylight hours. Putting this into perspective, it was about 30◦C out there and no-one of age is drinking any fluid or eating any food during the day, despite many of them still working with vigour and in direct sunlight.
The sense of community between people brought about by this internal struggle is one like I have never seen before; During Ramadan each person is able to understand the feelings of their fellow Muslims and as they endure the daylight hours together, but then also rejoicing under the moon together. The fast was broken at 7:45pm and the streets would come alive with people, playing football, grilling meat to eat and chatting to their neighbours. It would be louder outside at 2am than 2pm! A girl on the plane home put it into words perfectly, she said “The fast is hard, but it allows us to remember the real value of food/drink and the worth of what we have every day but take for granted a lot of the time.”
In light of my experience I feel humbled to have witnessed such a supportive community in action. Although the idea of fasting and praying at all times of the day seems outlandish to many other religions and people, the idea behind the movement is to gain a new perspective, and I think we should all take something from this.