You never really realize how much you’ve missed the quiet — the type that comes only from being in nature — until you’re finally experiencing it again. After spending two weeks in the heart of San Francisco, flying to Morocco, and then spending two more weeks in some of the largest urban areas, it was quite the breath of fresh air to travel to Ben Smim, a remote village in the Moroccan countryside that was surrounded by large hills dotted with flocks of sheep. As soon as our bus pulled in, the whole group of us ran outside to take in the sunset and reconnect to what we’d been missing. Our hotel was also located close enough to Ifrane National Park that we were able to travel there a few days later on the weekend and take an incredible hike in the woods that, much to my surprise, were filled with friendly monkeys! 

As for academics, our week in Ben Smim was full of amazing site visits, including: 

  • A fish farm working to repopulate rivers and conserve trout species
  • AIN University where we learned about Islamic views on the environment
  • The Al Ikhlass women’s cooperative where we painted murals and learned about the co-op’s beekeeping business
  • A local apple orchard where Jawad the farmer discussed climate challenges facing the agricultural sector
flock of sheep at the apple farm

After our week in Ben Smim, we used our free weekend to head to Chefchaouen (also known as the Blue City) from Tangier. Although the reason why this stunning city was painted blue is up for debate, it certainly lived up to its name, and exploring its Medina — filled with the richest, most saturated blues I’ve ever seen — felt almost magical. Our AirBnB was equally gorgeous, with four floors topped off by a rooftop terrace overlooking the city, perfect for watching the foggy sunrise while eating our breakfast the next morning. We spent the first day ambling through the Medina checking out the jewelry, art, clothing, and beauty vendors, and then watched the sun set over the city from the local mosque. The next day we after our sunrise breakfast we crammed in a taxi bright and early to head to the Cascades d’Akchour, where we spent the morning hiking through the mountains along a beautiful clear stream. There were countless waterfalls along the way and even though the water was colder than I thought I could stand, my favorite part of the weekend was without a doubt taking a dip under one of them with my hiking buddies. The rest of the weekend we spent relaxing at Cafe Clock and playing endless rounds of cards, before heading back to Tangier. 

Our time in Tangier was quite brief, but we made sure to explore the Medina and get another sunset viewing in (this one featured Spain in the distance across the Strait of Gibraltar), take plenty of dips in the hotel pool (where I learned to dive!), and as always, play lots of cards. I even got an impromptu hair cut at what was supposed to be strictly a manicure appointment with my friend Jaime (no regrets). Our Tangier site visit was to the Amendis wastewater treatment facility, where we learned how the facility was using treated water to cut back on new water demand for irrigation needs to combat the water shortage. As our time in Morocco came to a close, we headed back to Casablanca and had some wrap up sessions synthesizing what we had learned so far.

This left us with just one last weekend to make the most of before our flight to Nepal, so a group of 8 of us decided to book another AirBnb and take the train to Fes for one last adventure. The Medina in Fes was probably my favorite thus far and had this truly indescribable energy about it: colors seemed brighter, shopkeepers were friendlier, and my sugar high from the fresh juices I kept consuming left me buzzing with excitement. My favorite interaction was with a generous shopkeeper who sold us some jewelry and then kindly took us on a tour of his highly-regarded shop’s museum and then to a hidden 800 year old courtyard with beautiful tile work. We also took a quick stop in the Wood Museum before watching the sun set at the ancient Marinid Tombs and grabbing dinner at a vegetarian restaurant in the Medina. 

outside the Medina

I am writing this on my final day in Morocco, on the swelteringly hot train back from Fes. Somehow in just 12 hours our month in Morocco will somehow be over as we fly out to Nepal. This month has taught me more than I could have imagined about privilege, common humanity, stretching my limits, and environmental justice. Not all of these lessons have been easy by any means, but they’ve all helped me understand the beauty of life just a little better. 

Signing off until Nepal. 

Published by Molly

Class of 2025 Majors | Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, and Political Science Program | SIT IHP: Climate Change Locations | San Francisco, U.S.A.; Morocco; Nepal; Ecuador

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