North Africa is a special place. Before traveling there, I expected to feel a lot of things – like scared of being in a country so different from what I knew. When I took my first step into the bazaar of Marrakech, those fears and expectations dissolved. I opened my heart to Morocco. Traveling to a country with a different culture than your own changes you. And if that country is like Morocco with high levels of extreme poverty, and where almost half of the population can’t read or write, it humbles you as well. I saw Morocco through the dusty window of a twelve-passenger van, but I experienced the North African country by talking to the people – only men and children – who lived there. Not only were the people I met open-hearted with small souvenirs or cups of sweet mint tea, more importantly they were generous with their time. Anyone that I talked to told me about their life and asked me about mine. After traveling to a camp by camel in the Sahara Desert, bordering Algeria and the Atlas Mountains, we spent two nights sleeping on mattresses with heavy wool blankets enclosed by a circle of cloth tents. The desert is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. My camera was unable to capture the contrasting blue of the sky with the ever-changing yellow, brown, and orange colors of the sand. Having lived in Montana, I thought I had seen the best view of stars the night sky had to offer, but after driving for an entire day through nothing, to arrive nowhere and then ride a camel even farther into this unknown land, the possibility of any artificial light disturbing the constellations was impossible. Two nights in the desert then led us to Fez, a gorgeous city of white buildings and narrow streets filled with motorbikes, carts pulled by donkeys, and people from all over the world. I was glad that I waited to buy gifts until going there. Unlike Marrakech, in Fez we first saw where things were made and met the artisans who made them before buying their products. Now when I use my backpack, I remember climbing to the roof of a building with mint leaves pressed to my nose to watch the process of animal skins being made into leather. The smells, tastes, and sounds of Morocco whetted my appetite for travel through cultural immersion. I still get chills when I look at the photos I have of a twelfth-century building whose tiles are held perfectly in place by only egg yolks. Even my photo of the Eiffel Tower fails to give me such satisfaction. Photo credits: Amelia LeBlanc All photographs are subject to copyright and may not be used without the consent of Amelia LeBlancShare this:Like this:Like Loading... Lynn Oh the joy of “real” travel! Thanks for an article that fills our senses Amelia!