Getting lost gives you the opportunity to really see an area. Leaving the guidebook at home and just exploring is my favorite thing to do when traveling. I find myself being more observant and so I see what the locals really are doing – what restaurants they’re eating at, the shortcuts they know that no one else knows, even something as basic as greetings.
All my tour books in Tanzania said that “Hello” was “Habari” or “Jambo”. Little did I know until I started pulling my head out of the book that I sounded like a ignorant tourist when I said things like that. It makes sense if they think about it because how often do we say “hello” in America? It’s always hi or what’s up or hey. Same in Tanzania. Instead of “Jambo” you say “Mambo,” which is basically like saying “Hey, what’s up?” With exploration and getting lost in the culture that I’m living in I would have knew that. It’s important to not just “get lost” physically, but also to get lost figuratively. Devour that culture while you can because you will miss it dearly once you’ve left.
Think about the Poconos in the US – that’s what Ifrane is. It’s a small town in the middle of Morocco surrounded by the popular ski slopes, which are mostly a tourist destination for Moroccans. When I stayed in Ifrane, however, it was in between summer and winter – picture absolutely unexpectedly freezing nights and oddly hot days. All at the same being surrounded by a ghost town. A ghost town except for Al Akhawayn University. I was only in Ifrane for four days while presenting at a conference on the Muslim World, but at all times of the day I was fairly freezing.
I thought – oh I’m going to Africa, it’s going to be so warm! I also made the mistake of checking the weather but only looking at the highs. Warning: always check the full weather report, don’t just be optimist like me and only bring a light-weight fleece.
This beautiful, remote, and extremely developed town smack right in the middle of Morocco is only a few hours from all the major cities (and Spain). It’s a great stop for a trip to Morocco and some of the sites will make you forget you’re technically in Africa.