For the days we were in Morocco, my three friends and I had signed up with a tour company that would take us to the main attracting tourist experience: camel trekking in the Sahara Desert. Ortman, our tour guide who had lived in Morocco all his life, drove us in his minivan for six hours to get to our destination. As he took us through the winding uphill roads, I watched as the desert canvas to my right flooded with sand and erosion landscapes which leisurely transformed into a blend of green-brown mountain trees and shrubbery. The air grew brisk as we became surrounded by the sun sparkled snow caps of the Atlas Mountains themselves climbing the clear blue skies, and we decided to break at a cafe off the main road for a warm drink.
Glad to bring some life back into our legs, we stretched out our limbs and strolled into the cafe. Immediately the man behind the counter welcomed Ortman in Arabic, and nodded and smiled at the rest of us in greeting. They seemed to know each other because they starting chatting and laughing with each other. Meanwhile, we let our eyes explore the intimate ambience, architecture, and interior patterns on the walls and floors of the Moroccan styled cafe. Sunlight beamed through two windows and an archway, calling us out to a stone deck which we discovered to have more tables and chairs for guests, perfect for enjoying the backyard mountain vistas in a glorious full screen view.
Ortman’s friend came out to see if we wanted any food or beverages. We had been excited to get a real taste of the country’s culture during our stay, so we requested Morocco’s famous mint tea. As we were waiting for our tea, a man sitting alone at one of the tables near us started talking to Ortman in Spanish. I remembered Ortman said many people in Morocco could speak French and Spanish in addition to Arabic and Berber, the official languages. The man turned his attention to us.
“Where are you from?” he asked, in a soft accent.
“We’re all from the States,” I replied, noticing his bowl of bread and his small glass cup sitting on a saucer with two white sugar cubes resting on it. There were a handful of green leaves swirling around in the drink, and so I assumed the cup contained the mint tea we were eagerly awaiting.
“Ah, yes… the people of Obama!” he exclaimed and chuckled as he lifted the dainty clear cup from its saucer to his lips. His face was welcoming, and we chuckled lightheartedly in return at his way of identification.
The cafe worker soon returned to us with our teas in the petite glass cups. After thanking him, we carefully brought our little cups to our lips for a hearty first sip. A grin swept over my face as my tasted buds kicked in with delight, and I nodded. My friends’ smiling eyes met mine and we all nodded in delicious satisfaction.
The drink was warm and sweet — sweeter than I had expected a mint flavored tea to be. I peered into the concoction before me, wondering how many sugar cubes had dissolved in it. Then I wondered how fragrant the mint leaves were. But within the next sips, we let the majesty of the Atlas, standing tall and still, subdue all other background thoughts. We sat in our chairs in a few moments of enchantment as we drank and watched the Moroccan splendors before parting ways towards the desert dunes.
Angela Tai is a senior at Smith, studying neuroscience with an interest in pursuing medicine and public health. During her time abroad last spring, she traveled to thirteen countries and seventeen cities, which she considers to be some of the most rewarding experiences of her life. She loves learning about different cultures, meeting new people, and eating lots of pizza.by