Dear Future MWST Adventure-ees

This post was inspired by the amazing Jariah Travan and her Muslim World Study Tour blog (check it out!).

To you brave souls who are embarking on any of the future MWST, I just wanted to share with you what I wish I’d known before going on this amazing, wonderful adventure.

  • Start your blog early! It’s a great way to keep notes and to keep in touch with home. I know my friends and family loved being able to track our progress without having to work out time zones and contact us directly.
  • At least glance at your assessment items before leaving, I wish I had asked the people we met more directed, focused questions (it’ll save a lot of time flicking through notes later on!)
  • Go to a Travel Doctor! For the love of God, be prepared to get sick in one way or another. From just a headache to a cold or full travel bug sick, either you or one of your new best friends will suffer and you’ll want to make life as painless as possible. [Thank You Myhn!]
  • Buy enough snacks to last you the whole trip. Malaysia is great for this! Shapes, Tiny Teddies, Potato Chips, Digestive Biscuits, Pringles, Oreos.. they will be lifesavers on long days with many activities and lots of transport.
  • Pack a decent camera and take so many photos. I took upwards of 3000 photos and I still feel as though I could have photographed more! Breathe in these beautiful cities, experience them with every sense you have, then snap them up and bring them home. Photos will remind you of these sensory experiences more than words will.
  • Halim walks really fast, pack running shoes.
  • That being said, go at your own pace. Don’t push yourself too hard. Yes, go out for a walk instead of sitting around if you feel up to it, but it’s okay to have a nap or miss going on that one outing just to rest and recover.
  • Marrakesh is where to do your shopping people. Definitely collect something from every country! (I chose art). But the quality, scope and price of souvenir shopping in Marrakesh is unmatched.
  • Accept the people around you into your hearts and into your life, even just for the trip. Put yourself out there and make friends with your tour companions, the locals, other travelers. Nothing will enrich your experience more than the people you meet.
  • Last but not least: sit back and enjoy the ride! No matter what happens [bombings, illness, delayed transport, lost luggage, getting ripped off], you will have the utmost amazing time. Go into the experience open minded and flexible and absolutely nothing will be able to bring you down.

The Muslim World Study Tour is the most unique, soul enriching, life inspiring, educational, exciting experience I’ve ever had. I discovered things about myself, my country and my world in that month that I would have never found otherwise. I am so exceptionally grateful for having the opportunity to engage with the international community, to learn so much and make life-long friends.

Good Luck and have a wonderful tour!

Home!

So we’ve been home for about a week now, and I have to admit that I much prefer the Halim-paced lifestyle of travelling. Even though it was absolutely exhausting and utterly draining, the Muslim World Study Tour was one of the greatest experiences of my lifetime.

I know a lot of it has to do with the lack of responsibilities and abundance of freedom that you have when travelling, in contrast to the restrictive dreariness of home.. So I know that I do love it here in Australia, and that I am achieving great things with every weighted step.

I also think that travelling with my partner made the trip infinitely more comfortable and insurmountably easier. With him around, I didn’t feel much homesickness at all. I couldn’t have done it without him.

That said, I am already planning my next adventure!

A ski trip to New Zealand maybe, then a little later I’d like to go back to Morocco to study Arabic I think.

Gallipoli

On our last full day on the tour, the kiddies went to Gallipoli. Halim didn’t attend, but that’s alright because we met a random Australian girl on the bus who became our substitute 12th person.

Statues:

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Getting up at 5:30am after a long day of travelling the day previous was difficult to say the least, I think most of us regretted the decision as we faced down the four hour bus ride from Istanbul to Gallipoli.

Other Structures:

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When we got there though, I think our minds were changed. To be honest, there wasn’t anything amazingly spectacular about the view, scenery or physical environment itself.. But it certainly had a presence.

People!

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I really felt connected to the histories of both Turkey and Australia, and although Gallipoli and Anzac Cove are places where conflict and tragedy occurred in the past.. I felt oddly peaceful.

Scenery:

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Our tour guide was very knowledgable and provided a moderate, informative insight into what actually happened during the two major moments at Gallipoli, the initial landing and when the Brits stuffed everything up.

I am glad to have gone, it was really very enjoyable!

Weather

Pretty tired of the drizzly, cold weather.. miss the sunshine of Kuala Lumpur and / or snow of Istanbul.

Anything other than this cold, windy, cold, wet, cold hell!

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[p.s. I realize snow is also cold but at least it commits to being just plain freezing, whenever you’re indoors it’s warm and the pretty snow makes up for a lot of the suffering].

I made friends with this Cat

The animals here are very friendly, the number of stray animals floating around has also increased from country to country.

All the stray animals have been friendly and approachable! In Istanbul the numerous stray dogs were happy to come up and say hello or walk beside you, the street cats were a bit more skittish but the ones hanging out at tourist spots were very personable.

The dogs in Istanbul had ear tags, apparently the government watches over them but doesn’t house them because they want them to be free. I understand their train of thought, but can’t help but disagree when some of the dogs seemed somewhat emaciated and were sleeping in snow.

Here, there are cats everywhere. Not nearly as many dogs though. We went to this old fortress / admin building yesterday that was crawling with cats, and if you sat down you would soon be inundated with them. I sat down and this cat just jumped up on my lap and wouldn’t move.

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I think a lot of the animals just like to be warm.

The one dog that we did see was a mother with some puppies, she had housed her puppies in this fenced off garden while she came out to, I honestly believe, beg for food from us.

We’ve been hassled by people old and young, men and women, for charity throughout this trip. I feel as though we’re astute enough to identify begging when we see it, and this dog was behaving just as the begging children do. I felt pretty terrible for the little thing but I couldn’t give it money and didn’t have any food so I just hope she did okay.

This is her:

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Charity has honestly been quite the controversial issue on the trip, but that’s a whole other story.

Markets & Mausoleums

Rabat is very windy! Which means although it’s not as cold as say Istanbul, it feels just as bad because the wind just tears into you.

The jacket I got from Kathmandu for Christmas has gone above and beyond in minimising the effects of the cold, windy weather for the most part, but my hands and hair and any area that’s been exposed to the elements are certainly suffering. I will certainly come home looking more raggedy than I intended.

Walking through the wind honestly feels as though you’re walking with weights on you, it’s that strong. When we went to see the ocean, I almost thought I’d be blown in! I’ve almost been knocked over a couple of times. Maybe we’ll all come back a little stronger too.

We journeyed through the handicraft markets and visited the mausoleum of King Mohammed V yesterday. I feel as though there is not a lot to do in Rabat, at least for a tourist anyways. This city is certainly not a place which constantly panders to tourism, it’s obvious that this is a city in which people work and live. So it’s been great to see a more authentic, local Morocco, but that still doesn’t really negate our boredom.

We’ve looked up things to do and places to see but we have a meeting today and we leave tomorrow, so our schedule doesn’t really permit great amounts of exploring or adventure.

I’m honestly just anxious to get to Fes and finish my souvenir shopping! I made a good start in Marrakech but there’s still so many more things I want to purchase and so many people I’d love to buy things for!

I’m sorry Nanna, I haven’t come across any silk.. Not any that hasn’t been made into a scarf or robe already anyways. I’ll keep my eye out in Fes though.

We have a meeting with the university today! So that should be interesting.

Hope everyone is having a nice time back at home, I’m honestly jealous of the scorching heat you’re experiencing at the moment.. I’d give anything to not be cold for even a minute!

Tash

Goodbye Marrakech!

On our way to the train station this morning, I was able to capture a few photos of Marrakech and its rustic aesthetic. We drove through the new city which looked, obviously, much more developed and modern than the area surrounding our Riad.

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However I don’t feel as though we would have gotten the same terrifyingly authentic experience if we had stayed in just another tourist 4-star hotel that wasn’t close to anything.

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Night Markets

Tonight Fergus, Jaz, Dan, Brooke, Lujayne and I visited the night markets before dinner. In one of my previous photos from the Marrakech post showing the main square, you can see the tents and stalls being set up for the market that night.

It was a lively experience. There’s many groups of people doing different things, so there are basically just circles of people crowding this big area and you just circle hop checking out all the performances.

The most common sight is small bands who play funky, rhythmic, local music.

Otherwise there are also acrobats, snake charmers, fighters and comedians [or well we think, we couldn’t understand what he was saying].

Photos of these various circle centres aren’t free, and so we have few photos of the actual performances. But the photos wouldn’t have done them, or the atmosphere, justice anyways.

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