It’s orientation week in Morocco and it seems like all we can talk about, think about, and wonder about is our new home here in Rabat.
So far I’ve been happily exploring in sponge-mode. I’m soaking up everything I can, whether I’m making my way through the crowded souk (market), strolling along the river, drinking mint tea with new friends at the café, or listening intently to the new sounds of Darija, the Moroccan Arabic dialect.
We’ve been busy trekking near and far around the city with our cameras and have managed to see a lot in only four days. On my first day in the city, we entered the walls of the medina and made our way through a bustling marketplace full of everything from colorful spices and beautiful linens to knock-off DVDs and little plastic trinkets.
Yesterday, we ventured through Kasbah de Oudaias, where a grand 12th century gateway leads into a picturesque neighborhood of bright white and blue houses on narrow winding footpaths overlooking the Atlantic.
We also toured through the Roman ruins of Chellah and later discovered the intricate detail and elaborate architecture of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, which contains the tombs of the previous Moroccan king and his two sons.
Exploring here so far has been breathtaking and everything is new and striking. But our first days have also been charged with a huge amount of anticipation for what’s to come in the next four months. Inside AMIDEAST classrooms, we’re preparing for everything from eating with our hands to dealing with street harassment to greeting Moroccans in Darija to understanding the stages of our own cultural adjustment.
Tomorrow we will meet and move in with our host families. Getting to be a tourist in Morocco this week has been incredible, but as I’m trying to read menus or wandering around a new area or struggling to respond to the Darija greetings of a local shopkeeper, I’ve also been constantly aware of my position as an outsider in Rabat.
More than anything, I’m excited to meet my Moroccan host parents and host siblings in the hopes that my four months with them will help me begin to understand what it means to be an insider in Morocco. There are many things that may never come naturally to me — for example, I’ve already discovered that most Moroccans speak at least three languages, and often mix or switch quickly between French, Darija, and sometimes English or Spanish — but I hope that through spending time in the home of a host family, making Moroccan friends, or developing my Arabic skills, I’ll begin to understand not only what I see from the outside when I’m walking the streets of Rabat, but what goes on inside Moroccan homes, and the values and beliefs that might guide the everyday cultural practices of the people around me.