At the time of writing this, I have been in Morocco for 8 blissful, stressful and rewarding days! I’ve already sampled the local specialties of couscous and tagine, drank copious amounts of mint tea, (attempted to) haggle in the medina, visited popular tourist destinations in Rabat, picked up a bit of the local dialect and moved in with a wonderful host family!
In Rabat, I live in Agdal which is a fashionable neighborhood not far from downtown. The AMIDEAST classrooms are conveniently also located in Agdal, which makes commuting very easy for me. The location is absolutely picturesque as I am located behind a large mosque: the call to prayer is already becoming a staple in my life as the booming announcement can be heard throughout the apartment and even in all of the nearby shops. My roommate and I’s window overlooks the mosque and the surrounding area of Agdal; it’s already feeling like home.
My host family and the Moroccan culture are already developing into a fascination of mine. First of all: my little family is incredible. My roommate and I live with a young couple, their baby and a housekeeper. My “mother”’s name is Sanae and my “Father”’s name is Younniss. Their lovely baby girl is named Malak and the housekeeper who is also good friends with the family is named Fatima; I think she is around my age. Sanae works for a medical company in an administrative aspect and Younniss owns a restaurant that mainly serves lunch-type food. My roommate, Ali, who is another girl on the program, and I ate at the restaurant today and later enjoyed strolling about the neighborhood it is nestled in: the various apartment buildings and hanouts (small grocery stores) had flourishes of art deco touches.
As for Malak, the 1 year old… she is quite the curious soul! Already Ali and I have shown her how to brush hair and she constantly seeks out the hair brush or other treasures to play with. Babies really do speak the universal language and at the end of the day everyone in the apartment is able to bond over how precious she is.
But my host family has truly been my first genuine window into Moroccan life and the Moroccan culture. Some things seem to be the same throughout all the different host families: the food and the soap operas. Moroccan families eat a nice late breakfast, a bigger lunch around 2, a snack in the late afternoon/early night, then dinner around 9 or possibly even later.
At every meal, there is a plethora of bread and they always encourage you to eat more. Just from this tradition, Moroccans come off as exceedingly kind and generous. When it comes to the television, it is a rare
occurrence for it to be off. Most often in my house, it is either tuned to the news station Al-Jaziira or one of the many popular soap operas. So far my favorite drama is a Moroccan program set in the scenic mountain town of Chefchaouen and features the townsfolk causing mischief and generally gossiping, hanging out and eating. Egyptian and Turkish programs are also popular here but I’ve really enjoyed the Chefchaouen episodes the most so far.
Another aspect of Moroccan culture I am excited to learn more about is that of the cultural heritage of the Amazigh peoples of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The Amazigh (known to the Europeans as Berbers or “Barbarians”) lived in this region before the Arabic language or Islam came. Though I haven’t learned too much about them, Sanae is Amazigh and promises to teach me some words so I might pick up a bit of their language, too! The teaching of Amazigh language in public schools has only recently finally past through legislature and is an interesting step in the recognition of the native people of Morocco.
I feel as though I’ve only just seen the tip of the iceberg. Or, more appropriately, I’ve only taken my first bite of Morocco and there’s a whole feast left to savor!