Tag Archives: Morocco

“Marhaba Morocco” by Allison Brady

In the past forty-eight hours, I have said goodbye to my friends and family back in the U.S., and said hello to my new home for four months here in Rabat.  I am sitting in my new bed in my new house after an evening of meeting my new family and seeing my new neighborhood.  I am exhausted and happy; I can’t wait to fall asleep, and I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow morning.  I am living in the Hassan neighborhood of Rabat that is not far from the Rabat Marina and Medina.  I know this only because my host sister, Zubida, showed my roommate Claire and I a beautiful tour of the town.  We saw the tomb of King Mohammed V just a minute’s walk away and a festival atmosphere along the marina with children riding merry-go-rounds and rolling around in toy cars.  We took in a stunning view at sunset from the Kasbah as Zubida gave us exclusive access to a terrace closed to most tourists (but open to friends of the guard, apparently).  Next, we dodged our way back by way of the medina around families, shopkeepers, and sheep being carted in preparation for Friday’s Eid-Al-Adha.  Unfortunately, I brought nothing with me along the walk, and so I still have yet to take any pictures here of my own. However, Claire shared some of hers from the walk!


Rabat Medina

We also have a host mother, father, and brother.  Our mother, Karima, welcomed us with a plate of cookies and traditional Moroccan mint tea for a snack, and then a wonderful array of dishes for dinner, of which my favorite was a lentil soup with lots of vegetables. The family speaks mostly Arabic (Darija, Moroccan dialect) around the home, but engaged us with French and Fusha (MSA Arabic) to help us communicate better on the first night.  I definitely leaned into my French more than I hope to by the end of my stay, but was so grateful that everyone was eager to help with translating words from French to Fusha to Darija.


Claire, Me, Zubida, and our welcome plate of cookies.  Our host parents not pictured as they were taking the photo!]

The home itself is beautiful.  Claire and I share a room decorated with bright accent colors that opens into a salon lit by a windowed roof and tiled artistically.  The dining/living space has wonderful embroidered cushions that are both beautiful and comfy, and Karima invited us to treat the home as our own after dinner by following her example and stretching out to lounge on the cushions while we watched a Moroccan drama on T.V.  I am so happy to start settling in, and I cannot imagine a better place to do it.  My time so far has been exhausting and overwhelming, though in the best ways possible.  I am looking forward to finding a rhythm and becoming comfortable in all the new relationships.

So far, Morocco is a million different things, and I feel a million different things.  Of those, the predominating feeling is fatigue: Bonne nuit and ila liqaa!


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“From the Midwest to the Mid(dle) East” by Allison Brady

It’s a cold spell in my Minnesota summer right now- 60s and rainy.  It feels great to me, though.  It has been a hot and humid season up until now, and I have had a recent craving for a bone-chilling cold and the feeling of frost in the air.  It’s hardly to that degree, but it will do.  I’m already missing the winter weather that I won’t experience again for another four months.  It is hard to believe I won’t be around to watch the leaves turn yellow, red, orange, and fall to the ground, soon to be covered in piles of snow.  I’ve made my friends and family promise to snapchat me reminders of seasonal change while I miss it from what most would consider a much friendlier climate in Rabat, Morocco.


Fall in the Midwest: last year’s hiking trip with friends in Upper Peninsula, Michigan

I am a true Midwest girl at heart.  I lived most of my life in Cincinnati, Ohio, until I moved to college in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I am now a junior at Macalester College, though I won’t be on campus again for a while.  I am an International Studies major, focusing in Environmental Policy and Middle Eastern Studies.  I have studied Arabic in the classroom for the past two years, and will be studying it in the Arabic-speaking world for my next two semesters; beginning with the AMIDEAST Morocco Area and Arabic Studies program for Fall 2017.

Besides leaving behind Midwest seasons, I will miss my family, my friends and teammates, and my typical yearly hobbies.  My parents still live in Ohio, with one dog who I am used to missing during the school year (he is not as good at Skype as my parents are).  I also have one older sister who lives in Seattle, and we are lucky enough to visit with each other a few times a year.  My Minnesota life consists of playing hockey for Macalester’s club team, and running/biking/hiking around with my friends in our spare time.  Despite the certainty of occasional homesickness for all this, I am more than happy to be giving it up for adventures in Morocco.


Macalester Club Hockey Team

I love to travel, and I chose the Morocco program because I already speak French– not fluently, but at least to the degree that I can “get by” in conversations and communication.  I am hoping that this skill will help me explore and make a temporary home in my new community, though I do worry that it could make it more difficult to really immerse myself in my Arabic studies.  Still, it will be nice to have at least one more tool to acclimating into what is sure to be a huge change.  I have traveled before; Summer 2016 I traveled solo around France for a month through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms program (WOOF) which pairs student travelers with local hosts in a volunteer work/cultural exchange. Then this past summer, I spent my first two weeks traveling to various diplomatic sites around Europe with the Macalester French-Language “La Langue de la Diplomatie” class.

Despite these wonderful travel opportunities, I am certain that this will be a whole new kind of experience.  Between differences in language, culture, and length of stay, over the next few months I expect to find myself in new and unexpected places; not just physically, but emotionally.  However, I am eager and grateful to begin this journey.

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My family on a summer hiking trip.

Shukran/Merci beaucoup to all my friends and family for your love and support.


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“Introduction to Elizabeth” by Elizabeth Beaton

My name is Elizabeth Beaton and I am a student at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. I study International Relations and Arabic and I am so excited to spend my junior year in Morocco. At Mount Holyoke, I have studied Modern Standard Arabic for two years and the Arabic program has become a second home for me. During my year away I will miss my classmates, Arabic professors, and Mount Holyoke’s beautiful campus.

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My hometown is only an hour and half away from Mount Holyoke so living across the ocean in Morocco will be quite a transition. I grew up in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, about an hour outside of Boston. I have always enjoyed exploring both the New England countryside and nearby cities. I really began to love busy city life when visiting relatives in New York City where I became fascinated with subway stations, public parks, and crowded sidewalks. I cannot wait to explore Rabat and to become comfortable navigating a new city.

However, excitement is not the only emotion that I have been experiencing with regard to my year abroad. As this summer has flown by, I have grown more excited and nervous by the week. Despite feelings of apprehension I know that moving out of my comfort zone will help me grow and achieve my goals. In high school I left my New England comfort zone and studied abroad in Spain for a year. I lived with two host families and attended public school completely in Spanish. Being immersed in Spanish culture and language helped to accelerate my language proficiency and allowed me to build lasting connections and friendship. In addition to attending class during the school week in Spain, I was able to travel to different regions across the country on weekends and vacations. On a trip to Granada, Spain I visited the Alhambra palace with other exchange students. I’ve bookmarked this particular memory as a defining moment that changed the trajectory of my language interests. While visiting the palace I was exposed to Moorish architecture for the first time, a continuing legacy of the Moors’ time in the Iberian Peninsula. The beauty of all aspects of the fortress, from tilework to archways to reflection pools, sparked my interest in Arabic and in the connections that link European and Arab cultures.

While studying abroad in Morocco one of my main goals is building upon my Arabic skills. I love languages and have studied many languages in the classroom setting. So far I have had the opportunity to study Spanish, French, German, and Italian, in addition to Arabic. I am particularly excited to be immersed in Moroccan culture and to start learning Darija- the Moroccan dialect of Arabic. I am a complete beginner in Darija and I am pretty nervous about what my first few weeks in Rabat will bring. Yet, at the same time I can’t wait to meet my host family, other students, and the AMIDEAST program staff.

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As my departure date gets closer and closer I have been completing last minute errands and saying my farewells. I have said goodbyes to work colleagues, spent lots of quality time with friends and family, and have gone on many walks with my dog. I cannot wait for my time in Rabat to begin and to share this adventure with you all.


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“Introduction to Eli” by Derek Denton

Hello there, Marhaban, and Bonjour!

My name is Derek, although I go by “Eli,” and as such I will be signing all these blog entries by this name. It probably goes without saying, but I am excited to be writing about my travels for everyone reading this. I am hoping that through these regularly written entries, I can make those reading this feel like they’re experiencing the same adventure that I’ll be seeing. So for the next four months, I’m looking forward to sharing my excitement with everyone out there.

That being said, I should introduce myself. This upcoming autumn I will be a Junior-year student at the tiny, little, middle of the cornfields of Illinois, liberal arts school Monmouth College. I am currently studying International Affairs, and my ideal career is to work with the United States Federal government in the Middle East (although to what degree, I have yet to decide). To go about achieving that ambitious goal, I have prescribed myself a handful of accomplishments that I will need to achieve. Perhaps the most challenging of my self-given criteria is to learn a language that I believe to be critical to the missions of the United States: Arabic.

Accompanying that goal of mine is an enthusiastic interest in affairs of the Middle East and Northern Africa. The culture fascinates me and I find the current events captivating. To date, I estimate that I have written over a dozen essays on the political affairs in one of the world’s most dynamic regions. If want to take my studies further, the best way would be to introduce myself to the experience of living and studying in the region. After a short stint of researching study abroad opportunities, I found my best option for crafting a unique and awesome study experience would be with AMIDEAST Education Abroad Area and Arabic Studies in Morocco program.

After months of preparation, essay writing, researching customs, interviewing professors who knew about living in the region, and asking friends from the Middle East about what to expect- I found myself with an acceptance letter to study in Rabat. To say I was enthusiastic when I learned I would finally have the opportunity to live in the Arab world while studying the language that would help me achieve my career goals, would be a severe understatement. It will be an influential experience I will never forget. In all honesty however, my upcoming trip is also a cause for apprehension. Learning Arabic is a goal I have committed myself to, but it might very well be the most challenging feat I will be experiencing in my life thus far. It will take considerable determination and focus if I am to leave Morocco this December as a competent speaker of the language. It is a challenge I am excited to accept.

I am expecting that a lot of the stories that I blog about will primarily be about two things: traveling and local cuisine. I suppose my intention for the first of these is pretty obvious: I like to travel, see new places, and meet new people. It’s something I wish everyone could do, and hopefully, my blog will allow others to feel like they are traveling with me.

On the second point, trying new food is probably my favorite thing to do while traveling to a new locality. You see, foreign cultures interest me. I like to think I’m a multicultural person. But I don’t think it is possible for the average traveler to truly and completely immerse oneself entirely in another’s culture. So in my case, what I do to find the best way to put myself into the culture of someone else is to try their local delicacies. Local diets can take centuries to develop, and so I am essentially taking bites into the history of a people.

Lastly, since this is a travel blog, I think it would be wise for me to post some “examples” of what I may be looking for while in Northern Africa, using some photos from a trip I had this summer:


On my most recent trip, my mother and I visited Buffalo, NY, and saw the Niagara Falls. In spite of what the general consensus may be, I am of firm belief that the American side is the most beautiful.



Also on that trip to Niagara Falls, I fulfilled my criteria of trying the local cuisine in a way I did not quite expect. Being only twenty years old, my first-ever casino buffet was a unique experience.

I look forward to writing for everyone out there. I hope my stories are enjoyable and informative, as I detail the ups and downs of the semester. This should be an unforgettable trip, and I’m glad I’m here to share my experiences with all of you as a correspondent.


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“Friends and Bread” by Dan Fitzgerald

I knew making friends abroad would be difficult, but I never imagined how difficult it would be. Think back to your first time in high school or moving to a new city. Were you scared? Did you think everyone was staring at you because they knew that you had no idea what you were doing? Did you ever over-think every conversation and interaction you had with someone and assumed that you said something wrong? Well guess what, being abroad is about the same. I don’t have enough fingers on my hands to count the amount of times I talked to a Moroccan and probably made a fool of myself.  Not the best way to make friends abroad.

I’ve heard of stories of those who go their entire semester abroad without making one friend from their host country. That’s not a bad thing if that isn’t one of your goals, but I’m a social butterfly who needs new relationships. I wanted to have some kind of a connection with Morocco and prove to myself that I can make friends outside of my comfort zone. That’s when Nacera showed up.

I was halfway through the semester when our program gave us the chance to take a field trip to a local bakery and learn how to make Moroccan crêpes and breads. For those of you who don’t know me, I seriously love bread. I am a human dumpster for carbs, so when I found out about the opportunity to go make AND eat bread, I signed up immediately. On the day of the field trip, I walked into our meeting room when this 19-year-old, five-foot-five, spunky Moroccan girl walked up to me and spoke to me in perfect English. “Are you here for the bakery trip?” she said. “Of course,” I responded. Her deep maroon hijab was perfectly matching to her oversized maroon sweater, and I already knew that this girl had style. This was Nacera.



We went to the bakery all the way out in Salé, the sister city of Rabat, and got put right to work preparing the dough, shaping the bread, and cooking it on the stove. Not to show off, but I was told that I’m a pretty great bread baker by the master baker herself, Nacera’s Mom. I spent hours with Nacera and her mom making dozens of savory crêpes only to consume all of them in the span of twenty minutes. What can I say, bread is life. I had so much fun with Nacera that we decided to swap our WhatsApp numbers and message about the next time we could hang out. Blog reader, was this the start of a friendship? It certainly was.

A few weeks later, Nacera messaged me and my friend Galey asking if we wanted to come visit her university and sit-in on her music class. This was my chance to meet and hang out with Moroccans my age and maybe not be a social disaster, so Galey and I said yes. For the next three hours, Galey and I sat in the music class listening to everyone sing some of the most beautiful Arab songs I’ve ever heard while not understanding a single word spoken in the class. At the end of class, we walked out of the classroom and Nacera introduced us to all her friends. Most greeted me in English and didn’t seem interested in us, but the minute I spoke some Darija to them, the entire group erupted in laughter and smiles, excited that I knew some Darija. I spent the rest of the time talking with Nacera and her friends about music, sports, jokes, life, and it felt like I was back at my own university hanging out with my friends.



It’s hard living in a new place where you don’t know anyone while also learning the culture. But everything becomes easier when you find that one friend to help you along the way. Nacera has been that person for me, which is why I’ve dedicated this blog post to her. Thanks Nacera, you’re the real MVP.

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“Making Morocco Home” by Sofia Deak

As Morocco feels more and more like home and my last few weeks here move much too quickly to an end, one thing has been nagging at the back of my mind. I did not become as close with Moroccans my age as I would have liked, and even though my 12-year-old host sister insists “But I am your friend, Sofia! That is all you need!” I still sometimes felt like I was missing out on an important part of my abroad experience.

Others on the program have had more luck in this department, having bonded with language partners or made connections through sports teams. However, just as I was getting accustomed to the idea that maybe I would not have it all, the weather changed: figuratively and literally.

Recently, Rabat has been warming up. The sun is bright and hot all day, and I pine for AC as I climb the four flights of spiral steps to my bedroom each evening. Luckily for us all, Rabat is right on the coast, and while I’ve spent a lot of free time this semester staring in awe at the impressive waves slamming into rocks along the shore, I never really thought about actually going in the water. On a whim, though, some friends from AMIDEAST and I decided to give surfing a try one hot weekend we all stayed in town instead of traveling.


I grew up with the beach and am comfortable in the ocean, but I was still somewhat scared to try out surfing in Morocco. I had never been before, and the waves in Rabat are definitely intimidating! What if I was not able to understand the instructor? What if I got dragged out to see but my cries for help in Standard Arabic would not only be misunderstood, but would be laughed at? What if there were sharks?

Nevertheless, I put my (potentially absurd) fears aside and decided to give it a go. To my surprise, I was instantly hooked! I do not think I will ever be less amazed at the sight of the glistening, bright blue sea beneath me and the Rabat Oudaya, a 12th century Kasbah right on the water, zooming toward me as I surf in to the shore. Additionally, one of the beautiful things about Morocco is how cheap it is— a surf class here in Rabat is around $10 USD.


Surfing has been the final piece for me in the puzzle of making Morocco “home.” The instructors recognize me, tease me, and tell me Morocco will miss me when I leave. The other students, from 7-year-old Moroccan girls (who are actually quite good at “shredding the knar”) to middle-aged-men trying out a new hobby (not unlike me), have become familiar faces and— dare I say it— friends to me here.

I try to surf once or twice a week despite my busy schedule of classes, English teaching, and exercising (I am running another 10K this weekend in El Jadida!). I do this because I love it, yes, but also because it just deepens the sense of camaraderie I have begun to experience here in Morocco, and makes me all the more aware of how much I have come to love this place and think of it as my own. I think when I look back on these unfairly quick, mesmerizing months, I will remember it in two ways. At the same time, Morocco has been fast, scary, and full of adrenaline, like trying to balance on a surfboard hurtling toward the sand; it has also been calming, deeply memorable; a moment stuck in time, like floating in the bright sea, laughing with a new friend, waiting for the next wave.

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“Learning and Teaching Language” by Sofia Deak

Before I came to Morocco, I knew that “improving my Arabic” was one of my major objectives, but I didn’t imagine what that would actually look like. Through the extreme patience of my host mom and our daily discussions in Arabic after dinner, I have become confident enough to have conversations in Arabic without relying on English. Using a combination of Standard Arabic and Moroccan Darija (as well as a fair amount of pantomiming) I am improving beyond my previous expectations.

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While I am really proud of the progress I am making, that does not negate the fact that I am realizing how incredibly diverse the Arabic language is, and how truly difficult it is to master. I get discouraged when I spend two hours poring over my vocabulary homework, only to forget the majority of the words the next day. Also, I always knew there were different dialects that were significantly different— however, I did not realize how much the language might differ WITHIN a dialect. In Morocco, diversity is one of the only constants. For example, a Moroccan from Tangier in the north might have a difficult time understanding a Moroccan from Ouarzazate, in the south. Tajine, the famous Moroccan staple food, is pronounced “tajouane” in the north, and this is just one of countless examples of dialectic differences that exist within the Moroccan dialect, completely ignoring how foreign Darija is from Standard Arabic and all other Arabic dialects!

It is easy to get frustrated in trying to learn Arabic, and sometimes I feel discouraged that I will never be able to be as comfortable with the language as I would like. (This happens especially when an earnest Moroccan is trying to explain something to me in Darija, whether at a restaurant or in a taxi or on a train— and all I can offer them is a confused look and a sorry smile.) However, there are shining moments that remind me to keep trying, and that the experience of learning the language is just as amazing as being able to use it. Last night, I learned the word for “tickle” in Arabic and Darija, thanks to my host mom starting some impromptu tickle fights — during dinner!! Lots of spilled water, fits of laughter, and sprinting away from the table later, I don’t think I will ever forget the word, or this moment.

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Another thing that encourages me is the weekly English teaching that I have been engaged in since my arrival in Rabat. My students are beginners, so really new to English. They have so much to learn, but they are so eager and dedicated. Most are adult learners, which itself is a challenge, but being able to say simple sentences excites them so much. This project really reinvigorates me with the understanding that learning a language takes time, and that is sometimes boring and full of flashcards, but also can be really memorable and full of laughs (and not only when learning the word for “ticklish”). Ultimately, I know that I am making huge improvements thanks to being in Morocco, and I cannot wait to learn more!

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