A-Salamu Alaykum from Rabat! We’ve been here for almost a month but I think most people would say it feels like we’ve known one another for years (others might say it feels like they’ve been eating Moroccan food for years, but kif-kif). There are 23 smart, funny, and interesting people in our female-dominated group (don’t worry–– the boys are holding their own!) and in the short time we’ve been in Morocco many close friendships have been forged.
There is much to tell about the last few weeks, but let me give you a brief run-down. Our first day was spent resting and settling in with our host families; it seems like all the pairings are successful and everyone was matched to a great family (save for the occasional cat allergy or aversion to “sukkar bzaf”). Moroccans love their sugar (almost as much as they love their bread) and for some it’s been a little bit of an adjustment.
After a few days of orientation, we began our two weeks of intensive Darija, or Moroccan Arabic. Split into two classes (one for those with experience in Arabic and one for those without), it has been fun to see our conversations become more and more peppered with Darija words. Through drills, songs, and somewhat embarrassing fieldtrips (e.g. interviewing people in the park), we quickly became more comfortable practicing the language outside of the CIEE center. A big shout out to Majid and Haddou for an incredible two weeks; 5 hours of Darija everyday is hard, but they managed to make it more than enjoyable.
We’ve also been on a few excursions thus far. Accompanied by our Moroccan “cultural peers” (though at this point “friends” would be more appropriate), we took the train from Rabat to Casablanca to see the biggest mosque in Africa, the Hassan II Mosque. We also had time to visit and explore Morocco Mall, which may actually surpass Hassan II in terms of size. Some of us stayed over night and returned to Rabat the following day, while others took an evening train back on the same day.
Last weekend we went to Tangier, home to one of Morocco’s biggest ports and a view of Spain across the Straight of Gibraltar. I think it’s safe to say that we were collectively much more enamored with Tangier than we were with Casablanca. After stopping at the Hercules Cave, we took a city tour of Tangier through the Kasbah and Souks, accidentally stumbling upon a large wedding celebration (Moroccan weddings often last up to 4 days!). While technically a day trip, most of us stayed the whole weekend, admiring the view, exploring the Souk, and hanging out at the beach. One of us even hopped over to Spain!
This week we began our “real” classes, including Modern Standard Arabic (or FusHa). It’s a little tricky keeping MSA separate from Darija, but thus far it has been really interesting; and for those of us who are beginners it’s been nice to become slightly less illiterate. Our other classes are taught by local professors and include Contemporary Moroccan Society, Gender in Morocco, and a class on the Quran. While not required, many of us have also opted to continue Darija.
On Friday we are heading to Fez for our last CIEE-planned excursion before a month long break. I’m sure we’ll be very ready for an overnight trip after our first week of classes, and we are looking forward to spending more time with the Moroccan “buddies”.
Finally, this newsletter would not be complete without a HUGE thank you to Madiha, Haddou, and Oumaima for their constant support. These three are truly some of the kindest people I’ve ever met and I think I speak for all of us when I say that I am eternally grateful for everything they do. From organizing and teaching to check-ins and hugs, there is nothing they won’t do to make us feel comfortable while abroad. So shukran, shukran, shukran.
Bslâma for now!