Hello friends! I’m posting twice in one week because I’ve just returned from an incredible week long journey in Rabat, Morocco. A close friend of mine studied abroad in Rabat last spring and urged me to visit Morocco at least once before I left France. Thanks to her connections, I was able to stay with the most generous Moroccan family in the midst of Rabat’s medina. Morocco was...magnificent. I can’t verbalize eloquently enough how welcomed I felt there. Thus, this blog post is going to be difficult to write in two parts, on the one hand, there are so many things I have to say about my time in Morocco, and on the other, reminiscing about my time there makes me all the more eager to go back.
As soon as I got out of the airport to meet my temporary host family, I knew Rabat would be a place I loved. There were palm trees everywhere, people on mopeds weaving haphazardly in and out of the streets within the medina, and best of all, it was HOT. I should explain, the word ‘medina’ means city or town in Arabic and is usually surrounded by a wall and has a confusing array of narrow, winding streets. In Rabat’s medina I saw vendors selling a variety of spices, women in colorful dress stopping to speak with each other or out to buy their weekly produce, and children chasing each other in and around winding streets. My senses were completely unprepared for the sights, sounds and melange of smells within Rabat.
Before I go on to the quotidian details of my stay, you should have a better sense of Rabat’s historical context. The city of Rabat is surrounded by an enormous wall built in the 12th century by the caliph-king- of the Almohad movement and was a longtime place of commerce and trade. From 1912 to 1956, Morocco was under unjust French colonial rule and one can continue to see the influences of the France’s longtime presence in the architecture of certain buildings, and the fact that most signs are in both Arabic and French. Now that it is an independent monarchy, Morocco seems to straddle a strange state of tradition meeting impending westernization. While walking down the street I noticed teenagers with “Yeezy” sweatshirts on and the latest Nike’s next to older couples in more traditional or modest clothing. The country is also a frequent midway point for migrants from Sub-Saharan African countries trying to reach Europe, and because of this it is filled with people from all over the continent of Africa. My host mom mentioned to me that because of this history of colonialism and migration, it’s normal for Moroccans to speak three or even four languages. After being in the country’s capital for about a week, I could tell that Morocco was a place of movement, border crossing, and searches for identity. Now, on to the actual details of my stay!
Each day I would wake up to the sounds of my host mom preparing her kids for school and have a hot, bubbling cup of Moroccan mint tea. Moroccan food is a mix of Mediterranean, Arab and Berber influences making it filled with flavor, colors, and spices hard to find in France. I had tajine, couscous, harira and I ate enough bread to last me a lifetime! On my second day in Morocco I went to a hammam, a bath house, where I left the feeling the cleanest I have ever felt in my life and desperately wished I spoke Arabic so I could fully thank the woman who scrubbed a scarily large amount of dirt off of me. I also visited Chellah, a fortified necropolis that dates back to the pre-Islamic era, and tried to imagine what life must have been life for those living there. One could tell from the ruins that the city was sophisticated. There was an aquarium, a mosque, a bathhouse, a medina and schools. Finally, I saw a variety of mosques in Rabat and saw the beautiful Hassan II Mosque in Casablance, which is the third largest in the world.
Sadly, as soon as I started getting used to life in Rabat, my time there ended. Traveling to Rabat has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life; a week was not an adequate amount of time to soak up the atmosphere of the city. Morocco reminded me that life in other places isn't nearly as similar as say, the United States to France and having more material things does not necessarily equate to happiness. In Rabat, I was completely out of my comfort zone and I loved every second of it. I'm already planning how I can go back!
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<p>Chandra Dickey is a junior at Scripps College in Claremont, California studying Politics, International Relations, and History. She is really excited to journey to Nantes, as it is her first time out of the United States. While abroad she hopes to learn more about Nantes’ rich history, try a bunch of new foods and learn the many quirks of the French way of life. </p>