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A Day in the Life

June 5, 2019

The day before the holy month of Ramadan started on Monday, May 6th, was in some ways my last routine day in Rabat.

I wake up in time to eat and leave the house only slightly late (8:10) for my 8:30 class.

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A morning street in the medina

The streets in the medina are deserted at this time of day, the sun shades not yet hung.

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IES Rabat students on their way to class

I walk with my friends to the IES Abroad Center. They live with host families on the same street as my own.

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A busy street in the Hassan neighborhood of Rabat

Outside of the medina is the Hassan neighborhood where the IES Abroad Center is. It's more lively in the morning with commuters and café customers.

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MSA class and notes

Every day starts with Modern Standard Arabic, the intro class. It's hard to believe that at the start of the semester, I didn't know a single word and couldn't read at all, and here I am writing skits in Arabic!

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Moroccan tea during a class break

Halfway through class, we break for tea in the courtyard. Moroccan tea is always loaded with caffeine and sugar.

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The busy street outside Bab Mellah

Walking back home for lunch is hot and busy. Crossing the street outside the medina is the sort of street where you have to say Bismillah ("In the name of God") before you cross, and then pray the blue taxis don't hit you!

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A crowd through Bab Mellah

Through the gate, Bab Mellah, the crowds continue.

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Rue des Consuls in Rabat

The crowds clear up by Rue des Consuls, the street where artisans sell their handicrafts.

I get home and eat lunch in a hurry, sitting in the kitchen and reading while my host mom vacuums the salon. I head out again, the 20-minute walk of the morning now a sun-drenched 30-minute walk with all the crowds.

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Kids cross in front of a taxi outside Ouddayya

Overlooking the Bouregreg River, a stage has already been erected for the Mawazine music festival in June, when popstars from all over the world will come to perform in Rabat.

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Younes at his hanout

I'm going to be a bit late for my 2 p.m. class because I have to stop at the hanout, the corner store, to say hi to Younes...

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Abdorahmane at the sweet stand

And at the sweets stand to say hi to Abdorahmane and Mohammed. We always used to stop here to get these incredible fresh, sugary, five-cent donuts, but they stopped making them a few weeks before Ramadan and said no more until June.

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Prof. Rachid at the board in Darija class

My 2 p.m. class is Darija, Moroccan colloquial Arabic. Today our professor, Rachid, is explaining to us how the schedule of life of the whole country will change during Ramadan—three meals at night and no eating during the day, and a one-hour time shift as well!

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IES students sit and stand outside the IES center

My 4 p.m. class, Islam, is having a field trip to a theological training school. We wait outside for the bus as the afternoon traffic crawls by.

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Moroccan architectural details

The building is rich with detailed art typical of Moroccan architecture: the zellige tiles, the painted wooden ceiling, the white plaster carvings, like stalactites.

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Prof. Khaled pours tea

Of course the visit includes a round of tea, poured by our Professor Khaled Saqi, and some pastries as well. This will be the last time we eat during the school day.

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The Rabat beach in a rare deserted moment

I walk home by the beach, the southmost one with no surfers or swimmers. In the next month, the beaches will be full in late afternoon as people sit and watch the sunset and wait for iftar, the break fast.

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Outside the Renaissance movie theater and café

Every Monday night there's an open mic jam session upstairs at the Cinéma Renaissance. I've been going since the beginning of April and made friends with most of the musicians there.

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Buildings in the Centre Ville

The Renaissance is in a neighborhood called Centre Ville, where the train station, museum, and national bank are. It's full of wide, modern streets, and it's hard to imagine the narrow, old streets of the medina are only a few steps away.

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A band plays at the Renaissance jam night

Most of the music is either American pop, rock, or oldies, but there's also some jazz and some Moroccan pop music. Occasionally, someone will come and play gnawa, the traditional music of black Moroccans whose ancestors were slaves.

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Young Moroccans sit in a park at night with guitars

At 9 p.m., when the jam ends, a group of us wander outside to the park behind the building to spend more time hanging out and singing. Ayoub brings his guitar and we all take turns requesting songs. In this group, it's more likely to be American folk music. During Ramadan, the jam night will be at 10 p.m., after iftar, and the park singing sessions will go on until 1 a.m.

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Walking home at night through the medina

Around 10:30 p.m. my host sister texts me to come home for dinner. At this time of night the medina is pretty deserted, but that will all change during Ramadan, when the streets are most crowded between 11 p.m. and midnight as people stroll after breaking their fast. But that doesn't start until tomorrow.

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