Hello Rabat, Rabat Says Hello!

Headshot of Zoe Carver.
Zoe Carver
February 2, 2023

As I peered out the window as we started our descent, the image below was like nothing I’d ever seen. Boxy white houses with square windows littered the landscape like lego pieces, all in stark contrast to the ocean's cool blue glow cutting its way across my window. As the plane's wheels graced the small runway I knew Rabat would be nothing like what I’d ever experienced before.

Thankfully, there aren’t that many flights to Rabat each day, so several others from my program were on my flight. The airport only had two gates, and as we deboarded, I saw a Ryanair flight with passengers walking straight onto the tarmac. Fitting. 

It didn’t take long to get through security. Passport control asked me a question in Arabic. I responded with, “Huh?” to which the man just shrugged and handed me back my passport. Customs didn’t so much as put my bag through a security detector, they just nodded and allowed me to keep walking. Maybe it was the shiny blue of my American passport, maybe it was the slightly confused look in my eye. Either way, I was in and out of the airport within ten minutes, which was perfect as the jet lag was already starting to hit me. 

After being picked up and dropped off at the hotel by people from the IES Abroad Center, I went with a few others to wander around the Old Medina. We walked past colorful yards of fabric, intricately made lamps, and beautiful leatherwork, all while under a gorgeous canopy of different colored fabrics that stretched between the apartments on opposite sides of the narrow road. Many local Moroccans approached us, with a Welcome to Morocco gleam in their eyes. One even led us to a place to get tagine, of course not without asking for a few dirhams in return. The meal was delicious, complete with fries, bottled water, and piles of bread to soak up all the juices from the tagine. The restaurant even gave us spoons too, but that was probably due to our loud English. 

After an early turn-in, we approached our second day in Rabat (and the last before our orientation in Meknes). Bright and early, we met at the IES Abroad Center, a beautiful white building complete with colorful tents, places to study, and a constant stream of atay and gateau, Moroccan tea and cookies. After a thorough safety, housing, and academic orientation, we had lunch at one of the host family's homes in the Medina, which just so turned out to be my host family. I didn’t know which I was most excited for, the beautiful blue building with its stained glass roof, or the incredible couscous and atay I simply couldn’t get enough of. 

Before I could even ask how to say jetlag in Darija, we were off for a tour of Rabat. I was astounded at all the history the once pirate-controlled town had to offer. We walked from my host home to the coast, and peered out into the steady waters of the Atlantic. From there, we entered the Kasbah, an ancient fortress now converted into apartments and stores. We stopped briefly at a Moorish cafe overlooking the sea, before continuing on into the city. Next, we went to the Royal Palace, a gigantic private compound where the Moroccan King resides. He’s not just a figurehead either, but an actual ruling King, a part of the second oldest modern dynasty. When we were done dreaming about encountering the Crown Prince, we finished the tour at the Tour Hassan, an ancient Mosque that was never completed. At the time of its construction, it was meant to be the tallest building in all of Morocco, but the Sultan who was supposed to finish it died, and an economic recession left it permanently standing at half its intended height. 
My feet were hurting, my head was reeling, but that didn’t stop us from driving down the coast to a Moroccan restaurant for dinner. The service was complete with waiters in traditional Moroccan dress singing, playing drums, and dragging us into dance circles. Once we got over ourselves, we let loose, and enjoyed the dancing and chanting along to words we didn’t quite yet understand. 

As the sun finally set over the Atlantic, a brilliant display of soft purples and rich cerulean, I drank my final atay for the day. There would be plenty more of it to come. And I couldn’t be more excited. 

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Headshot of Zoe Carver.

Zoe Carver

Zoe Carver is a second-year student of International Affairs and Peace Studies at the George Washington University, minoring in French and Creative Writing. She is originally from Portland, Oregon and is apart of GW's Literary Magazine, Model UN team, and Student Climate Coalition. She just finished a positon interning in the United States Senate, and has a deep love for crocheting.

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