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Journals from AUCP - Marseille, France

2014-04-07 Fez, Morocco

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View of the Medina

If I had to explain Morocco in two words they would be amazing and exhausting.  I was there for one week in Fez, staying with a host family.

                We arrived on Sunday around noon and started with a tour of INLAC, which was the center that was hosting us in Fez.  We then had a huge lunch of couscous, Moroccan pastries, and mint tea (a Moroccan specialty).  For the afternoon we went on bus and on foot to visit the Medina, which is the old city of Fez.  We saw the royal palace, the Kasbah, and a Jewish cemetery.  There were orange trees everywhere that have flowers with a smell that reminds me of summer.  After the tour we met our correspondents who we would be staying with for a week.  I was with a student names Soukayna who is 24 years old.  I lived in a large house with her, her three sisters, her brother, and her parents.  My parents spoke very little French so my sisters had to translate everything for us.  My brother didn’t talk to me at all during the week.  My family was very traditional and so my brother was showing me respect by not talking to me.  Neither of us are married so it is also a situation that is not always allowed in their culture. 

                The second day we started the morning with a course by the leader of INLAC on the socio-economic situation in Fez.  We learned about the founding of the country and when France came in to colonize.  We had lunch in a restaurant where I again had couscous, which we can all infer at this point was my favorite thing to eat in Morocco.  For the afternoon we toured the Medina again.  We visited a textile shop where they make scarfs and blankets and other things like that.  It is a family business, so everyone who works there is part of one family.  We then visited a tanner where they dye leather.  All of the dyes are made from natural ingredients; for example, the green is made from mint leaves.

                On Tuesday we had our first excursion with our correspondents.  In the morning we visited the village of Volubilis which is a city full of Roman ruins.  There were houses and big community buildings, it was really cool!  For lunch we had pizza which for the most part is just like pizza anywhere else in the world (except Italy, where the pizza was amazing).  In the afternoon the only thing I remember was visiting a traditional market in Meknes.  After that everyone was really exhausted, so we just went back to our houses to rest.

                On Wednesday we started by visiting a museum on Fez and then talking with the leader of the museum.  He said the museum was difficult to start because all the Moroccans believe Fez is a museum in of itself.  We had lunch at a restaurant again today (bet you can’t guess what I ate).  In the afternoon we visited an herbalist who gave us a great presentation on his products.  I bought some spices for cooking with and also argan oil which is really expensive everywhere else but Fez.  It is made in an interesting way: goats climb up in olive trees, eat the olives and spit out the pits, these pits are made into the oil that is so coveted.

                Thursday was a day all about women in Morocco.  In the morning we had a course with the wife of the leader of INLAC.  We talked about the role of women in Morocco, especially in regards to the patriarchy.  In the afternoon we had a discussion with several students who wear the head scarfs.  This is something that was everywhere and I would say very common for women in Fez.  We talked about what the scarfs meant for them, and talked about the stigmatization of the head scarfs in France.  Everyone had different opinions and I am still not confident I totally understand it but it was great to get to learn more about Islam.

                On Friday we visited a cedar forest in a mountain.  It was beautiful with all the trees and it was a really great sunny day.  There were monkeys everywhere!  They came right up to us and grabbed our legs begging for food.  It would have been cute if I hadn’t seen Catching Fire and since developed a fear of monkeys.  It was actually really cool to see monkeys just out in nature.

                Saturday was a day with our family.  In the morning I went to a hammam with my mom.  The hammam is a big bath house where traditionally families go once of week to bathe.  The water is really hot and you get scrubbed with the mitt thing that scrubs all your skin off.  I promise it was more fun than in sounds--my skin was so soft afterwards.  My mother then did henna on my hands for me as is the tradition for Moroccan women.  That evening we had a small party with the other students and their correspondents.   We danced and just hung out, which was a great way to end my time in Morocco.

                Overall Morocco was great, but I really missed Marseille when I was there.  Things are great in France; I am going to choir, working with the kids at the school, doing my schoolwork, and hanging out with my friends.  It is not all that different than life in the States.  I already know that leaving is going to be impossible.

-Lauren Orr

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