Salam from Rabat, Morocco!
Tonight is our last night at our homestay, which is bittersweet! Our host mom, Leyla, has been so incredibly kind and welcoming to us. We were split into pairs and divided among several homes. We have been fortunate enough to spend three nights at our homestay, which is not even close to enough time to integrate into and understand the Moroccan home, but for the length of this course, this time was so precious and important! We had three host siblings, a 22 year old boy in university, a 20 year old girl, and a 14 year old boy. Of course, I also can’t forget, our host cat, Queen! Queen was a beautiful white cat with one blue eye and one brown eye! Our host sister, Imman, took us out on the first night to walk through the médina and explore. I was amazed at how well she was able to navigate her way through the complicated street layout of the médina, but she told us that she has lived in the médina her entire life, and still gets lost sometimes!
Our host mom made us full breakfasts with different types of bread, cheese, jam, tea and coffee, and olives. She also served us a full spread for tea, which is between 4:00 and 7:30 every afternoon. By the time I’ve had tea, it feels like a late dinner for me, and I’m full, but dinner always comes even later, around 9:30 in the evening! We had delicious chicken tagine one night, soup and potatoes another night, and then spaghetti with chicken! Moroccan families share one big plate, and eat off of it with bread, forks, or just their fingers. It’s a great strategy to have less dirty dishes! Each night, we would watch TV, usually American movies in English, with Arabic subtitles, and our host siblings and mom would use their phones, which felt very much like home. It was casual, comfortable, and normal! The TV is also always on in Moroccan homes, but it’s not as distracting as you might think! It’s more like background white noise.
On our second night in Rabat, we went to a hammam, or public bath. It was an experience we were told was a necessity on a visit to Morocco! It was a very interesting experience, and a great normalization of all types of human bodies. This isn’t something that I usually experience in the United States. I was very nervous, but at the end, I don’t regret going, and I’m so glad to have gotten to experience this aspect of Moroccan culture—and my skin is really, really soft!
In Rabat, we visited some local sites that are must sees! We visited Chellah, Roman ruins in Rabat. The ruins have public bathhouses, which tell an interesting story of a transfer of culture: the Islamic people were inspired by Roman bathhouses, and now, bathhouses are an important part of Islamic culture. The ruins also have mosques, built during Islamic occupation of the site.
We also visited Hassan II, a royal mausoleum where the late King Hassan II, and his father, the also late King Mohammad V, are buried. There is also the remains of a mosque that was started by the Almohad dynasty in Morocco, but was never finished.
On our final day, we presented our final takeaways from the course, which was a really valuable exercise, and I have seen a lot of growth in myself, as well as my classmates.
We finished the day with a visit to a beautiful beach, where we were just across the Atlantic from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina! I found a lot of beautiful sea glass, which we were allowed to take with us as a souvenir.
We ended the day with some shopping in the médina! I bought spices, which I am really excited to use, as I love to cook. I also got a few gifts for my siblings. I enjoyed experiencing the médina with local students, because they were able to make the situation a lot less confusing! It is hard to not be able to speak the language of a country, which makes me remember the privilege I have as an English speaker in the United States! The patience that Moroccans have with all of us reminds me how important it is to take an example from their patience and enact it in my own life. I am looking forward to the “language comfort” I have in Spain, where I am able to communicate in Spanish.
Morocco has been an amazing experience, and I feel so lucky to have been able to spend so much time in this country, and even get to stay with a host family! I have absolutely loved being here. Unfortunately, I have been feeling a bit sick these past few days, I think from the odd eating schedule (for me!) and insane volume of food at Moroccan meals, but I was able to use Google Translate tonight to communicate with my host mom that I wasn’t feeling good. This reminded me of the importance of advocating for yourself, even if it’s difficult, or you need a little bit of technological help! I am so appreciative of how kind my host mom has been to me to help me to feel comfortable and better!
Shukraan (thank you) for traveling along with me through Morocco! Now, back to Spain!