Happiness Comes with a Price

I can’t believe in two weeks my study abroad experience will be over. I’ve learned an un-believable amount from both my good and bad experiences here. Seeing Spanish influence in Northern Morocco was a stark clash to the French language, culture and architecture I’m used to seeing in Middle Morocco. The rolling mountains of the northern cities such are Martil or Chefchaouin were great. Fighting off travelers illnesses while laying down on the clear water of Martil’s beaches after spending a day in Spanish occupied Cueta was a great break from the papers awaiting me back in Rabat. Seeing the stark contrast between Cueta and Martil/Madhiq by crossing a short border crossing was mind boggling.

Cueta, Spain. We walked here from Morocco.

Beach selfie at Martil with Leigh Ann and Harron

The next weekend I spent traveling the famed Blue City of Chefchaoiun in the mountains doing some shopping for family and friends back home was a great way to make up for all the glares I get when I tell people in my mix of Darija/Maslawi (my dialect from home) that I’m a Christian. The best therapy for seeing the face of people cringing when I break it to them that I’m not Shiite or Sunni , but in fact a Catholic Arab is made up for with the beautiful rolling hills and the shops that Chefchaoiun offered.

The Blue City

Veronica stares at at a sign in Chefchaoiun that says “Welcome” in Arabic

I’m blue abadi abadie

The 10 hour trip to and from the Sahara and lack of sleep during the whole past weekend with a rude bus driver was completely worth spending a night in the beautiful yellow and soft sand of the great Sahara desert. The painful 2 hour camel ride from the city of Marzouga to our camp in the desert was made up by the hospitality of our Berber guides who made sure we had as comfortable as an experience as we could. Their cracking jokes of “Berber whiskey” (Moroccan tea) and “Camel Massage” (the painful camel ride) combined with random shouts of “AFRICA!” after watching the sunset over the Sahara was incredible. Even with all of the bad experiences, degrading looks, and lack of sleep, the general landscape, culture, and hospitality, I’m going to miss all of this back in the US. You don’t really get to experience getting followed by a man insisting that you by wares from his store and harassing you, then walk away and get followed by an old man yelling “thank you my American family for visiting my country Morocco! Thank you American family!”

Sahara Panoramo

My lovely camel humps, check it out

His name is Yousif too 🙂

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Ohh Champs-Élysées: Paris or little Maghrib?

During Easter, my AmidEast program organized a very cool trip to a village in the high Atlas mountains called Zawiyyat Ahansal. A Berber (Amazigh) village centered around a Sufi saint, it was supposed to be a very spiritual place where people learn a lot about themselves. Too bad it was Easter weekend and I couldn’t skip mass during Holy Week! I would have missed Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and after essentially failing at my duties of being a Catholic during Lent I had to make the decision to not go to the Zawiyya and stay somewhere where I had churches somewhat relatively available. I could have stayed in Rabat and gone to the Catholic Church there, or I could hop on a plane to go visit my future roommate in one of the coolest cities (if not THE coolest) in the world: Paris. If you have the time and money go to Paris. Even though I was stressed about the days of homework and essays I had coming up and the general difficulty of celebrating Easter without my family, I would be lying if I said Paris was not one of the best experiences of my life. 

Easter with my makeshift family in front of the Notre Dame

My grandmother gave me a list of places to see before I went and I was lucky enough to be able to see them thanks to the best future roommate/tour guide/and person who could put up with the various sicknesses I went through (shout-out to Christian Domaas). I got to tour the Sacré-Cœur (Sacred Heart) which seemed like a miniature version of the Basilica at my school and get one of 3 amazing tours of Paris I got to see.            I spent Easter at a small church near Notre-Dame, and then got to tour one of the most beautiful churches in the world which took hundreds of years to make with Christian, a friend from AmidEast, and a few girls from the same program as Christian studying French. It was a good makeshift family we made on Easter and we all got to thoroughly enjoy a delicious Parisian brunch after. We weren’t there for enough time to see the daily mass attendance, but it seemed pretty packed to me (granted it was Holy Week) and I didn’t see much evidence of the decline of mass attendance and Catholicism or high number of “convinced atheists” France is known for. I did notice some other things about the air of the city in terms of religion, but not so much in terms of Christianity. In one of our many adventures around the city using the easy navigable Metro system, we stopped at Place de la République which is this square in the heart of a pretty popular area of Paris. Going there was very eerie though; it was the heart of the Charlie Hebdo protests and the square was very empty for what should be a lively part of the city of lights and love. The statues had exes over their mouths and the monument at the center was vandalized with all kinds of “Je Suis Charlie” writing, a visible sign of the tensions that still racked France. Part of the tension comes from the huge amount of Arab and Muslim populations present here, which is very noticeable.                   As a matter in fact, the first 4 people I met when I arrived in Paris (random customer, crepe stand owner, taxi driver, random guy on the street) were all of Arab/Muslim background from the Maghrib. There were multiple times when I needed help and resorted to using my Arabic as opposed to my broken French. I would walk into stores looking for water or candy and would only use Arabic. There were whole neighborhoods (such as the one near the Sacré-Cœur) where it felt like I was in the upscale parts of Morocco instead of France with the amount of Arabic used and men/women in traditional costumes. It wasn’t even just the Arabs or Muslim communities noticeable though, with Vietnamese, Lebanese and various West and Central African restaurants littering the streets. The connection with the former colonized countries was cool because it showed the extent of the former French influence and the diversity that gave Paris a very New York City feel. At another end of the spectrum though, when I went and saw Napoleons grave at L’Hôtel national des Invalides I was shocked. It’s not only where Napoleon and many other generals (many who led occupations of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) are buried, but it also contains a chapel. And at that a chapel decorated with war trophies and flags of the countries many of these generals occupied. Seeing many of these murderers and evil people enshrined by France and next to a chapel bothered me because it really gave justice to the anger many minorities feel in their anger towards Christianity and what they few as a disrespect their people suffered for over 200 years of occupation. Many scholars point to this anger today as the root of many civil wars and issues of terrorism throughout the world, especially in the Middle East.

Such a huge tomb for such a tiny man

On the bright side, we got Chipotle and Starbucks a few times while we were there.

Neighbors in Paris

Paris was a good goodbye to Europe for now as I spend the remaining few weeks suffering through papers and exams and such while planning a few other cities in Morocco. I’ll be back in two weeks and have more stories to tell of the places I’ll see in Morocco. For now, bsalama and hope you all had a happy Easter!!

Notre Dame

When in Rome, do as the Moroccans.

So I went on Spring Break last week and it was awesome and much needed. Being back in the developed world was a great and much needed mental break, with the hot water, heat in rooms, a variety of food everywhere, laws for drivers, English being everywhere, and generally the lack of constant brain stimulation and adaption to new things was great. Even during the constant running around and seeing tourist stuff while not speaking the language of Spain/Italy and lack of sleep was tiring, it was a great mental break being in countries that felt just like being in an ethnic neighborhood in the US (i.e. Dearborn. Michigan for Arabs or Washington DC for Ethiopians). I started off my trip flying to Barcelona with two of my friends who were stopping there on their way to Senegal, cancelled a trip to Valencia for the Fallas festival because of some bad paella and ended up in Rome with a huge amount of friends from AmidEast and my home institution CUA back in DC. This was only my 2nd time in Europe ever (except my 45 minute layover in Paris before arriving in Rabat) and a random trip to Madrid abut two weeks before. The unemployment in Spain is about 25% give or take a percent or two, and for youth between 20-30 that number rises up to 50%. Barcelona is the economic heart of Spain, even though much of the population wants to split on the basis of their Catalan ethnicity, and there was much more noticeable economic activity there than in Madrid. Spain to me felt like the Catholic version of Morocco. The country mostly spends its time outside cafes smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee/tea for hours, with the addition of sangria and other forms of alcohol. Family is very important too, with men not moving out of the house until they have a job and get married, just like Morocco. Meals are a huge deal too, taking over an hour to usually finish, except a main staple in Spain is pork which is forbidden in Morocco. On Sundays, church bells echo throughout the city in place of the call to prayer. Madrid was great. Its a very Spanish city: tapas, sangria, pork, huge palaces and churches and pictures of the Blessed Mother and Jesus everywhere much like you see Arabic signs saying “Allah” or “Muhammad” in Arabic. Highlight of Madrid was definitely the unlimited tapas and 6 Euro mojitos we got at El Tigre.

The AmidEast crew at El Tigre awaiting our mojitos and tapas.

Just a casual church in Madrid

Barcelona was crazy. Its an international city flowing with different cultures and languages on every corner and the crazy Gaudi architecture. It did have the Madrid feel, but people were clearly walking around much more and working, the whole sitting at cafes for hours isn’t a thing like it was in Madrd. I also met a few Moroccans on the street and was able to surprise them with my Darija. Highlight of Barcelona was without a doubt seeing the Sagrada Familia and tearing up at its beauty. It was a true testament to the saying that the Catholic Church is “Ever ancient, ever new” with its modern architectural design of the garden of Eden in mind and the fact that it was dedicated to the Holy Family was Gaudi’s way of communicating the strength and importance of a traditional family even during our ever-changing world. Even though it was uncompleted and under construction, it was still by far the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and going up in the tower to be able to see the city from that view was unreal.

Rome was pretty unreal too. Having studied Latin for 2 years in highschool and having read about the city since I was a little first grader at St. Hilary of Poitiers, I honestly couldn’t believe I was there. The whole city looked exactly like I imagined, with rustic buildings, old churches everywhere, and random important Roman ruins on every corner. Not many people spoke English in Rome as they did in Spain but that didn’t take away from my experience at all. Everything in Rome was much more spaced out than Spain or Morocco, and it was funny seeing the people speaking their beautiful language (gratzi/prego are my new favorite words ever) while looking exactly like South Philadelphians. In general though, Rome was VERY touristy and the cafe scene was not like I expected it to be, being pretty much non-existent. I did really enjoy the Caprese salad though (my favorite food comprised of tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese) which was much more fresh than in the US and the expected pasta and wine found everywhere. I found it hilarious that my visit to the Trevi fountain to throw in a coin and wish for good luck and love ended up with me almost throwing my credit card in hoping God would shoot some unlimited luck my way and then realizing that the fountain was dry, which I’m taking as a sign that I need to really reanalyze my life. I also liked meeting random Libyans (their Arabic was a much needed break from Darija) who were found everywhere escaping the violence in their country to return to the country that once colonized them. Pictures of Papa Francesco adorn every street and shop. The gelato was beautiful (go to Frigidarium if you end up in Rome) and it was kinda surreal meeting up with a lot of architecture students from my school studying abroad in Rome on St. Patrick’s day. The Vatican was amazing by the way. It was probably the biggest church I’ll ever get to see in my life and it was unreal being able to stand in the building that had held such importance to me ever since I was a kid. I got to pray in it for a few minutes but spent the rest of the time with my jaw to the floor seeing all kinds of beautiful art and getting to see confessionals for every order was cool, but seeing the Jesuits have their own one was a great highschool throw back. The Vatican also has a line in the center of it with a list of Basilica’s around the world and the general shape they take, so it did cause me to freak out seeing the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception found next to my school’s campus named. The highlight of Rome was for sure Vatican City, including St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museum.The museum was astounding. It  contained more history than I ever thought I’d see. From Ancient Egypt to modern Christian art and hundreds of Roman statues, I couldn’t believe how much the museum contained. I had a headache by the end because of over-stimulation but it was numbingly beautiful to get to see the Sistine Chapel and marvel at its wonders. I almost had a heart attack seeing the Assyrian ruins from Iraq the Vatican had too. In my entire life, I’ve never walked into a museum, looked at the artifacts and be able to say “my people did that,” so it was the best feeling to be able to look at those artifacts and say with pride “hey, my people did that over 5,000 years ago.” It was a great feeling of wonder tied with a sad pain knowing that a few days earlier, ISIS had destroyed city of Nimrud that the Vatican attained these artifacts from.

BAE=Caprese Salad Pizza

Frigidariun…best ice cream/gelato ever. 4 Euros for a large 3 schools of the best flavors I’ve ever had

Vatican City by day

Vatican city by night

Jesuits: we’re everywhere

Basilica!

Surreal seeing artifacts from my people thousands of years ago

I’m thankful for everybody who made it possible for me to be able to travel to these wonderful places this break, and know that I got you guys some awesome souvenirs.Thanks for reading, and next time I promise I’ll get back to Morocco and my adventures there!

Darija, Daily Routine and AmidEast:

Hey guys! Or as Moroccans would say “Salamalaykum! La bes? Kol shay bkhar? Mzyan? Ahlhamdillah!” Arabs in general love asking how you’re doing and how your day has been half a dozen times, but the speed at which Moroccans do it, even in passing, is impressive and I never thought humans could talk that fast. The Darija in general has been difficult, with its mix of Egyptian-like verbs, completely out of context Fusha words, French loans words and general fast speech really starts to tire you in the best kind of way. I’ve noticed that my ear has picked up to a lot more of the language then I expected, especially in the cities where the language is clearer. The only negative has been that I embarrass myself in front of the few people from the Sham I’ve met here (mostly Syrians and Iraqis) because when I try to talk to them in the language I grew up speaking, I stutter and stumble a lot in making an effort to speak with them and show them that I’m one of them since I often mix in Darija by accident. I’ve been asked why my Arabic is broken, or people automatically tell me “you weren’t born in Iraq, I can tell” and it’s not because I don’t know my dialect, but the lack of practice and my use of Darija has jumbled all kinds of dialects in my head.

Oudaya, the shore of Rabat, with two great friends Harron and Hurubie!

The general life in Morocco has a mix of ultimate relaxation and chaotic and brain-stimulating experiences. I wake up every morning, shower and my angelic host mother feeds me and we talk about or plans for the day in fusHa, then I run out to fast walk to my class that starts in 10 minutes. As I’m fast walking I shout out my familiar “Salam ya khooya, las bes? Mzyan? Alhamdillah!!!” to the guy that works in the flower shop next to my house, the fruit seller in a wheelchair near the market, and some guys in the café near my house, an in the while dodging stray cats running around me and dropping a dirham or two to a few beggars around the area. With a minute before class starts I drop by the local Hanoot (unnamed Moroccan versions of 7/11 or Wawa) to grab my liter of water, some gum, yogurt or whatever junk food I’m feeling that day. Nothing in the store has a price, but I know that the owner won’t try and rip me off. If he does and I notice, his whole business could talk. If I tell one or two AmidEast kids about how he tried to rip me off or the water was slightly more expensive than yesterday, the word of mouth spreads quickly and his business is damaged.

Sunset at the Oudaya

There is no Yelp or Tripadvisor here, if you wanna know if a certain restaurant, hanoot, café or clothing store is good then ask the locals or figure it out by yourself by going there once or twice. If they rip you off, are rude or you find any problem with a place, then don’t go back and tell your friends. That’s how the stores fix themselves up and you can find the same thing you want in 8 different places within a minute around it.

The best part of Morocco

Classes are long and difficult but totally worth it; its surreal discussing Islam, Middle Eastern politics, culture and issues with a group of people geared towards the same interests, then walking outside and having it be a reality instead of a far off land I’ve never visited. I’m lucky to be able to study and be here with all of these students, and I’ve learned from them as much as I have from classes. Intense fusHa class as well as Darija, Politics in the Maghrib, Islam ad Islamism and Media Arabic classes are all supplemented by great discussions with after class with the students, even those who are here for the French program. I can’t wait to spend the rest of the semester with this group, and even more I can’t wait for Spring Break!

P.S. Happy International Woman’s Day!

International Women’s Day at Gare Rabat De Ville train station, near the main street of the city. Apparently its a huge deal here.

The 4 Imperial Cities of Morocco: Fes vs. Marrakesh

At this point of writing a blog, I’ve been in Morocco well over a month and many of my other nuanced analysis will come later but I’ve really been meaning to get into the topic of the different cities I’ve had the chance to visit so far. First off I wanted to explain something about Morocco and Moroccan history. The people here pride themselves on 7 cities: Rabat, Casablanca, Fes, Meknes, Tangier, Agadair, and Marrakesh. Casablanca, Tangier and Agadair I haven’t visited but I have heard wonderful stories of beaches, nightlife and people. I have had the chance to spend a lot of time in Rabat and have (however briefly) spent some time in Fes, Meknes and Marrakesh. It’s ironic that these are the cities we’ve visited because these 4 cities are the imperial cities of Morocco. Basically, an imperial city is just a really old city that was at one point the capital of the kingdom of Morocco and is defined by the fact that at the center of the city is an Old Madina (Old City) which is just a very un-modernized part where people make a living selling goods in the market. The streets are very narrow and easy to get lost in, but this isn’t an accident but purposefully built in order to make the cities difficult to conquer by invading armies. The walls surrounding the Old Madina are a stark contrast to the cars driving around it and flashing lights of modern cities. The best part of any of these imperial cities has been navigating through the markets and haggling down the vendors to give you a lower price for the same shirt you’ll find 2 shops down. The whole process is hilarious because every “genuine” conversation you have with these people you repeat 3 minutes later trying to haggle down the price of a pound of dates or some touristy gifts. First tip in bargaining: cut the price down to half of what you think it should be and then some. Second tip: mention you are a poor student. Third tip: if he’s not going down in price, bring up any Middle Eastern blood you have, but know that that also will probably work one of two ways.  For instance, bringing up the fact that I’m Iraqi usually causes Moroccans to either tell me about how educated and cultured my people are and how awesome Saddam Hussein was. Or they always jokingly ask me if I’m Sunni or Shiia, and when I jokingly laugh it off the look on their face of curiosity turns into one of serious concern and they will try and spend the rest of the time I’m in their shop trying to figure it out.

Rabat is where I live, so I didn’t have much to say about it except that after every trip when I come back it feels like home and we only drove through Meknes for about 20 minutes but I sure have a lot to say about Fes and Marrakesh.  Here is my biggest piece of advice about people visiting Morocco: Don’t visit Marrakesh.

Marrakesh at 1PM

Marrakesh at 1AM

Marrakesh Markets were only good for looking beautiful

My experience and the experience of most of the AmidEast students and other people I’ve talked to all have similar stories. Harassment of women is overbearing and scary at times; men will follow women they find attractive and sometimes get physically too close for comfort. Not many people spoke English so navigating is a painful mix of Arabic, Darija and French. The people in the shops will yell at you to try to convince you to buy from their overpriced and low quality wares to the point where you will walk through certain parts with your head down and still get yelled at. Taxis will overcharge you sometimes 20x over (I’m not kidding) a regular fare and as ridiculous as it sounds, the mix of snake charmers, creepy flute and general shadiness of people really gives of an evil feeling. Don’t go. If you do go, go for a day. Marrakesh is worth seeing ONLY for the hilarious contrasts. The nightclubs are straight out of a Fast and Furious movie with insane lights and women dancing in exotic outfits but when we went they all seemed empty. Two minutes down the road will be a slum of Marrakesh where women wearing niqabs will walk past you. Then another right turn will take you to a club where one can find hookah outside of a club with American singers singing Empire State of Mind.

Breathtaking is an understatement

One of the gates one finds as an entrance into an old Madina…this is one found in Fes.

Fes is where everybody should go when they visit. The natives speak English relatively well, and the history is alive whereas it felt fabricated in Marrakesh. We saw copperworkers and woodworkers in the old Madina and were lucky to explore beautiful old military barracks located on top of mountains outlooking Fes. The ruins of the Roman city Volubilis (called Waleelee in Arabic) were stunning and so well preserved I found it hard to believe we were in Morocco. Go to Fes: the markets are awesome and filled with great products (especially tradition clothing and leather made objects). The shopkeepers sell generally great wares and its fascinating to see some of them try and sell Mezzuzahs and things with Hebrew inscriptions. Its a sign of the former huge Jewish presence in Morocco which composes one of the biggest Jewish populations in Israel with over a million Israelis of Moroccan descent. Our teachers have told us they come back once a year to celebrate old Jewish festivals for different saints they prayed to often times along with the native Amazighs, but the remains of the Jewish population moved on to Casablanca. Sorry for the long post but I had a lot on my mind to get out! I hope some of the pictures helped give a colorful example of what its been like. Until next time, bslama!

Baby it’s cold outside

Tuareg Yousif, just for fun

Hey guys! For my second post, I really wanted to give a quick outline of all the finer details of my time here that people keep asking me about. Everybody seems to want to know two things: my favorite good thing here and my favorite bad. My favorite good by far has been the café scene. There is few things I’ve encountered in life that I enjoy as much as walking out of class for a $2 pot of tea (thanks currency exchange, US: 1, Morocco:0). For anybody who knows me, I LOVE tea and the sweet and minty Moroccan tea is fantastic here. Nothing beats sitting in a café for an hour or so after class to do work and take advantage of the free, although often spotty, wifi to do some work or catch up with friends and family back in the states or abroad.

Sugar is subsidized and in everything, even ketchup. Best example is these beautiful cookies which are incredible but probably increase your chances of getting diabetes 1000%.

Seen in the neighborhood L’Ocean, the most Arab sounding neighborhood by far here. #French #FrenchColonialism

My least favorite thing by far has been the cold. The cold is everywhere. It is everything. It never fully leaves you alone. It haunts you until you’re driven to insanity. As every day goes by I can feel myself slowing losing my will to the cold; it’s beaten me. It sounds surprising to people that it’s possible to be cold in Africa, but the concept of central heating is a foreign concept here. It is winter, and we are told by the end of February/beginning of March it will get warmer. Morocco is often described as a cold country with a hot sun. Honestly, it doesn’t sound bad when I tell people it’s about 40-50 degrees here when it’s bellowing freezing back in the US but trust me it’s bad. Back in the US, you’re only cold in the 3-5 minutes you’re outside walking to class, your car or a mall. And at least when you get back home, it’s usually much warmer inside and even then you snuggle up in warm blankets. The homes are built to stay cool when it’s hot outside as to not spend to much money on the AC, but it’s a style that’s a double edged sword since homes end up being the same temperature as outside.Here there are two ways to escape the cold, Hammams (traditional sauna-like bath houses) and blankets. One things Moroccan’s definitely get right is blankets…I go from freezing cold one minute in my house to sweating under the warmest blankets ever. Between this, tea and warm cloths made from the same warm material as blankets people survive. Even now sitting watching soccer in my favorite café Le Cuistot right across from AmidEast I’m freezing with a cup of tea next to me and the stench of cigarettes accompanied by occasionally terrifying roars and cheers whenever Real Madrid scores against Seville and the insanity of the Quarterfinals of the Africa Cup between Cote D’Ivoire and DR Congo.

P.S. I lied about focusing more on specific adventures, the AmidEast crew, landscapes and practicing the crazy Moroccan Arabic but I got distracted so I’ll post more about that next time and hopefully will cover my Marrakesh misadventures and the Hammam.

FUN FACT for my animal lovers: There are stray cats and dogs everywhere in Morocco. Everywhere. I’ll try and take pictures, some of the cats are scary looking and some are adorable. Sometimes you hear dogs fighting at 2 in the morning and sometimes a wiener dog walks through the Old Madina markets unnoticed.

Gates into certain parts of Rabat

First Week

Marhaba min al Maghrib!

Hey guys! I wanted to start a blog I’d update every few weeks to keep you all updated on the sights and sounds of Morocco and how I’m viewing, understanding and dealing with the wonderful craziness of this country. As part of the AmidEast Area and Arabic Studies program I’m in, I was lucky to get to live with a wonderful host family who feed me until I can’t breathe and treat me as one of their own. The mother Maryem spends her days cleaning their tiny house, cooking meals and constantly redecorating their guest room and making sure it looks as presentable as possible for when guests come over for tea or food. My older brothers are Marwan, 24, who’s studying to be an economics major and speaks great English, and Soufyan who is 29 and works as a chef in a prestigious 5 star restaurant (he’s his mother’s pride and joy), and my younger sister Latifa spends her days either at school or listening to Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez.

So far my feelings about my experiences have been that Morocco makes no sense. The mix of American, French, Arabic, Amazigh (Berber), Islamic and African influences make for a confusing mix. The nicer areas where AmidEast is based (Agdal, which is also the area I live in) are French influenced and filled with cafes where people drink sweet Moroccan mint tea, strong (Starbucks got nothing on this) coffee, smoke cigarettes and eat crepes while surfing the internet on free wifi. People automatically expect you to speak French if you don’t look Moroccan which is really frustrating when you are trying to practice Arabic, and I honestly haven’t met a single person who doesn’t speak French. They clean the streets in the morning (which Paris is known for) and I honestly was surprised by the amount of students who came here to study French, not Arabic. English is present in the more educated parts where Moroccans are gladly willing to help guide you using their English and try and talk to you about American movies and songs. The Amazigh (politically correct term for Berber here) culture is very much a part of Moroccan society, with signs on official buildings in Berber, but in a major city it honestly doesn’t stick out much. Once we get to explore the Atlas mountains, the Amazigh culture will definitely be more prominent since that is where they are based. Islam is present in the aadhan every morning at 5AM, the women in hijab (usually about half the women are covered, and they’re usually older), and the few mosques here and there. Honestly, it is a relatively secular country and religion is more of a private thing here in the city (the places outside will be different of course, such as other cities and villages in Morocco) and usually it is in the houses where one finds prayer rugs, ayahs of the Quran on the walls, and constant mentions of God and religious vocabulary and discussions that religion is present!

Sorry I know that is a lot to handle for a first post! I’m gonna add some photos of random things for now but my next post will focus more on specific adventures, the AmidEast crew, landscapes and practicing the crazy Moroccan Arabic dialect called Darija!

Until next time: Bslama!

Me, a friend Thea from the AmidEast program, and my fellow Catholic University companion Katie at a INCREDIBLE cafe called Olivieri which has the best ice cream and coffee I’ve ever had.

YAAASSSSSS

YAAAASSSSSS part 2

Old Madina Markets in Rabat where bargaining is part of the experience, everything is cheap and the food is as good as it is smelly.