By Sarah Fauska
By Sarah Fauska
Rabat – Where do I even begin to describe my first week in Rabat, Morocco? Before arriving, I was constantly researching the country in an attempt to understand my new home for the next four months.
Culture, family life, the role of women, food, I looked into it all but there is only so much the Internet and books can tell you. As I sit here attempting to write this article, I begin to reflect on my original expectations and the realities that are now my life.
Before departing from America, I remember trying to keep an open mind and just having a lot of questions. How will I be treated? Will I like the food? Where will I be living? Will I be able to understand anything anyone is saying? It is amazing how quickly these worries became so trivial and unnecessary. The friendliness and welcoming nature of Moroccan people have truly made me feel comfortable and excited for my time here.
One of the most common phrases I have heard while being here is, “welcome to our country.” Though some, mostly male, use it in a condescending sense, the majority of people genuinely mean it. There is still cat calling and the constant staring but nowhere near the amount I had originally expected. It has been very similar to the harassment I receive back home, just more persistent and constant. It is honestly a blessing that due to my lack of understanding Colloquial Arabic, most of the time I do not even know what they are saying, so ignoring it is much easier.
The one thing I knew for sure before leaving was that the food would be delicious. Somehow it still was able to surpass my expectations. This is definitely a country of bread and sugar, as I have not gone longer than 2 hours without being offered one of these entities in some form or another. Again, there is that kind and giving nature of the Moroccan people.
Each meal is a production and delicately presented as almost an art form with everyone eating out of the same plate. Sharing is the golden rule in this country and it is expected to offer whatever you are eating to everyone in the room. Also, fresh and natural are not seen as an advertisement or bonus to the consumer but an expectation of every meal. No matter how full I am when I walk down the Medina, the smell of fresh bread and mint with the colorful sights of peaches, mangos, tomatoes, and cucumbers still somehow leave me hungry for more.
So far, my favorite destination is the Kasbah of the Udayas, which is an old fortress near the Rabat Medina. It has a stunning view looking out onto the Rabat River, the city of Sale and the Hasan Tower. Known for its mixture of Greek, Portuguese and Islamic culture, the Kasbah is a picturesque look into Morocco’s mixed culture and society with white washed walls, cobblestone walkways, and intricate detail and artwork everywhere you look. This is an obvious popular destination in Rabat with different tour busses parked outside the massive arched entrance every day. There is some underlying self-satisfaction in knowing that while these tourists may only be able to experience the Kasbah for a day, I have much longer to appreciate its history and beauty.
With my first week coming to a close, I can already tell my time here will fly by and I will be back at Sale International Airport before I realize it. Though my communication skills have improved immensely from the time I started taking Arabic two years ago, there is still a lot of room for improvement. I have no idea what the future will hold but I can tell it is looking very promising.
So in response to everyone saying, “Welcome to our country,” I thank you for your openness and letting me call your home my home for the time being. I am extremely grateful for this wonderful opportunity and cannot wait to explore and experience this amazing city.