Welcome to Morocco!!!

22 Oct

My name is Will, for those of you are just coming on board. I spent the past three months in an Arabic language program in Amman, Jordan. I am now in Fez, Morocco and will continue to study the Arabic language as well as the culture, history and political background of this region.

I had an interesting experience when touching down in Casablanca, where one of my suitcases was missing and I was not able to pull money out of the ATM. I was also not able to exhange Jordanian currency for Moroccan currency(Travel Tip: If you travel to Morocco and stop in Europe along the way, be sure to exchange the previous currency for Euros or Dollars before departing ). I eventually found a way to withdraw money, and have obtained the bag since then, but due to this little dilemma I did not get on a train until 10pm. I did eventually arrive in Fez at 3am after a long blurry trip. I was so out of it, and vaguely remember switching trains at 12:30am somewhere in the Atlas mountains with the help of some Libyan men. Welcome to Morocco!

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There is so much to experience here! Even in Fez(Where I am living), there are always adventures. Fez consists of two major sections, an Old City and L’Ville Nouvelle (a modern section built by the French during the colonial period). I am living with a host family in the Old City, locally referred to as the Medina. In this section, you can find long winding cobblestone streets full of food vendors,cafes,and shops selling things like traditional clothing and musical instruments. People of many different origins (Moroccan Arabs, French, Berber) move to and fro in a hurry, an occasional donkey is led through the streets carrying cartons of Coca-Cola bottles, traditional Moroccan and Gnawa music can be heard wherever you go, and the Islamic call to prayer rings aloud at various times of the day. I absolutely love waking up every morning in this city

Fez isnt the only place with adventures! We have had some incredible excursions over this past month. In the middle of September we took a fantastic trip to the Meknes area and saw the ancient site of Volubilis. The town was built by the Romans as an administrative center for their African Territories (Similar the Carthage in Tunisia). It was damaged in 1755 by a major earthquake, but many features still stand today, such as the Triumphal Arch, part of the Basilica and Mosiacs that reflect the ancient time period. The Town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoud is important to Morocco as being the site where Moulay Idriss I (great-grandson of the Prophet Mohammed) first established Islam in Morocco. The town (featured in one of the photos) is built over a set of hills. The Mosque of Moulay Idriss can be seen in the picture of the round, green minaret. The City of Meknes itself is spectacular, as we were able to visit it mausoleum of Mouley Ismail (A later ruler who founded Meknes), and the adjacent mosque. It was a wild day, with lots to see and great photo-ops.

Another recent excursion involved an overnight trip at a Berber camp in the Sahara. Erfoud is a town in eastern Morocco, known for being the filming site of The Mummy (1999). From there, we were taken on a camel trek into a remote part of the Sahara and spent the night at the camp of a local Amazeeck Tribe, about 30 miles from the Algerian border. The camp was situated at the edge of a series of Ergs (large sand dunes formed by fast winds), which we climbed that night. The climb wasnt easy, and the sand was cold by midnight. But the result of our efforts; sitting on a 500 foot high sand pile, getting an incredible view of the vast Sahara illuminated by a full moon; being educated in the culture and language of the Amazeeck, and experiencing the sought-after spectacle of a sunrise against a desert horizon. Heck of a weekend.

Gosh so many great things about this place. The language program is challenging but fantastic, and I have hit the ground running in that endeavor. I have 4 hours/day of some of the best MSA classes I have ever taken, seriously. The host family situation is also a great experience. The host dad only speaks Arabic and French, and the host mother only speaks rough colloquial Moroccan Arabic, so with her there are alot of hand signals, smiles and headnods, haha but she is really sweet. The dad and I occasionally watch American movies with Arabic subtitles. He really got into the Matrix, especially with the opening scenes of Trinity fighting the agents, “Ooh ooh ooh…Taekwandoo!!!” haha. They are awesome and it has been a great language experience as well. I come home at night and try to initiate conversations using new vocabulary from the day.

So that’s what’s up! I recently obtained an Oud (an instrument similar to a lute, traditionally used in Middle Eastern/ North African music) and am attempting to learn how to play; beautiful sound! Fall break is coming up and people are going different directions for 6-7 days. Another participant and I will be attempting a trip into Western Sahara, the disputed southern claim of Morocco that is pushing for autonomy. I will write again soon! Hope that you will enjoy this series of entries as it marks the beginning of the second part of Middle Eastern/ North African adventure. Take care!

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