Yep, there's more! I experienced so many aspects of Morocco that I could not put it all in one post. In the earlier post I talked about Tangier and women mostly, but in Rabat I experienced Moroccan life to the fullest extent with my host family. I lived with Yousseff, his wife, 2.5 year old son, his wife's father, mother and aunt, as well as his new 24 day old baby (at the time). Yousseff has only been speaking English for 6 months and his wife for 3 years, so it was not that difficult to understand them. Everyone else in the house spoke Arabic, so I had no idea what they were saying. We only learned Arabic sign-language which many people in villages use and common phrases like "thank you," "I'm full," and "good morning."
You might be wondering why we learned "I'm full" in Arabic, so let me explain. In Morocco, we ate out of one huge bowl of food. We barely used eating utensils so we ate with three fingers on our right hand. One of my favorite things about Morocco is their sense of community and hospitality to foreigners. Everywhere we went, people smiled at us and were very open to our presence. However, Moroccans love to feed you and while y'all know I can eat, they push you to eat even more. But it's not because they are trying to be pushy or rude. They just want to make sure the guests are satisfied and have eaten enough and sometimes get slightly offended when you don't eat everything. Therefore our leaders made sure we knew how to say "I'm full," followed by your right hand covering your heart.
While in Rabat, I was roomed with another girl whoI didn't know very well beforehand, so it was nice to get to know someone new along with the new culture we were immersed in. Yousseff took us through the Medina full of people selling shoes, purses, art, vegetables etc. It's your one-stop-shop or your local corner store, but way better. One interesting aspect of the Medina is that the police patrol it to make sure no one is illegally selling anything and often crowds of people follow them to see who they will get next. Humans, we're such a curious bunch.
The next day we went to Sale which is a city right across the river from Rabat. There, we got to meet more Moroccan students and a heated conversation of religion, the King and politics began. Based on the information from the Moroccan students we met, Islam forbids homosexuality, among other things, which was peculiar to us Americans who don't really mind it. One of the students said she didn't mind it…but continued to say homosexuals can't get married and should not display their affection in front of her. Her views were different from mine and seemingly contradictory, but not uncommon in Morocco and I'm sure very similar to those in the US too. It's a controversial topic and I am glad we were able to hear another point of view from someone with a non-American background.
We continued to discuss politics and building off the knowledge of the King I learned prior, I found that the youth here are again similar to youth in the States in that many young Muslims don't care to vote because of the long standing traditions embedded in their culture. They don't believe one can make a difference which is what I hear amongst my peers often. Yet, this really hit home for many reasons, but mainly because I am disconnected with politics. I think it's complicated due to the two extremes and it never seems like common ground can be found; many other students shared this same thought. It was amazing how even though the Moroccan students live on a different continent, we were able to find common ground. That is the true beauty of this cultural exchange.
After Sale, we went back to Rabat to see some really neat Roman Ruins in Chellah. I love that there is so much history still withstanding in not only Morocco, but Spain and even London. We also saw the burial sight of past Kings that were on display in the Mausoleum of King Mohammad V; this is also where the current King will be buried upon his death. I'll be honest, it was quite eerie looking at the elaborate coffins of the kings, but fascinating nonetheless. The architecture was very similar to the Alhambra and I definitely understand the Muslim influence on its design now.
This day ended with even more conversation with more Moroccan students at a local cafe. There were two students, but I mainly talked to Safra, whose name means "clarity" in Arabic. I found it hilarious they thought America was like "American Pie," but it also goes to show that everyone is seemingly influenced by the media in the way I was mistakenly informed about women in Morocco. The guy said he thought Americans were lazy before doing this exchange so luckily his view has changed now. We chatted about serious topics, including segregation and abortion, and I learned that after 40 days a fetus is considered a human. In other words, women have 40 days to get an abortion before it is considered murder/illegal. We did chat about more carefree topics including our favorite movies and foods. Another girl from my program was also with me and we had to explain to Safra that the US today is not exactly like her favorite movie "Freedom Writers." We explained the many different cultures and cultural organizations on our campuses back home that actually work together to bring diversity to campus. That took some time to explain, but we helped Safra understand eventually. It was fun, informative and definitely a conversation I will never forget (with tea that I miss dearly).
P.S. There will be a food appreciation post soon. It just needs to happen.
I'd rather splurge on a good meal than a nice hotel, wine than water and plane tickets than club covers. Traveling and eating are my two favorite things, so follow my journey to see where I go and eat next! I'm just living my best life.