Like I said in my last post, the TIME group is currently in MOROCCO and lovin’ it! Here are my thoughts so far:
1. Getting a taxi in Morocco is harder than you think, especially during the long lunch hour when everyone is heading home. The red ‘petit taxis’ zip through traffic and sometimes don’t stop for an extended hand, even when they are completely empty. Why? No one knows. They also sometimes refuse to take you to certain places. Also a mystery.
2. The call to prayer here sounds very different from the call to prayer in Turkey. In Turkey, it sounded more like a song, and when multiple muezzins called at once it sounded like a melody. In Fes, the call to prayer sounds like a droning alarm, and the calls of the muezzins all seem to compete and clash with one another.
3. Our group obtained Moroccan cell phones so we can keep in touch with each other more easily – most of us live in pairs fairly close to each other, but its still nice to have them just in case we need to call our friends or our host mom. It’s weird having a cell phone after 5 weeks of not having one. Fun fact: Moroccan cell phones have optional alarms for prayer times!
4. My homestay family is great. I live with a girl from TIME named Amy, and we have a host mother and three host brothers. Our host mother’s name is Khadija, and our brothers are Taha (20), Badr (12) and Saad (9) (those spellings are probably wrong). One of Khadija’s sisters also lives with us. Khadija and Taha both speak very good English, which was a pleasant surprise. Both Saad and Badr are learning French, so I’ve tried to talk to them a few times using French (and then discovered my French has deteriorated rapidly since last spring). Our house is in the Ziat region of the medina, which thankfully isn’t too far into the medina because….
5. The medina is a labyrinth. The roads twist and turn, narrow and widen, and if you don’t know where you’re going, they’ll spit you out in a completely unfamiliar place. It took Amy and I several times of being led by Khadija to the square where we catch a taxi for school and back before we had some semblance of orientation. Half a million people allegedly live in the medina, which completely mystifies me –where do you fit half a million people among all the shops, alleys, donkeys, cafes, restaurants, and tanneries? There is so much going on in the medina and it can be extremely overwhelming (especially all the (mostly bad) smells). The medina is best described by Eric Newby, who writes “There are few cities that so resemble a beehive…and, like a real beehive, once the sun is up and the air becomes warm, the closer you get the more danger there is of being stung.”
6. The most important and biggest meal of the day is lunch. We have class from 10-12, and then attempt to catch a taxi back to our homestay houses for lunch from 12-3. All the family comes home from work or school and shares lunch together.
7. Meals are interesting and very carb-heavy. Bread is basically a utensil and we’re rarely given our own plates. The meal is presented in a large plate or bowl in the middle of the table that everyone eats out of with either their wedges of bread or their fingers. For breakfast, we’ve been having bread with various spreads – cheese, jam, nutella, and the like. For lunches, we’ve been having a lot of tangines, which is meat and vegetables cooked in a special cone-shaped earthenware dish. Dinner is served around 9 p.m. and is a small meal. For dinner, we’ve had anything from soup with lentils, a pasta salad-type dish with noodles that were tiny stars, spongey crepes with chocolate flan on the side, and milky soup with noodles and raisins. My favorite meal so far was the very first meal we had at our homestay – we had sweet and sticky rice, and in cinnamon our host mom wrote “Katie and Amy” on it.
Side note: I have not been taking pictures of my dinners thus far in Morocco. Why you ask? We eat every single meal with our host families and I’ve only known them a week now – I’d feel weird asking to take pictures of our dinners. I may in the future, but haven’t decided yet.
8. MINT TEA. Moroccans serve mint tea frequently, and to both mine and Amy’s delight, we’ve been having it every morning with breakfast. It is delicious beyond belief, like drinking spearmint gum in a glass. I hope to ask Khadija to show me how to make it soon so I can have it when I get home, because right now I can’t imagine my life without it.
9. We’ve had a week of classes at the Arabic Language Institute of Fes. We’re taking Moroccan Arabic (Darija) and a sociology course on Morocco, and both have proved very interesting so far. Our family thinks we are more fluent in Darija than we actually are and always asks us to tell them things about us and our days in Darija, when in reality we’ve had 4 days of language class and I can barely remember basic phrases. Quick Darija lesson (we’re learning the cognates, because Arabic script is very complicated)…
- Smeyti lalla Katie = My name is Katie (Lalla is like miss or mrs., for men it’s ‘si’)
- S’baght, l’hamdullah = I am full. Probably the most important phrase we’ve learned so far, as the TIME group has found that our host families want to stuff us with as much food as possible. At the dinner table they all say “Cool Katie! Cool Amy!” (cool = eat, or something like that)
- Labass? = How are you? To be replied with “Labass, l’hamdullah” or “Behkir, l’hamdullah” (L’hamdullah is an expression that links you to the creator – when you say any state of being, like you are fine or full, you say ‘l’hamdullah’ after it.) When replying, labass and bekhir mean the same thing, or as our Darija teacher would say, “kif kif” (same same).
Overall, transitioning from Turkey to Morocco has been tough but fruitful. Turkey felt very European, while in Morocco I truly feel I’m in the Middle East. I’ve been learning a lot so far and can’t wait to share more insights and pictures with you!