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"Looking Back at My Time in Morocco: Zweena Bssaf!" by Abigail Lee

"Looking Back at My Time in Morocco: Zweena Bssaf!" by Abigail Lee

Today is my last day in Morocco and I do not know how to feel about it. I have so many mixed emotions, but mostly disbelief that this day has arrived. Last night I went to ice cream at midnight (!) with my host mom, her best friend Fatima, Fatima’s daughter Nada and Nada’s cousin Reem, and Fatima asked me “Comment est-ce que tu imagines le Maroc avant tu es venue?” How did you imagine Morocco before you came? In reflecting on how to answer that question I realized any expectation or imaginings of this country could not even come close to the experience this was.

Casablanca: Hassan II Mosque: The only mosque in Morocco that allows non-Muslims inside, is the largest mosque in Africa and the 5th largest in the world, Hassan II Mosque was incredible from the soaring arcs and details to the history behind it. Photo credit: Lee, 2019

I realized in responding to her that I had made a concerted effort not to create any expectations of my experience in the country or the country itself because I did not know much about Morocco itself, or the culture and lifestyle and wanted to develop those understandings being here. However, there are the inescapable judgments from the outside world which influenced my perception of Morocco before I came here. A lot of it was positive; beautiful cities, culture, incredible food, warm and welcoming people, busy marketplaces, sights and smells incredible for the senses, the desert… the list goes on. Some of it created anticipation for me including U.S. perspectives of more conservative dress for women, harassment and cat-calling on a different level to that of the United States, and a general world focused within Islam. As I rolled up my window this morning and looked out at the Bim across the street, the two men opening their car wash, and the straggling cats running to the garbage bins, I realized Morocco was indeed all of that, and more.

Agadir. Photo credit: Lee, 2019

Studying in Morocco was an incredible time of growth, learning and immersion in a completely different culture and creating the experience of grappling with these differences; the things I liked and the things I didn’t agree with. When I think of Morocco I think of the marketplace near the Canisa in L’Ocean, walking behind my confident host mom being bombarded by smells of chicken, fresh fruits and vegetables, sights of fish being gutted directly on crates by men laughing with their friends, the butcher hanging new cuts of meat, goat heads staring at me as I walk by, sounds of laughter, haggling by men and women, calls for fruit carts.

Fruit in the Agadir market! Photo credit: Lee, 2019

I think of the Sahara Desert, sleeping under the stars, running up the sand dunes and singing and dancing around the fire with men who speak only Tamazight or Darija.

After an exhausting and at times harrowing three hour train ride to Meknes, and a 10 hour overnight bus to Merzouga, we arrived in one of the most amazing places in the world. I will never forget the feeling of seeing the towering sand dunes and realizing, ‘I’m in Africa. In the Sahara Desert.’ Photo credit: Lee, 2019

The campsite at sunset. You can see the chairs and table set up for tea, which we took when we arrived. Photo credit: Lee, 2019

Me and my camel! Photo credit: Lee, 2019

I think of the incredible beauty of the mountain village of Zaouiat Ahansal, with rising peaks cradling the mud and straw Kasbah and homes, built into the mountain side.

Zaouiat Ahansal was one of the most beautiful and special places I’d visited in Morocco. Situated in the High Atlas Mountains, we had the opportunity to stay in the Sheikh’s house, learn about local governments, local nonprofits and Amazigh culture and language. It was an amazing environment to interact with such warm and welcoming people, learn about initiatives in the town, and dance and eat with our new friends during the party on the last night. This town proved to be one of my favorites of the entire semester and truly showed me the positive and somewhat striking differences in family dynamic, community, and gender roles to the ones so normalized in Western society. Photo credit: Lee, 2019

I think of the donkeys, sheep and goats being herded by the shepherds, being carried on their shoulders and the braying of the stragglers. I think of the generosity of the people in random people in the street, open to friendship or help in finding a train station, the kindness and love of my host mom in cooking every meal to perfection, filling my stomach with love and delicious tagine, olives, bread, and mint tea. I think of the amazing people I’ve met, the ocean in Rabat at sunset, the dancing and laughter at the wedding I attended, the curiosity in me and my religion, my beliefs, my interests, and the family I have become a part of here.

Our program took us on a two- day trip to Fez! We experienced this ancient city and its smelly tanneries; we had to use mint leaves to somewhat diffuse the stench. Photo credit: Lee, 2019

Morocco has become my second home, a place I will never forget, and as my taxi driver said yesterday; a place where I am always ‘marhaba’ (welcome). Chukran bssaf alMagrehb u culshi. I have learned, seen, experienced, loved and disliked. You have shown me the enormity and vast differences of the world, but also the ever-possible closeness and connection with people everywhere.

Rainbow Street in the Fez medina. Photo credit: Lee, 2019

Abigail Lee is a Fordham University student who studied in our Spring 2019 Regional Studies in French Program in Rabat, Morocco.

"Thoughts, Ideas, and Expectations before Jordan!" by Kristen Redding

"Thoughts, Ideas, and Expectations before Jordan!" by Kristen Redding

Introducing Summer 2019 Blog Abroad Correspondent Ashley Morrill

Introducing Summer 2019 Blog Abroad Correspondent Ashley Morrill