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