مرحبا!

مرحبا! (Welcome!) After a few days of rather mild peer pressure, I have decided to join the club and write a blog about my travels in Morocco. I know I have never been the best about keeping in touch, so it is my sincere hope that both A) this blog is regularly updated with pictures/thoughts/stories, and B) that anyone who wants to read about my (mis)adventures will be fully satisfied by what they find here. Questions, comments, and suggestions are more than welcome (actually, they're required, especially if you want something from Morocco...;), so feel free to contribute! I miss all of you already, but I'm excited for a semester in Morocco, and I can't wait to share what I find with everyone in the U.S.!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Eid al-Adha Break


The last few days have been pretty busy for me—I’m actually watching a film during class right now, and the only reason I’m writing this blog post (as opposed to ignoring the movie to work on other homework) is because Al Akhawayn has seen it fit to block their wireless internet! Welcome to Morocco…

IN ANY CASE. This blog post is about my travels during Eid al-Ahda, the second major Muslim holiday that I have experienced. This was also the last major break from school at Al-Akhawayn, so I tried to make the most of my time! William, Chris and I left school Thursday night (skipping Friday Arabic class…what rebels) for Casablanca. We got there at 11 PM, and we needed to get up extremely early the next morning to pick up William’s parents from the airport. To our great surprise (and fortune), we found a KFC (er, كنتاكي دجاج) a few blocks from our hotel—while this particular KFC had to have the least disciplined staff of all time, the food was delicious. We ate, and crashed.

Friday, we grabbed William’s parents (Diane and John) from the airport. They brought him an entire suitcase of Dr. Pepper (pictures below). Coolest. Parents. Ever. But by the time we got back to the hotel, everyone was pretty tired. We walked around a large mall in a nearby tower complex, and then took a 1 hour…2 hour…3 hour nap. After spending some time planning out the following day, we spent a solid hour attempting to get to Ricks Café (a recreation of the famous restaurant in the movie Casablanca); we walked, because Casablanca cab drivers charged outrageous rates. That being said…Ricks was wonderful. I should have gotten the T-bone…I got lamb instead, which was also delicious, but now I’m still jonesing for a good old American steak!
William with his girly suitcase full of Dr. Pepper.

Saturday, we saw the only other really interesting thing in Casablanca—the Hassan 2nd Mosque. It was absolutely incredible, and well worth the trip. The minaret at this mosque is the tallest in the world, and the rest of the mosque was designed to be just as impressive. The mosque plus the courtyard surrounding it can accommodate 105,000 worshippers---and the roof inside the mosque OPENS. IT OPENS. In case you can’t tell, I really, really enjoyed the time we spent there—and I was sure to take tons of pictures. After the mosque, we hopped on a train (a very, very crowded train) to Rabat. After eating lunch, we spent some time walking through the Chellah, the site of an ancient Roman city (similar to Volubilis). It was full of Storks (among the ancient relics, of course), and it was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. Afterwards, we ate at Pizza Hut for dinner; then, I left William, Chris, and family and met up with my roommate Marouane. I stayed at his house from Sunday to Wednesday!
Inside the Hassan the 2nd Mosque (the detailing here is really incredible)

The roof (you can see the split in the Middle where it opens)

A fountain in the ablution room (most of the basement of the Mosque)

Outside the Mosque. It sits right against the Atlantic Ocean, in a huge courtyard.
A Haverford-esque path in the Chellah.
Staying with a Moroccan family during Eid al-Adha was a really unique experience. That night, I met everyone in his immediate family, and we sat down for dinner (AFTER I had eaten pizza hut…whoops). Marouane is the only member of his family who speaks English—so for the first evening, everyone jabbered in super fast darija at me, and I was really confused! But as it turns out, Marouane’s dad spoke broken Spanish as well, so when I really couldn’t understand something in Arabic he could help explain it to me in Arabish. Over the next few days, I got to witness the slaughtering of a sheep (rather violent, and certainly not something I will choose to watch again), eat incredible amounts of meat (lamb for every meal, every day), and in general speak in Arabic with friends and family. It was definitely overwhelming—every evening I was pretty tired, because even basic conversations were difficult for me—but it was a necessary experience. Some other highlights: going to a traditional hammam (which I actually enjoyed); exploring the rest of Rabat, which included a visit to the mausoleum of Mohammed the 5th and Hassan the 2nd, shopping, and a trip to the old medina; eating various body parts of the sheep, like liver/heart/brains (I enjoyed this far less); getting to eat with my hands from one giant plate (this was fun, but surprisingly difficult at first…you can only use the first three fingers of your right hand); being told constantly “Kul! Kul!” (which means eat J ); having Marouane’s father read my fledgling Arabic essay and help me edit it; and relaxing in general! By the time Wednesday morning rolled around, I was ready to go back to school, but I had also really enjoyed the time I spent in Temara (his neighborhood).  His family drove back to Al Akhawayn with us (we stopped multiple times to buy pomegranate on the side of the road), and I had one final dinner with them at an apartment they rented for that night. Hopefully Marouane will be able to visit the United States, so I can show him the same warm hospitality that his family showed to me!
Me eating from a traditional Moroccan plate of lamb

Absolutely delicious Kebabs...guess what is in the middle (which I didn't eat)

Tomb of Mohammed the 5th

Bet you can guess where this went...
Ok, that’s all for this post. Soon to come: my trip to Barcelona!
Word of the day: ضحى (to sacrifice: Marouane’s father was very adamant that they did not ‘kill’ the sheep, but rather sacrificed it)
J Matthew

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