I kept up with this blog till November and then let it fall to the wayside… for a couple of reasons. One, exam time came around and I was suddenly consumed with grading… although also with buses and trains and planes and adventures. Two, as you probably know if you’re reading this, I got engaged! And all my internet time was taken over by pinterest, weddingwire, and theknot. But since it’s spring break and I’m already bored and I’ve been missing Morocco lately, here is a pile of my fave photos from winter and spring 2015!
Morocco’s Mediterranean coast is beautiful. So blue!
Two of us took advantage of a weekend break from Darija class to check out some nearby beaches. The Rabat beach has great views, and it’s apparently a good place to surf, but I don’t know how I feel about swimming there. It’s a bit dirty and crowded. Morocco is home to some gorgeous stretches of coastline, and it seems like the best beaches are a little ways outside the city. A half-hour drive south of Rabat, our host for the weekend showed us a beach that was calm, clean, and beautiful.
I wasn’t sure how to dress for the beach as a woman in Morocco, so I wore layers: swimsuit under gym shorts and a tank top under a dress. I figured I’d see what other women were wearing and go from there. But I learned that it’s not that simple, and it was super interesting to see how much variation there is. Some women were swimming in long sleeves, long pants or skirts, and hijabs. Others wore shorts and a t-shirt, or shorts with a one-piece, and some wore bikinis.
The simplest daily tasks can turn into major challenges in an unfamiliar country.
I figured laundry would be a piece of cake. Go to a laundromat, put some dirhams in the machine, throw my laundry in, wait. Done.
But I have yet to find a coin-operated laundromat in Rabat, and no one has been able to tell me where one might be. I’m not sure they’re a thing here. I’ve heard it’s common and inexpensive to hire a part-time housekeeper to handle things like laundry, but that isn’t an option for me yet.
One of our program staff did some research and found something that seemed to be a laundry place, a ten-minute walk from where we’re staying. They would weigh our laundry and charge us a small amount per kilogram. It sounded promising. So three of us dragged our laundry bags through the neighborhood to the address we’d been given. It looked like a dry cleaner’s to me – the shop was lined with racks of shirts in plastic bags and hangers – but I asked if they handled basic washing and drying and the man and woman behind the counter nodded yes. Perfect! I placed my bag of clothes on the counter. The man and woman looked a little skeptical, I asked another question, realized that they did not speak much French, and started wondering if they’d understood me. Too late! They dumped my dirty socks and underwear on the counter and looked through it, saying things in Darija I didn’t understand. I asked again, “Do you have washing machines here?” The man understood me this time. “Oh! No, we don’t. But there’s a place around the corner.”
So the laundry went back into the bag and we set off in search of this other laundry place. But we couldn’t find it, gave up, and dragged our dirty clothes home.
We tried again another day. We heard about a “self-laverie” a little further down the road. Except it wasn’t actually a self-laverie; we’d leave our clothing overnight and they would charge us by the bag. Washing laundry in Morocco seems to be like pumping gas in New Jersey. We set off once again, lugging our bags of laundry down a busy street in the hot sun, while people stared at us, but whatever, it would be worth it. Just think: Clean socks!
We finally made it to the self-laverie.
And it was closed.
At 1:30 on a Monday afternoon.
So we lugged our laundry bags all the way home again.
I was done. All I want is clean clothes. Is that too much to ask for?? And all I’ve managed to accomplish is a reputation as that crazy American who carries bags of dirty clothing up and down the street. So I quit the looking-for-a-laundromat mission and picked up a new life skill: Washing my clothes in the shower and hanging them to dry from the balcony.
We did finally manage to get our clothes washed (and dried and – I’m pretty sure – pressed) at the self-laverie, so the saga of laundromat troubles ended well, and we can laugh about it now. Shukran bizaaf!
I got another chance to practice speaking Darija today, when our Darija teachers took us to the Souq al Khemis (“Thursday Market”) and turned us loose for an hour. A souq is an open-air market. Touristy souqs in the medina offer scarves, leather goods, tajine pots, and so on, but this was not that kind of souq. This was a souq for routine grocery shopping, and we were definitely the only non-Moroccans there.
We hit up the poultry aisle first, and by aisle I mean dusty path through the market, and by poultry I mean live chickens upon live chickens everywhere with their feet tied. I wanted to get a chicken, mostly because the Arabic word for chicken, “djaj,” is really fun to say. But I didn’t want to think about taking it to the butcher on the other side of the souq, so I didn’t come home with any djajes today.
After the djajes were the goats, sheep, and cows… all live, of course. Then the slaughterhouse. I thought about going inside, but I took one look in and saw some things I didn’t want to see and kept on walking. Nope nope nope. Call me a city girl, but I like to think my meat comes from the magic meat-producing machine in Stop & Shop. Next up: lots of raw meat everywhere, which OF COURSE came from the magic meat-producing machine in Stop & Shop. Even the entire head and neck of a camel, freshly skinned, that caught my eye. Yep! There were grills next, and if I’d bought that djaj, I think I could have taken it home ready to eat.
The herbs, veggies, and fruits were more fun. As I walked by piles of cilanto and rosemary, I started thinking about what to buy. I decided on bananas. It was either bananas or the camel head. So, bananas. I walked up to the fruit seller and had the following conversation in Arabic.
Banana Man: “Hello”
Me: “One kilo of bananas, please. How much?” (Except I may have accidentally said “May Allah destroy you” instead of “please.” Oops. The Banana Man decided to go easy on the clueless foreigner.)
Banana Man: “Ten dirhams”
Me: “Lower it a little? Six dirhams?”
Banana Man: “Nine dirhams.”
Me: Blank stare because the word for “nine” sounds different in Darija than in Standard Arabic.
Helpful friend behind me: “Nine”
Me: “Nine? Ok!”
So I walked out of there triumphantly with my kilo of bananas, for about a dollar, happy at the result of my first entirely-in-Darija conversation. I spotted another banana stand and thought about going over there to buy another kilo of bananas and see if I could get them for cheaper – ya know, go for a personal record! But I hadn’t been entirely aware of what a kilo was and I already had more bananas than I could eat.
I’m glad these souqs are a weekly sort of deal. By the end of the morning, I was exhausted and sweating and a little overwhelmed by all the sights and smells and dust and animals, and I don’t think I could do this every day. But I got my bananas!!!
Just finished day three of orientation! I am in Rabat and having an incredible time so far. The others in my program are awesome and it’s been so fun getting to know them. We’ve had talks by Moroccan university professors on the Moroccan higher education system, politics, and multilingualism . We’ve been able to explore Rabat a little. Oh, and Moroccan food is the bomb dot com.
This adventure started with a delayed flight out of Boston followed by a mad dash through JFK airport. The three of us on that flight somehow managed to run from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1, get our boarding passes, go through security, and get to our gate in about half an hour. Sign us up for your cross country team! Our luggage was not so fast and spent a few days chilling in New York, which had both pros and cons. Con: I had two hundred dollars’ worth of contact lenses in that suitcase. Pro: The only shoes in my carry-on were my converses and sneakers, so I’ve had a perfectly valid excuse for my feet to be very comfy and happy these past three days, even on day two when we were told to “dress smart.” But thankfully, my luggage eventually made it to Morocco, and the five of us missing bags piled in a car this afternoon for the two-hour drive back to Casablanca to pick it up. Our driver was awesome and kept us entertained by teaching us some Darija (Moroccan Arabic) on the way.
I’m off to Fes early tomorrow morning! Being back in Rabat has been fun, but I’m excited to see a city I haven’t been to before.