Recap: Weekends in Rabat

November 16th, 2010

So, I haven’t spent all my weekends abroad gallivanting across the country or strolling through Europe.  Some of the time I’ve just stayed put in good old Rabat, or as it is written in Arabic, الرباط .  Ever since I’ve discovered that Macs have built in Arabic QWERTYs I’ve been practicing like crazy and writing all my friends’ names in Arabic characters and showing them over skype and facebook.  It’s a really nerdy thing to do, but it’s actually pretty good practice.

So what goes on in Rabat over the weekends?  Not much actually.  Rabat is a great city, but it’s not very touristy.  Which is actually really great for study abroad students because touristy places like Fez and Marrakesh can actually be really overwhelming.  Therefore, what I do in Rabat on weekends is do all my homework, and go to bed early and get a full night’s sleep.  It’s a great routine, I feel well rested and energetic during the day, and my house gets wonderful natural sunlight which actually makes doing homework a lot more enjoyable!

Interspersed among the homework are trips to cafes, sometimes to do more homework, shopping adventures in the markets in the medina, and generally hanging out with friends.  Often times American students studying abroad in Spain will spend one or two nights at my house when their study abroad program comes to Morocco for the weekend.  That’s a really cool experience because I can show them around the city, and share my experiences with them.  I also end up doing a lot of translating since these students generally don’t speak any Arabic or French.  One weekend, the student from IES Abroad-Grenada were in Spain, and I actually helped give these students formal tours around the medina.  While doing so I also get to meet other Moroccan university students who volunteer to take these Americans around the medina.  It’s a really great intercultural exchange because we have three different perspectives going on, the Moroccan perspective, the perspective of the American living in Morocco, and the perspective of an American who has been living in another foreign country and who is visiting Morocco for the first time.  It would be even better if we had a Moroccan whose visited the US or an American fresh off the plane from the states who hasn’t had time to get accustomed to another culture.

Last weekend, I actually had a really interesting weekend.  On Saturday I went with some Moroccan friends to a concert.  It was a really interesting experience because even sit-down concerts in theaters are different in Morocco.  For instance, you can take pictures during the performance, with the flash on!!!  That definitely wouldn’t fly in the US where they have nice little reminders before the show starts to “turn off all cell phones, cameras, and other recording devices.”  The concert consisted of performances by two different bands.  One band was a gnaoua/jazz/funk fusion band.  It was really cool, they played a lot of traditional Moroccan music (gnaoua), but spiced it up with trombones, trumpets, saxophones, and an electric bass.  The second band was a Spanish jazz/funk awesome band.  Both bands has Spanish dancers accompany them, and the gnaoua band also had break dancers.  It was a really cool performance.  I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go.

On Sunday, it was time to get to business and DO SOME HOMEWORK!  I have several term papers due soon so I thought I’d get a jump start on them and find some sources for the papers.  I got bogged down in work for my internship though, so I didn’t get a lot of term paper work done.  I was however, interrupted from my studies by my host mother telling me to go over to my neighbor’s house, who also happened to be a student in IES Rabat as well.  So, I threw on my hoodie, and some flip flops, and walked over.  Turns out they were having a party.  All the women were wearing caftans and dancing, and I was in jeans, a sweatshirt, and mismatched flip flops.  Turns out it doesn’t really matter that much whether or not you are dressed for a party.  If you can dance, they will love you.  There was a live band too, which was really cool.  The party was to honor the birth of a baby.  I think it was a boy, but neither me, nor my friend knew for sure.  Anyway, I had a nice time dancing, clapping along with the music, drinking mint tea, and eating lots of cookies.  All in all, it was a good way to spend the weekend.

Work weeks in Rabat are pretty low key as well.  I go to school, I go to my internship, I do my homework, occasionally I will meet up with some friends for tea at a cafe.  I might engage in some sort of cultural activity that is planned by my program.  I almost always eat dinner at my home stay because home cooked meals in Morocco are where you can get the best food.  Yesterday I walked along the beach and it was beautiful.  The waves were so big!  It’s actually getting pretty chilly in Morocco.  The nights are quite cool and I’m definitely thankful for the giant blanket my mom gave me a while back.  At the time when I first got it there was no way I was going to sleep under it…i could barely tolerate a thin sheet, but now, well, I’m glad it’s there.

Also, I have Wednesday through Friday off from school this week.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the Eid Kabeer, the Muslim religious holiday where they commemorate God’s intervention when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Ishmael (or Isaac if you talk to Jewish or Christian people).  As Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, God sent a sheep to Abraham to be sacrificed instead, and Abraham is thought to be the first Muslim, so this is a very important and significant day.  So what does one do on the Eid??  To be honest, all Muslim families, if they can afford it, get a sheep and slaughter it.  So, the week or so before the Eid the streets are full of people taking home sheep.  There are currently two sheep tied up outside my room right now.  I’m doing my best to not get attached in any way, I’ve avoided looking at them, and have interacted with them only briefly because I know they will be killed tomorrow.  In kind or a weird way, I think that most people who eat meat (especially Americans) could learn something from watching an animal being killed, cooked, and eaten.  Just reading about meat production in the United States is nauseating…I mean, making chickens so fat that they can’t even stand up, and then killing them, and selling the meat in the stores after it has been washed in chlorine??  Ew.  Also, I think people need to be reminded of the process of obtaining meat is pretty messy.  Maybe this is just my way of thinking after five years of vegetarianism, so you can feel free to form your own opinions on the matter.

Regardless, I’m super excited for Eid tomorrow.  It’s supposed to be one of the best times of the year!  It will definitely take the place of Thanksgiving, which is not celebrated in Morocco.  We’ll have a small celebration at our study abroad center, but no holiday unfortunately.  I can definitely empathize now with the international students who come to Wooster and have to miss cool festivals like Holi and Eid.

One Response to “Recap: Weekends in Rabat”

  1. Maggieon 17 Nov 2010 at 7:51 pm

    You wrote my name in Arabic and I love it! You have to tell me how Eid went! I’m so jealous.

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