Abdul Mirza - Care & Arabic in Morocco
As I stepped off the plane after our descent into Rabat City Airport, I was keen to know what awaited us during our two eventful weeks in a country I have never visited before. We were greeted with open arms by our Projects Abroad supervisor and it soon became clear that this would be a trip of a lifetime! As this was open to all students worldwide, there was great cultural diversity and we interacted with a wide range of people from all different countries.
My First Impressions
As we headed out to the Rabat Medina in the evening, we were briefed on what comprised our project such as the Arabic lessons, the Care placement as well as social evenings with other volunteers. We stopped off at a small café near to the city for a refreshing drink and met some students who arrived just before. There we also met one of our charismatic and humorous supervisors who would be accompanying us on all our excursions!
As we walked through the markets of the medina, the sights, smells and sounds were all new to me - ranging from the strong smell of fish markets to the shouts of the market vendors eager to haggle with their customers.
Our host family was beyond hospitable. Despite their simple lifestyle, they were extremely open-minded and would act upon your requests. They decorated the table with all kinds of Moroccan delicacies which every other culture should learn from - ranging from fish tagine to the well-known acclaimed Moroccan mint tea which is quite frankly delightful! Every evening, for Iftar – the breaking of fast for Muslims at sunset – we would all congregate to the dinner table and converse in Arabic or French about our experiences that day.
Spending time by Kasbah des Oudayas gave us a chance to relax and learn Arabic too. Our teacher was proactive in determining our level of knowledge and tailored her teaching as such. She was a jolly aspiring journalist who was tri-lingual at least and it enabled us to receive the best style of learning.
As well as that, we would walk around the village and glimpse at the simple but captivating beauty of the greenery, coloured walls and the mosaic tiles dotting the café. Beside that was a garden with a nature reserve housing a plethora of flower and plant species which was a calm way to unwind.
We began our placement in Amali des Oeuvres Sociale which is a day-care centre just 15 minutes away from Rabat in Salé. The main aim of the project was to create the foundations of a cafeteria that would be built on a piece of land in front of the centre. We put our heads together to organise a mission plan and assign the team roles of diggers and cement mixers.
While it was fairly summery, our efforts to just keep digging overcame the hot Moroccan weather! Towards the end, we involved the local children in helping us create a giant wall dotted with colourful hand prints as well as some decorative paintings.
In addition to the main programme, our team of supervisors organised various activities for us in the evening whether it be dessert in a café in Uptown Rabat or engaging in activities with other volunteers at our host families’ houses.
One memorable night was the ‘Dancing and Henna Night’ where we literally danced the night away in traditional Moroccan style; it was enjoyable to say the least! We also identified the culinary experts from the team in our cookery lessons where we learnt the art of Tagine which is a meat or fish stew as well as a sesame seed dessert coupled with mint tea.
At the weekend we began the 5 hour-long bus journey to Fes, which was a perfect opportunity to quickly snap photos of sleeping students! We closely followed a tour guide around the city and visited the leather factory to which we were supplied mint stalks to hide the stench!
Later we visited Al-Karawin, the oldest university in the world which now has a madrasa – a school to teach children Qur’an. Witnessing a traditional pharmacy create oils and lotions by hand gave us a different perspective as compared to the West. We took a well-earned lunch where I sampled a camel meat burger!
Overall, this experience has provided me with an insight into a different way of life and I have enjoyed every minute of it and taken all I could out of it! You are able to sense the vibrant nature of Morocco and its people in that they are lively, sociable and hospitable and this project is a perfect way to appreciate that as well as make some friends for life.