Morocco Day 2

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“The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.” – Shirley MaLaine

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We had a packed schedule for Morocco Day 2, so we fueled ourselves with a traditional Moroccan breakfast.

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The closest thing to pancakes I’ve had since I left the U.S. Much lighter and not as fluffy or sweet, but delicious with a bit of jelly. This was of course accompanied by that addicting, and oh so sugary, Moroccan tea I mentioned in my last post.

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We took a drive through Rabat, the political capital of Morocco (Casablanca is the business capital).  In order to learn a little bit about the poverty that grips so many people in third-world countries, we passed by a shantytown.

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The government built apartments across the street for these people to live in, but the rent was too expensive and most of them had to move out.  Even though I’ve seen pictures, such as these, of shantytowns, it was heartbreaking to see it right outside the bus window.

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When we arrived at this center, we watched a short film about the origins of intercultural exchange programs between Americans and Moroccans.  You can check it out here. I might actually watch it again as well because the sound wasn’t working great and I missed half of it.

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After the video, we experienced our own intercultural dialogue with 5 young Moroccan men.  The conversation got a bit heated when we discussed politics, but I learned that Moroccans have a lot of respect for their king and their political system, which is an absolute monarchy.  They do not envy American democracy (and made the point that it really isn’t a democracy) and do not appreciate the U.S. trying to press its government system on others.  They understand that it works for the U.S., but it’s not going to work for everyone.  Also, pictures like the one above of the current Moroccan king can be found in practically every building in Morocco.  Apparently the pose/scenery can change depending on the business where it is displayed i.e. skiing King at a travel agency.

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Speaking of the King, he is often found out and about in Morocco.  He actually was in Rabat the same time as we were and may have driven past us in one of those cars above!

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Markets are all over Morocco, so we walked through yet another one after finishing up our discussion.

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Next stop, one of my favorite places in Rabat, but of course I don’t remember the name of it.

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We were greeted by a traditional Moroccan drummer.  Definitely felt like I was actually in Africa at that moment.

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We had a quick snack before meeting up with the tour guide.

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Surprise…SIAMESE BANANA!  It was even more satisfying than cracking open an egg and finding a double yolk.

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Second surprise…roman ruins in Morocco?!

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The town was destroyed by an earthquake manyyy years ago.  This area once had bathrooms.

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There are stork nests on all of the high points.

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Beautiful gardens lined the ruins.

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It is a tradition for women to go to this pond to feed hard boiled eggs to the animals,

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which are eels (you can see one on the left side of this photo). EEK!

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There were also tonnns of cats around.  Great for photos, not for allergies.

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We headed back to our “homes” for Friday couscous lunch, which had been hyped up since the beginning of the trip.

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It was everything I expected it to be and more.

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After lunch, we had some time to rest, but why take a break when you’re in such an awesome place?  We went shopping with the other American student staying with our host family for the entire semester and she helped me bargain for a cute leather purse!

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We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around an area known as the Keshba with Moroccan students.

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From gardens

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to a water-front café

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and white washed houses,

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the Keshba is by far one of the most beautiful places in Rabat.

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It was also a cool feeling being able to dip my feet into the water on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.  When I was younger, I would always go to the beach, look at the horizon, and say Africa is over there!  Who knew I would actually be there one day.

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I started writing Morocco 2011 plus my name in the sand and the other people in my group followed suit.  One of the Moroccan students, Mohammed, wrote my name in Arabic for me.  The letters look like caligraphy.

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We continued walking and ended up at the shopping street I had been to earlier.

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Mohammed helped us bargain.

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We went to a cafe for a snack and by this time I was so wiped out.  We got to the meeting place 20 minutes late to my dismay (I’m still not used to the “time is relative” facet of Mediterranean culture).  Thankfully we only had a short walk to my host family’s house, which was where we met with Fulbright scholars and members of the Peace Corps.  We actually all sat around the room I slept in the two nights I was there.  Moroccan guest bedrooms are lined with couches, so they are also used as a lounge.

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It was very interesting hearing about their experiences, but let’s just say I’m not cut out for Peace Corps life.  By the end of the presentation, my eyes were closed and I was starting to feel nauseous.  I thought it was just the result of exhaustion, so I forced myself to take part in the optional group activity for that night, which was a traditional public bath at a hammam.

Even though Moroccan women dress conservatively in public, they seem to be less modest than Americans behind closed doors.  There are separate areas in the hammam for men and women, therefore, people traditionally bathe naked.  Our host mom showed us what to do, which included stripping down to our underwear, going into a steam room, filling up huge buckets of water, and sitting on mats on the ground scrubbing ourselves and each other.  My friends and I said we felt very in touch with our sisterhood at that moment.  I even paid a woman about $3 to scrub my back with a traditional mesh cloth that covers the hand.  My dry skin peeled off like spaghetti!  It felt good to know all that gunk was off of me.

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We returned home for dinner, but I could barely even get down two bites.  I’ll leave out the details, but I definitely learned the hard way not to eat apples in Morocco without peeling them.  I eventually fell asleep and got the rest I needed to enjoy the remainder of my trip.

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