Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week One

We arrived in Rabat on Saturday, August 24. It’s hard to know where to start. 

The first (obvious) thing I noticed, before we had even left Washington, was the language difference. At the airport terminal all of the Air France signs and announcements were in both French as well as English (better, actually), and it got more overwhelming from there. As soon as we got on the plane English was the second language spoken, often with very thick (but amusingly typical) French accents. On the flight from Paris to Rabat (Salé, really) everything was in French and Arabic, but primarily Arabic. 

I see the Eiffel Tower! Really, it’s that vague black spot above the wing on the right.
We’ve been having intensive French three hours a day to prepare us for school. The levels of French in our group vary considerably and I’m very glad to have some background in Arabic. I’ve taken two semesters of college Arabic (in a StarTalk program) studying Modern Standard Arabic (MSA or Fusha) and Egyptian colloquial (‘amiyya). The Egyptian hasn’t been much help, but I’m definitely picking up Moroccan words and phrases. It’s very good to know at least the alphabet and basic standard greetings.

I probably ought to say something about the food. Much of it is very French; breakfast at the hotel where we stayed for the first night was baguettes with cheese (always La Vache Qui Rit), crepes with jam, and fresh orange juice. (The juice is so much better than in America!) I think that’s about how breakfast is every day, except with Moroccan bread and sometimes eggs too. We had a traditional Moroccan tajine for dinner on Tuesday and of course it will be couscous for lunch tomorrow.

On Monday we dressed up as tourists and saw some of the famous sites in Rabat. First we went to Chellah, the site of a Roman trading post and later an Islamic town and necropolis.

The minaret (mosque tower) at Chellah
The next site was the mausoleum of King Mohammed V and his son King Hassan II. Across from the mausoleum is a huge unfinished mosque, with only columns and a tower remaining.

It’s not hard at all to climb up on top of the columns.
We then went to the Casbah, or citadel, on the coast. It has a lot of very Mediterranean-looking winding streets and access to several beaches.

On Tuesday we had a Rabat City Challenge. We had a list of things to do in the Medina (old city) and Centre-Ville and we competed (like on the show “The Great Race”) to finish them and get back home. The list consisted of things like “buy a bunch of mint,” “find a Hand of Fatima keychain and manage to buy it for less than 10 dirham,” “find out the price of a first-class ticket to Marrakesh,” etc. We were divided into two teams, given Dh150 each, and told to GO! It was a lot of fun and a good way to get to know the city. (Also, Noa, Cheila and I won. Not that I’m going to brag or anything.)

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. AMIDEAST has been very good in helping us to move in and adjust. (And in providing wifi.) I’m not sure if anyone’s actually going to be reading this blog but I’ll try to keep it updated in any case.


  1. A good read Caleb. Again, excellent opportunity.

  2. Yes, people will be reading it! :) Thanks for letting us see your amazing, exotic life up close!

  3. Fascinating experience! I'm going to enjoy this blog Caleb! We'll follow your travels here!

    The Harr/Pratt family