From Jordan to Morocco

February 22, 2016

in Africa, Mary Larson, Morocco, Spring 2016

After a weekend exploring colorful markets, visiting medieval sites, and watching the sun rise and set over the Medina, I knew I wanted to spend a semester in Fes, Morocco. I was on an Alternative Break trip in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, for two weeks and had the chance to visit Fez for the weekend. Thoughts of spending a semester in the medieval city were already in the back of my mind, and my glimpse of life there made this fantasy even more intriguing

Yet just two years prior, my study abroad daydreams looked quite different. I imagined living in a cosmopolitan city somewhere in Europe, sitting in chic sidewalk cafes and returning to my apartment on a busy urban street at the end of the day. In my sophomore year, however, I was driven by my interest in the Middle East to study Arabic. This pursuit quickly replaced my fantasies of studying in Paris or London as I absorbed all I could about Arab culture and changed the focus of my searches from <Europe> to <Middle East & North Africa>. If someone had told me three years ago that I would spend a semester in a car-free, medieval city which has operated in very much the same way for centuries, I would have seriously questioned their (or maybe my) sanity. Yet here I am, a junior in college, and I can’t imagine studying abroad anywhere else.

I arrived in Morocco yesterday, but my adventure actually began a month ago. I had the opportunity to spend some time in Jordan, staying with a family I met through one of my Arabic instructors. For the past four weeks I have been exploring the endless supply of beautiful sites around Jordan, getting my fill of mansaf, shawarma, and knafeh; and enjoying the warm hospitality of my host family. I swam (or floated) in the Dead Sea, rode a camel at Petra, spent a night at a Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum, and took a boat ride in the Gulf of Aqaba. Although I could go on and on about Jordan that is not the purpose of this blog, thus I will redirect my focus to my upcoming adventure in Fez.

After a long flight from Amman, to Abu Dhabi, to Rabat, I took a two hour train ride to Fes. While navigating the train system is very easy, the taxis are another story. There are grand taxis which hold six passengers and petit taxis which hold three and only operate within city limits. This results in some confusion and the language barrier doesn’t help. Luckily, a Moroccan guy kindly helped me get my giant, cumbersome luggage from the train, up multiple flights of stairs, and to the street where he found a taxi that would take me to my hotel.

The next few days will consist of orientation, a crash course in Moroccan dialect, and meeting my host family. Hopefully by my next post I’ll have conquered the maze-like streets of the Fes medina and will have a sense of what my next three months here will look like!

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