Monday, July 2, 2012

متجر التوابل (Spice Shop)

I am researching education in the Middle East and North Africa and I was super excited to give out my surveys to Moroccan students. I researched this topic back in the United States, and it's so cool to have something that you read be in front of your eyes.

After school today, I went shopping in the medina. I was surprised at some of the prices from people that were vending on the streets without a store because they were so much cheaper than other ones. We also went to a really big spice store, whose owner is actually a friend of my friend's host dad. He was so hospitable! We were greeted by super sweet cherries and the best tea that I have had here (which is saying a lot considering I have tea like three times a day). He had a real pure supply of perfume stones, essential oils and spices. This spice shop definitely had the best spices I have smelt in Morocco. Just a side note-- most spice shops also sell drugs that are illegal in Morocco.

I am definitely going to miss the hospitality, (most of ) the smells and the eagerness of the people of Morocco!
\My amazing tea! Yes, it has a rose in it!

The row of essential oils.

So many spices!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

استكشاف المدينة القديمة في فاس -2 Exploring the Old City of Fes

السلام عليكم!

Today was part two of my exploring of the old medina! This time we went really deep in to the old Medina and I'm so happy that I didn't end up super lost, something that would be really easy to do/.  We started out by looking through the Batha Museum, which had very nice Berber artifacts. My favorite things that to be the jewelry and clothes. After that, we traveled down Rue Tala Kabirah, one of the most important and hilliest streets in Fes. There are a lot of فنادق (Fnaadiq - market squares, can also mean hotels) on this street. I went to honey فندق! It definitely had a very distinct smell. Other فنادق that I visited were the honey, cloth and ceramic ones. We were also able to see the street where Ibn Khaldoun, a famous anthropologist from the 14th century, used to live. On that street there was an artisan store and so many beautiful oil lamps which looked like they might have had genies inside. Another museum that we visited was the Museum of Woodwork. and my favorite things there were the magnificent doors and a wooden carving of a Quran surah from the 13th century. We looked around at the mosques that were around the old medina and got to go inside the Qarawiyn mosque and pray. It's beautiful and in the past it used to be a university. It actually rivaled universities like Oxford and the likes. It was founded in the 9th century by a wealthy woman, Fatima al-Fihria. We also went to a loom where they made there scarves, clothes and curtains out of cactus silk in front of us. It was gorgeous! Afterwards, we needed to finish off some of our shopping and actually found pretty good deals.

I'm not done exploring this city yet though! I still have some places I want to see. I'm not ready to leave yet!

A view of Fes from the rooftop of the Woodwork Museum!

Inside the woodwork Museum -- even that was beautiful.

Inside the Qarawiyn mosque!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

استكشاف المدينة القديمة في فاس Exploring the Old City of Fes

السلام عليكم!

Sorry for not having posted something in a while!

I've been under the weather for a little bit, but I feel a lot better :) ! I can't believe that I have less than a week left in المغرب (Morocco)! It's so bittersweet, but one thing is for sure -- I am extremely glad I decided to study abroad.

I buy a painting from every place that I visit in Morocco, because the art is beautiful and plentiful here. I've been studying and living in Fes, so obviously my nicest work of heart has to be from Fes. Last Thursday, my roommate Erin and I went shopping for some souvenirs that she needed and we ended up walking in to an art gallery. It was the first time I really saw oil pants and not acrylic pants and got a beautiful painting of a gateway that is really close to my homestay, In actuality, my homestay is in the perfect location -- it's on one of the major roads of the old medinah. When I say road, I hope you all know that cars aren't allowed here -- only donkeys and kitties! But please don't ride the cats.

This weekend is my last weekend in Morocco, so I decided to stay and make sure that I get to explore Fes intimately. Fortunately, the weather is beautiful (84 degrees with an amazing breeze).  Today, I visited the King's Palace Brass Doors. You are allowed to take pictures, but you can't sit on the grass! We maneuvered our way through the Jewish quarters which have buildings that are definitely architecturally distinct from the rest of Fes. We also visited the different gateways through out the city. I think there are 13 in total and I've seen most of them. The old city is actually protected by walls and the gateways are the entrance to this fortress. It's quiet a site. We also visited another rural fortress, the Kasbah Cherardah., which is unfortunately closed to tourists. I snuck a peak between the slightly cracked open doors though! It was a hilly walk up, but a breathtaking one at that, too. At the top of the hill was the Borj Nord, or a fortress that is now a International Weapon Museum. Some of the weapons were so ornate I could accessorize with them! Afterwards, we wandered down the streets of the Old City to souvenir shop. I got some good finds! In one of the stores, the merchant was selling tiles that were about a hundred years old and it was amazing to get to touch them. When I got home, my sister and I did karaoke in Arabic, English and Hindi!

Outside the brass doors of my palace -- haha ;)!

Borj Nord -- the Weapons Museum was inside here!

Such a beautiful sword -- it's encrusted with rubies and sapphires.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Al-Youm At-Thalith At-Thalathoon

Today is really, really hot! فعلا حار جدا ! It reached 105 degrees today, but then there was a nice shower of rain! For lunch, a few of us went to McDonald's. It was about the same price as back  home, but it is a status symbol for Moroccans. I can say that I've eaten a McDonald's cheeseburger, like the majority of all Americans! After class, I went to a concert that our school arranged with a traditional Moroccan band. It was super interactive, but I preferred to take pictures today! Afterwards, I went out for ice cream with my host sister, because she had her annual exam today. In Morocco, all students in each grade and all schools have the same exam at the end of the year.

One thing I really wanted to talk about is the community in Morocco. People say that Americans are very wealthy, but in reality, I think it is Moroccans that are truly rich. For the most part, each Moroccan has an amazing support system that most Americans will never get to experience. They have an intact nuclear and extended family. Both of these units always look out for  the individual. Outside of that, the community will look out for the individual. Even if you are not part of the community, for the most part. people will always try to help you out. For example, at the train station, someone else might grab your heavy bags. This might alarm the American mind. However in Morocco, this is welcomed and normal and solely means that someone wants to help you carry your bags. People are always looking out for each other. I have been helped so many times and I really appreciate this aspect of Al-Maghrib (Morocco), will miss it the most and will definitely try to implement it in my life.

Students in traditional band garb dancing with the Moroccan band.

Traditional Moroccan band!

Enjoying my cheeseburger from Mickey D's in Morocco!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Safr ila Casablanca wa Rabat السفر إلى الرباط والدار البيضاء

This weekend was so nice! The weather during the weekend in Fes hit around 105 degrees, so I'm glad I escaped it.
We decided to leave on Saturday morning. I had to be at Bank Al-Maghrib at 6:25 and I woke up at 6:00. I needed to be awake at 5:30, and even that was pushing it, but I scrambled to catch a taxi to leave my house at 6:15 and then get to the Bank at 6:25. My friend Marissa and I took the train at 6:50 and got to Casablanca at 10:50. Obviously, I had to try my conversation skills and interact with the people who were sitting in my train compartment :) . The girl who was sitting next to me just got married in Rabat and was visiting her family in a neighboring town. We saw the Mosque of Hassan II (مسجد الحسن الثاني)]. It was hands down, the most beautiful building I have ever seen or set foot in. It was huge and right by the Atlantic Ocean coastline, which made for a really nice breeze. I was super happy that I got to pray Salat ad-Dhuhr at the Mosque. What an experience.

Next, we ate and got on the train to Rabat, which took about an hour. We also met someone on the train, but spoke to her in English. She seemed to  be part of the upper class and went to school in Canada. We walked to our hostel and navigated the city with a map and our Arabic speaking skills. We eventually got there, and then walked along the sea side and saw Rabat's beauty and it's lively board walk. The first site that we visited was the Hassan Tower, one lone standing minaret. The mosque's construction began in 1195, but  was not finished, because the king building it had died. There were also pillars from the foundation remaining and in place. It was a sight to see children running among them. The Tower was adjacent to the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. It was beautiful and the ceiling was breathtaking. I got to pray Salat ul-Maghrib at the adjoining mosque which was exquisite, as well. We then found food in the Old City of Rabat. I got a huge plate of chicken, fries, salad and bread for less than three dollars. Overall, Rabat was less expensive than Fes.

The next day, we went and shopped in the Old City. For breakfast, we had Nutella with freshly baked bread and a pastry for about 50 cents. I bought a Moroccan soccer jersey and a traditional men's dress (jelabah). We then headed to see St. Pierre's Cathedral. It was interesting to see the strong Moroccan influence on the Cathedral's architecture. Afterwards, we went to the archaeological museum. It had tons of Roman, Phoenician and Islamic artifacts from all over Morocco. For 10 dirhams ($1.25) we got a two hour long personal tour. Of course the tour was in Arabic, but I was proud of myself for understanding most of what the tour guide was trying to say. Another cool thing about the museum was that we got to touch a lot of the artifacts, something that could never happen in the US. After the museum, we peeked inside the boulevard that leads to the Royal Palace (it's surrounded by fortified walls, but there are gates for people to get in and out).This was along the way to the Chellah, an archaeological site filled with Roman and Phoenician ruins. The settlement was also settled by Sultan Abu-Husan in the 14th Century. SubhanAllah, practically all the buildings were crumbing, but the mosque was almost perfectly preserved. It was a eerie and beautiful sight indeed. We then made our way back to the train station to make sure we arrived back to Fes before dark. I was very proud of myself and the experiences I had in Rabat - I solely relied on a map and my Arabic skills and did not get a taxi anywhere.

That's me in front of King Hassan's Mosque!

Inside the mosque -- so beautiful!


Posing with a soldier outside of the Mausoleum in Rabat!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Al-Youm Al-Thalatha w Al-Thalathoon

!السلام عليكم

Today is obviously Friday and I had class from 8 until 12. I came home after class and my sister Nouhayla took me to the Bounania Madresa/ Mosque. SubhanAllah it was a wonderful experience. I noticed that the elder women were in front and as you went back the women got younger. I had seen the Medresa in the walking tour of the old city, but it was amazing to actually pray Friday prayer. I understood parts of the Khutba خطبة, because it was in Fus-ha and not in Dharija. SubhanAllah what an empowering feeling. After the prayer, I shook hands with the women at the mosque ( مسجد or جامع). It was a beautiful sight. I then returned to my house and ate Couscous with my Moroccan family. I practiced speaking with my sister and mom, played UNO for a while and showed them my pictures. I also made a map of the places I want to visit in Rabat and Casablanca tomorrow. I am going to Casablanca and Rabbat tomorrow! I am scared, because only one of my friends is going with me tomorrow, and my map savvy friends are going to another city in Morocco. Oh well, I need to one thing everyday that scared me :) .

After I woke, my sister Nouhayla and I did my homework and after Maghrib prayer, we went out in to city. My sister Nouyhala is 11 and she knows Fus-ha better than I do! She has a lot of patience with me. She really is great. We went to my mom's salon and played with bubbles! We also visited Bab Bejloud, the city fortress and the markets. They were beautiful at night! Now after I eat, I will sleep, because I have to take the 6:50 train in the morning.

Also, I totally translated this blog post in to Arabic for my sister :) !

!مع سلامة

Medresa Bounania at the tour!

The room where the Imam leads Friday prayer.

Outside the door of the room where I prayed Friday prayer. No worries, took this picture on the tour not before/after prayer :) .

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Al-Youm Al-Thalatheen

!السلام عليكم

We are moving super quickly in my Arabic class! We do around two chapters a week, and surprisingly I am picking it up really well. However, the dialect of Morocco, دريج (Darija) is an amalgam of French, the Amazir language, Spanish and classical Arabic, فصحى (Fus-ha), so sometimes it is a bit difficult to understand what people are saying to me. However, a lot of people here know English to some degree since there are a lot of tourists that visit. After class today, we explored the Old City streets by my house and I bought a cream puff for 1 Dirham, which is equivalent to about 12 cents. 12 cents definitely well spent! I also bought a cloth pencil case for 10 dirhams, which is a little bit above a dollar. I think I've got bargaining down -- name a quarter of the price that the shopkeeper says and slowly haggle to one-third or one-half of the original price. It's was initially super hard for me, because I didn't want to insult the shopkeeper!

The street that I live on is one of the main streets of the Old  City, and it leads to Bab Bejloud, one of the gateways of the city, and to a royal quarter where people will pray. I saw both today.

One side of the Bab Bejloud! It's blue on the other side!

!مع سلامة