Research in Rabat #5: The People

Coming to Morocco, one of my biggest worries was that I would be lonely for the entire two months I would spend in Rabat. I was going with no framework, no school program with built in friends. I had only the people I was staying with and the people I worked with to begin to build a network in Morocco.

On both of these fronts, I found myself extremely lucky. It ended up being cheapest to do housing through Airbnb, and I lived with a lovely late middle-aged couple, Jamila and Muhammad. Jamila and Muhammad host a lot of foreign students and interns, so they were very friendly and helpful. They ended up giving me a few walking tours of Rabat, showing me the medina at night and explaining to me the history of the old city walls. They spoke no English, so chatting with them in French was a great language exercise. During Ramadan, they would often invite me to take iftar, or the break-fast meal, with them in the evenings. Jamila cooked elaborate three course traditional Moroccan meals, while Muhammad explained to me some of the traditions that Moroccans celebrate during Ramadan.

At the office, I worked with a few Moroccan grad students. I wasn’t sure if I would be around other people my age, so this was a pleasant surprise upon arrival. They spoke little English, and my comme-ci comme-ca French wasn’t always quite good enough to have an easily flowing conversation, but we bonded nonetheless. I became quite good friends with the guy who sat across the table with me, and he ended up showing me around the city some more. Having Moroccan friends was also essential for buying anything! At the markets in the old walled city, the street vendors will often offer a price to foreigners that is as much as 5 times more than the price they offer Moroccans. I would try bartering with them, but could never get the price as low as when one of my Moroccan friends would take over the bartering.

The professor running my project, Saloua, was also extremely friendly. Her husband worked at the office as well, and their kids were often running in and out the office door (she lived just down the street). They essentially adopted me during my time in Morocco, and I loved feeling like part of a big, warm, Moroccan family.

Overall, I managed to find some wonderful people. I think sometimes the idea of going alone on international trips like this can be overwhelming, and I absolutely did have days where I really missed the community and support that I had in the United States. However, it was much easier than I expected to shape a new community around me, in my new environment in Rabat, and I can’t wait to form new communities in new international locations in the future!


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