Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's almost Spring Break :D

Hello world!
I haven't written in a while and now since all my midterms are done I have free time to concentrate on other things. Let me fill you in on what I have been doing so far:

  • Bellydance Barbie is teaching the American and the Moroccan students how to bellydance :)
  • Went to Fes for a day
  • I bought my first Amazigh rug (it's huge and heavy!! and now I have to figure out how to get it home...)
  • Ate dinner at a random shop owner's house from the medina and it was wonderful :D
  • And got invited to a Moroccan wedding this Saturday
  • Getting prepared for spring break (I'm red from laying out in the sun for a little over an hour!)
That is what I have been doing so far. Let me start from the top:
Bellydance Barbie Teaches! Yup to both the American and Moroccans. Now don't get the wrong idea about Moroccans; trust me, they know how to dance, they just don't know the nitty-bitty techniques that I focus on so when I'm done with them they are going to be the talk of the town  :D. Well, I teach bellydance once a week and it's just in my apartment so I have to move everything in the living room aside. A couple weeks ago I was able to fit 20 ladies in the apartment. There are no mirrors and I have to stand on top of a table for everyone to see. I am now being called "teacher" from some of the Moroccans. It makes me smile :).

Kids singing the national anthem
Fes is amazing and it's less than 40 minutes away from where I live. This time I didn't go with the big ISA group. Instead I went with 7 other people but we basically separated into 3 different groups and went our own way. It was great wandering through the twists and turns of the medina, buying scarves, and yes, being followed by a couple guys that really wanted to be our guides. Trying to get away from our so called guides we stumbled upon a random alley way and heard little kids singing. We followed and then was pulled into the school. The teacher insisted and encouraged pictures and videos. It was really cute. Fes is a great city but by about 5 I was Fes-ed out and had to go home and relax. 

Rugs, rugs, rugs
My first Amazigh rug :D. I seriously don't know how to get it home. I'm hoping that my boyfriend will take a big suitcase and we can put it in there but I think it will weigh to much so I was thinking maybe a carry on - but that would suck carrying around a rug in the airport or I was thinking that I can just ship it home for a lot a lot of money. Hmm, what to do, what to do. Anyways, for my culture and history class we took a field trip to a town called Khemisette. This is where most of the rugs are traded and sold to merchants to resell the rugs in their stores. The real deals go on at 4 in the morning. We didn't get there until 10-ish so we missed out on the fun chaos of trading but we did buy wonderful beautiful rugs. My professor knew two of the ladies that have their own shop so they treated us to breakfast and tea. After that we did our major shopping. We each got a big rug and some picked out smaller ones. It was a lot of fun. The picture is the mess we made at looking at almost every single rug in their shops. We didn't negotiate on prices because they gave us great prices since we came with our professor but usually it is expected to negotiate. My rug is not in that picture. I will have to take a picture of it later and post it online.

Now onto the next fun amazing thing that I did - I ate dinner at a random shop owner's house from the medina. Let me start with the second to last point - I was invited (along with my roommate) to attend a wedding this Saturday (can't wait!!!) so on Monday we (me, Jennifer, and Khadija) went to the medina to buy the wedding gift. We bought them a teapot and tea glasses but in the process of finding the right teapot we walked into random shops and one shop owner fell in love with us. Khadija was there to translate everything but he basically called himself our Moroccan dad so he invited us over to meet his daughter and his wife. They have an amazing house in the medina (not even a 5 minute walk from their shop). I took pictures of their house so check out my photobucket account. 
Our new Moroccan family
So that is what I have been up to since I last updated.
Morocco is amazing and if you ever get the chance make sure you go!! I love it here :)

Photobucket account:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Grand Weekend

This weekend, I would say was one of my favorites! Not only did I feel more Moroccan than ever (oh by the way, I am becoming a pro at using the squatty pottys - yup that's right), I touched people's lives by helping them out with food, clothes, and fun.
So Saturday night I got invited over to a Moroccan girl's house.
Guest sitting room
The picture I put up is the guest sitting room. In this Moroccan home, there are two sitting rooms. Each sitting room has a couch stretching from one side of the room to another and, as you can tell, there are tons of pillow on it (this couch starts on the right corner of the picture and ends all the way to the left corner). I slept in this room right by the window. The other sitting room is the dining room/living room. This is where the computer, TV, kitchen table and the bookshelf is shared. What I love about this country is the many languages that people know. This bookshelf had French, Arabic, and English books! Their bathroom is the traditional Moroccan bathroom (there is a French style bathroom and a Moroccan style bathroom; I think you can figure out which one is which). Before our wonderful dinner, my friend took me around her town (it's another portion of Meknes) but before we did that, I had to cover my hair because being blonde in a Muslim country gets a lot of attention so now I'm a pro at wearing a hijab. For dinner, my Moroccan friend's mom served me and my roommate (Jennifer) Harira (really good Moroccan soup) and homemade bread sort of thing with things inside it - whatever it was, it was good.
Yummy goodness- bread thingy with things inside right next to the Harira soup
That night was perfect! In the morning, I was awoken by the call to prayer.
Some background information on the call to prayer - they do the call to prayer 5 times a day to remind Muslims to pray. It is done through loud speakers throughout the city and it's scheduled on the sun cycle so everyday it's at a slightly different time. I have always heard the other call to prayers but never the morning one (and when I mean morning - like 5/6 in the morning).
To me, I love hearing the call to prayer. I don't know what they are saying but it sounds like they are singing so at 5/6 in the morning they were singing to me in a different language and it was so beautiful :). Oh-another fun fact: if you have ever heard the call to prayer you might have realized that it echoes from one Mosque to the other. It's that way so they do not create chaos (what kind of chaos they are anticipating, I'm not quite sure).
So that was my weekend at my friends house feeling more Moroccan than ever.
Berber ladies waiting to get supplies
Sunday morning we all got together (about 15ish Moroccan girls and about 13ish ISA students) at 9 in the morning and headed out to a Berber village about an hour and half away. The day before some people volunteered to pick up supplies for them to bring (flour, tea, sugar, blankets, couscous, etc) and some of the Moroccan girls asked their families to donate old clothes, shoes, and bags. On the way there and back we never had a dull moment. We were either dancing in the aisle way or chanting and singing in Arabic. When we got to the villages, we were told that they only speak Arabic and the Amazigh language so the Americans had no way of communicating to them. It was awkward at first but after a while most of us got used to doing hand motions for everything. We gave the lwomen blankets and food supplies and we gave the kids balls and coloring books with markers. Some ladies had tears in their eyes and was extremely thankful. There was a fight that broke out (it was someone claiming that someone else took more than their share). We got it resolved by handing out clothes and shoes. Along the way home, we stopped at a couple other Berber villages, had a picnic in Ifrane next to the river and we literally had a full out dance party on the bus. The bus driver stopped the bus in the road, turned the music on high and we all danced in the aisle. It probably lasted at least 5 minutes I would say (or at least it felt like it). Thank goodness we were on a country road but there were still cars passing us.
Another Berber village with Amazigh people and Moroccan and ISA students
Well, bslama my peeps. I'm meeting up tonight with the ISA Paris group. They just came back from the desert and we are going to have a party tonight! (party meaning drinking tea, smoking shisha, and coming home around 9/10 - oh yeah, the Moroccan way of life! Love it!!)

Monday, March 14, 2011


Before I start talking about my weekend, I would like to say - hearts and prayers for everyone that was/is affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Mother nature can be cruel sometimes.

Now onto my weekend. This past weekend, I went to Casablanca and Rabat (hence the title - Casrabat) with the ISA group. Saturday was our Casablanca day and Sunday was our Rabat day so I will start off with Casablanca.
Casablanca means white house in Spanish. Casablanca is one of the largest cities in Morocco - fun fact of the day: 50% of the cars in Morocco are in Casablanca! Crazy. Well this large city is located right on the Atlantic Ocean making it a must see city! If you go to Casablanca, you have to see the largest mosque that was built by Hassan II.
Hassan II Mosque
Before I move on, I need to give you a history lesson of the kingship in Morocco. Right now Mohammed VI is ruling the kingdom. His father was Hassan II and Hassan's father was Mohammed V. (Mohammed is a very common name because the first born son is either named after his father or after Mohammed - oh it has a variety of spellings also). Morocco gained it's independence under Mohammed V.
Anyways, that was a quick history lesson for you but yeah see Hassan II Mosque. It started building in 1987 and took 6 years to build! It's huge! Part of the Mosque is actually above the ocean. They built it like that because in the Quran, there is a verse that states that God's throne was built upon the water. Pretty cool, huh? Well, they only allow one english tour a day at the Mosque and we almost missed our spot but good thing we didn't because the inside is so beautiful!- there are basically no words to describe it besides wow, ohhhs-ahhs, amazing, crazy, well, can't really put it in words but hopefully you get it.

We also visited Place Mohammed V. It's a huge fountain in the city across from some government buildings - pictures on photobucket.
Place Mohammad V
Since Casablanca is a big city, this is where all the cool nightclubs are at. I actually skipped out on the nightclub scene because I had a huge headache and had to go to bed around 9 but from what the others told me, they had a lot of fun dancing and drinking until 4 or 5 in the morning!

Atlantic Ocean
I think I've talked about Casablanca enough so now onto Rabat! 

Rabat (in Arabic ribat means fortress) is also located on the coast and is the capital of Morocco. We walked through the Kasbah des Oudaias and got to see and enjoy the ocean view from above (Kasbah means: type of medina, Islamic city, fortress; so Kasbah des Oudaias means Fortress of Oudaias). The weather wasn't ideal - sprinkling pretty much the whole day - but it was still pretty. The Kasbah in the olden days was used as a defense mechanism (right between the Atlantic ocean and the Oued Bou Regreg river) and today, people from all over buy houses in the Kasbah.
hmm, I think I just found my new house ;-). The houses in the Kasbah are way too expensive (in the billions) for me but maybe one day . . .
Cafe Maure
After this we headed to Cafe Maure which overlooked the river and is connected to the Andalusian Garden. At the Cafe, they were really trying to sell their pastries and mint tea to us - it only worked on a few of us. They do some hard selling over here! Besides that, the river and the garden was very peaceful and beautiful to look at. Oh, and the garden smelled amazing! 

We then headed to Chellah. No one has probably heard of Chellah so I'm going to explain. This ancient part in Rabat was first occupied by the Phoenicians then the Romans took it over (when they were taking everything else over). The Romans abandoned it and then Sultan Abou al-Hassan Ali took control of it. Abou al-Hassan is known as the Black King in Morocco with a rich cultural background. His dad was from Black Africa, his mom was Amazigh and he married a white woman - pretty amazing for being in the 14th century. Anyways, Chellah, I like to think of it, is a clash of different cultures in one; there were a mixture of different architectures in this one small spot - Roman, Moorish, Egyptian (Cleo's son came to Chellah), Islamic, and Turkish. Both Abou al-Hassan and his wife are buried in Chellah so, of course, I took pictures (photobucket it).

Mohammed V Mausoleum
Talking about dead people, after Chellah, we went to Mohammed V Mausoleum where we saw King Mohammed V, his brother Prince Moulay Abdallah, and his son King Hassan II's grave. It's like the Taj Mahal in India but different because it's in Morocco. Their tomb is above ground but the Kings and the Prince are buried below the Mausoleum. There are guards all over, one at each entrance (there are four entrances) and one in each corner of the building inside (again, four). Then there are guards on horses outside of the Mausoleum before walking up the stairs. Nothing bad is going to happen to the King's grave.

Each of the city had their own uniqueness to it. Each had a different energy and vibe. Casablanca is more fast paced and grand while Rabat is the quiet and laid-back city. I would most definitely go back to both of the places but I really liked Rabat more. 

My next trip that I will post about is my spring break trip! I'm super excited about that one - more details are to come.
I hope you enjoy reading my blog. If you have any questions about Morocco and their culture, comment on here or send me an e-mail I would love to hear your comments :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hogwarts in Morocco ;-)

As you know (it's in my event tab) this weekend I am going to Casablanca and Rabat with ISA so you probably won't get an update until I come back either on Monday or Tuesday (it might be really long so be prepared to read). To occupy your time I would like to entertain you with a little story that I wrote. If you like Harry Potter, you are going to like this!: (Harry Potter in Morocco)

We each received a letter through e-mail letting us know that we were the proudly selected to attend Hogwarts: Moulay Ismail in Morocco. Each student took their separate ways to arrive to Platform 9 3/4 in Granada, Spain. Once there, we crossed the sea and was picked up by the snazy ISA bus. Our headmaster, Daniel, explained some house rules: do not go into the forbidden forest (aka pretty much all of North Africa and Middle East), make sure to be in class everyday, and don't be late. He told us "The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your House will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your House, sleep in your House dormitory, and spend free time in your House common room." On the bus before the big dinner, we each put on the Sorting hat and got separated into four different houses. The ladies in Apt 21 floor 7 each values hard work, tolerance, and loyatly which placed them in Hufflepuff. The other ladies in Apt 3 floor 2 values creativity, learning and intelligence which placed all five of them in Ravenclaw (Tova is the sixth that already got sorted a semester before). All the boys demonstrated courage, bravery, and loyalty which placed them in Gryffindor. Slytherin was given to the girls in Apt 5 floor 3 because they value cunning, leadership, and most of all, pure wizard blood (I'm in this house). The two very lucky ladies in the homestay are actually visiting students from Beauxbatons. Madame Maxine thought it would be a great learning experience for her two (favorite) most gifted pupils to live in other parts of the world (and it just so happens that tajine and mint tea happens to be her favorite treats).

Before leaving to our dormitories, our headmaster told us that he hopes everyone receives an "O" for outstanding and then he recited a riddle in a strange language that wasn't in French and Arabic; later we figured out it was darija. We each were welcomed by the wonderful dinner that our house-elves prepared for us and had a great night sleep before starting our studies.

I hope you enjoyed that :). I might be updating more "Hogwarts in Morocco" later on in the trip so look out for them.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A walk in Fes

A walk in Fes is one that cannot be forgotten. The winding roads, donkeys (or horses, or mules, don't know what they are)  as mailman, and the smell of the tanneries everywhere. Fes can either be spelled with an "s" at the end or a "z", either works. If you heard of Fes, you probably heard of the massive medina and that it's the largest living medieval Islamic city in the world. The reason why it has a massive medina is because there are actually two Medinas and one Ville Nouvelle (remember: medina means old city and when the French became the protectorate of Morocco they made Ville Nouvelles in every city). In the medina, there are thousands of streets and most of them are dead ends and basically only a hand full have street names so getting lost in the medina is the thing to do (it's not really recommended but it happens to everyone).
That's me in front of the Medinas. Crazy big! Anyways besides it's size, Fes is really known for their leather so of course we went to the tanneries. Before I talk about the tanneries I would like to mention a neat fact. Cars are not really allowed in the medina (unless they want to try to fit) because the streets get to narrow at certain parts that they will get stuck, so the mailman is actually a donkey! Here's a picture:

You need to watch out because some of the donkeys have attitudes. They will whip their tails and walk all over you if they have the chance. We actually got into a "traffic" jam in one of the streets because one of the packages off a donkey fell and that caused the next mailman to stop which freaked out the first one, needless to say, that was the weirdest "traffic" jam I've been in.
Alright, now about the tanneries - they smell! Welcome to leather heaven. Dead skins and dyes everywhere! Before going upstairs in a leather shop to see the tanneries, the shop owner gave us mint leaves. They smell so much better than the leather.

One thing that I do like about Morocco is that even though this is a developing country, almost everything you get is handmade. We went into a shop where you could watch pottery being made, painters painting the pottery, mosaics being chipped into tiny pieces, and actual tables being made.

The more I explore Morocco, the more I unveil it's secrets and it's magic that attracts travelers from all over the world. It's something that I can't quite put in worlds but let me say, I am falling in love with this country more and more everyday.