I've eaten delicious food, worked with amazing people, shopped my heart out in the Souk and gained a Moroccan family. But like all good things, my time in Morocco with Projects Abroad is coming to an end and I am faced with the task of capturing my experiences in a few short paragraphs.
I arrived in Morocco without knowing what to expect. In fact, I had chosen this placement partly because I knew so little about the location! I also wanted to improve my french, to get an up-close and personal cultural experience and to 'beef up' my resume as a mature age law student.
My host family welcomed me with open arms; Hania, my host mum and I became regulars at the local Hamman, helping each other apply an all over body mud mask and scraping dead skin off each other! The other members of the family were gorgeous too. My host dad and I enjoyed solving sodoku puzzles together on the couch and my host brothers and I were soon making fun of each other as if we really were siblings!
My work placement involved wearing a few different 'hats'. I spent a few days a week helping lawyers write appeals at the refugee legal centre, which allowed me to use my skills as a social worker to support clients through a difficult and emotional process. The other days were spent as a project worker in the main office of OMDH, working closely with another worker to develop reports, compile recommendations from international forums and prepare presentation notes. I've developed a great relationship with my supervisor and will be sad not to be working with her anymore! (Bye Nabila!)
The other great aspect of this program has been the group of volunteers. They've been fantastic travel buddies, a great support (being a vegetarian during Eid can be a little daunting!) and who could forget the game of 'Master' led by our new friend Stefan at the weekly meeting!
Overall, my month in Rabat has been one I will remember for the rest of my life. I think I even improved my french! Thanks to Projects Abroad and I look forward to planning trips with you again in the future!
I arrived in Morocco early in the holy-month of Ramadan. For an entire month my host-city, Rabat, was alive in celebration. The medina where I lived is always rich in culture, but during the holy-month the ancient city really shines. As soon as the sun goes down, the vendors come out, and the medina fills with the smells of spices and rotisserie. Shop owners, waiters, and even strangers on the street, were consistently warm and genuine. Every evening at seven I would participate in the breakfast (first meal after a day of fasting). Merriam, my host mother, prepared amazing feasts. I especially liked the traditional soup of Ramadan, harira. After a long anticipated feast, I would hit the city with my host brother, Abdelwahab. Each night we’d see a new venue, and by the time I had gotten to know my colleagues in Projects Abroad I was already very familiar with the city. It wasn't long before Rabat became my home.
My experience in Morocco was unique to my previous travels in the sense that I really took on a new life. During the day I worked in association with one of Rabat's developing neighborhoods, and on the weekends I would set out with posse of volunteers to explore different Moroccan locations. A lot of ground can be covered in three months. It wasn't long after my second week that fell completely and harmoniously into the rhythm of Moroccan life.
— Sam, United States
My Experience of Morocco
When I first arrived in Morocco I had no idea what to expect or what to do. Luckily I was put with a super helpful house mate who promptly took me under her wing. For the first few days I generally had no idea where I was going, who we were meeting or what we were doing; I simply followed Victoria and took in all the sights and smells. The fruit and vegetable market street, on the walk to our house, was particularly confusing, although now it is my favorite part of any trip out or back home. The long street always has something different to see, from the fruit and veggies being sold by the vendors, the cats and kittens everywhere underfoot, and every now and then a truck is parked right in the middle whilst Moroccans unload crates of pomegranates and tomatoes, leaving everyone stranded on either side, trying to squish past. Then of course, there’s the daily game of dodging puddles of “medina juice”.
My favorite part of the experience was definitely the weekend trips, when a group of volunteers would get on the train and head off around the country. Each city or place I visited was different from the last: the heat and sand dunes of the Sahara, the bright bustling streets of Fez, the beautiful Mediterranean beaches in Tangier and Ceuta, to the freezing walk up Toubkal Mountain through hail and a thunder storm.
The Moroccan people were always very hospitable and welcoming. When we went on our guided tour in Fez we must have drunk a cup of mint tea at 6 different shops and homes! The food of course was amazing.
The placements were good as well. Ennour was a lot of fun to work at: the kids were very loud and active but cute and interesting to work with. I had to learn some basic Moroccan words fast so I could communicate with them! The older students were very willing to learn. The OMDH was a different experience all together: a busy human rights office organizing several different activities at one. I was able to help organize 2 projects and participate in a weekend conference in Fez.
All in all, my trip to Morocco was a very enlightening experience in which I had the opportunity to learn a new culture, a bit of a new language and meet a whole lot of new and interesting people.
As a new arrival, a coffee and a cake in one of the many cafés was a great opportunity to meet the other volunteers. This particular get-together was to organise the upcoming weekend’s trip to Chefchaouen – which the Lonely Planet travel guide describes as “one of the prettiest towns in Morocco, an artsy, white-washed mountain village that feels like its own world”.
The plan was to travel up by coach on Friday evening, book into a hotel and maybe go trekking up the Rif mountains on Saturday. I say ‘plan’ in the loosest sense, as we actually just compared cakes rather than make specific scheduling aspirations. But Friday came and while four volunteers headed up on Thursday night, the majority caught an early evening coach to Tetouan before haggling a taxi ride down to 300 dirhams for the 90 minute trip to Chefchaouen and booking themselves into the hotel.
The majority however excluded me and my housemates. I work until 5.30pm and had to travel on a later bus. And what an adventure that night bus proved to be. The incredible sights, including watching thunder and lightening hit Rabat while we waited for the 12.50am bus, was amongst the many crazy sights. Not to mention, the man with a mattress in the bus station waiting room – did he know something we didn’t?
The bus, running on Moroccan time, set off at 1.30am and we arrived around 5 or 6 in the morning. Without haggling, we got a 300 dirhams taxi to Chefchaouen and arrived in time to grab a coffee while waiting for the happily sleeping volunteers to awaken from their comfortable hotel beds. Squashed night buses don’t offer the best comfort; but we saved on hotel bills…
The grouped gathered en masse in the hotel for breakfast and agreed on a trip to the ‘cascades’ (waterfalls); this being preferable to trekking given the overnight rain.
So an hour’s minibus trip took us to what looked like a national park. We agreed to take a guide who led us through the forest of trees and precarious climbs, streams and slippery pathways. This six-hour round-trip of hiking, slipping and sliding was worth it. Not to mention the incredible bonding experience it proved for all volunteers; the view was awe-inspiring. A beautiful waterfall, cascading into a clear pool of water that served as a perfect photo opportunity for a few hearty souls.
The only downside was the rain. It began soon after we’d set off, and continued until virtually the end. But in an adverse kind of way it only further brought the team together. Rather than thoroughly bemoan our sodden state, we rallied together, made light of the rain, saw monkeys hopping across sheer rock face cliffs and kept a steady pace before a welcome change to warm, dry clothes back in the hotel.
The return train the following day was also an adventure. A simple train journey that through its longevity, five hours, allowed all the volunteers to chat and find out more about each other, the projects we’re working on and generally enjoy the company. Projects Abroad representative Asmaa commented on how well the group seemed to have knitted together already. Maybe corporate companies should consider long hikes in the rain for team building days…
Thank you !!!
As anyone would, I had my expectations about what I would experience during my time teaching in Rabat. Everything about my trip exceeded my expectations, and has left me with unforgettable memories. Not only did I gain much from teaching but I also acquired invaluable cultural understanding by living with my gracious host family.
Having never taught before, volunteering as a teacher was a completely new experience for me. After a quick introduction, I jumped right in. I quickly realized that teaching is not as easy as I and many others ignorantly think. Each day I prepared a lesson for each of my classes and many times because of inconsistent attendance and rearranged classes, I was forced to think on my feet and quickly create a new lesson. Although it was sometimes difficult, I loved the experience because of the students, and because of the students, I put my whole heart into what could have been a very disappointing month. In this environment learning can be difficult because of the lack of separation of different levels and the lack of supplies; however, I did not let my frustration get the best of me because my happiness was not the goal of the program. I wanted my students to gain as much as possible from the presence of a native English speaker. Their eagerness to learn and enthusiasm in the classroom made it all the more easy. I enjoyed going to school everyday just to see the students and talk to them in our odd mixture of French, Arabic, and English. As cliché as it sounds, I learned much more from my students than I could have ever taught them in a month.
Even if I did plan on pursuing teaching as a future career, the most valuable part of this experience for me was the chance to intimately study a culture completely different from my own. By living with a Moroccan family and being able to experience the month of Ramadan, I gained a much better understanding of not only Moroccan culture but also Muslim culture. Talking with the family while we broke fast gave me wonderful insight into the way their religion influences and shapes their everyday life. Their kindness and generosity helped make my trip amazing.
In my opinion, traveling and thoroughly experiencing new cultures is essential in developing an acceptance and understanding of all people. Although I am not planning on becoming a teacher, I am hoping to pursue work in something involving international relations. My time in Rabat, Morocco has provided me with invaluable experience in a completely new culture and has taught me much about patience and avoiding frustration over cultural differences and more importantly about accepting these differences.
Visit Our Main Sites
Be Our Friend