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Maroc, day one.

6 September, 2010

I’m still not fully convinced that I am actually in Morocco.

My flights were uneventful, and on my flight from NYC to Casa, I was surprised to find that I had been ticketed for business class.  Alhamdulillah!

And on top of that, I had an awesome seat mate; we spent most of the flight getting to know one another, and all in all, it is one of the best flights I have ever been on.  Thanks Chris!

After landing, we rode a shuttle bus from the tarmac to the terminal, waited about an hour for our bags to come out on the conveyor belt, and while both of my bags arrived (!!!), one is now missing two of its wheels, its handle has been broken off, and my name tag ID is gone.

Going through Customs was the easiest I have ever had: I was merely waved through.. no x-rays or interrogations that the others were subjected to.

We were then collected and led to our bus that would take us to Rabat.  I knew to expect swarms of men trying to take our bags to help us in exchange for money, but I was not expecting them to be as aggressive as they were.  The bus ride was uneventful too,  and I managed to get a little bit of sleep.

The rest of the day was spent either relaxing/napping, filling out forms, catching up with my fellow Fulbrighters, and eating a delicious iftar feast.  I did not fast on purpose, but as the day played out, I did not eating anything from my breakfast on the plane at 0500 or so, until sundown.  The food tastes even better when you are starving.  The meal was quite good.. much better than I was expecting.  And as I learned today, in Maroc, iftar is referred to as ‘ftour.

After our meal, my roommate, Baiba, and I went for a walk and found ourselves at the Marjane (Maroc’s version of Walmart).  It was an interesting experience, and was not exactly what I was expecting.  For about $2.70 US, I purchased  a 16 oz bottle of Coke Zero, a 1.5 liter bottle of mineral water, and a bag of orange-flavored peanuts that actually taste like chalk.

Highlights of the day include my first experience on Moroccan soil being harassed by men, to the point where we were being hissed at, spit at, and followed by a super creepy guy.  We also had to switch hotel rooms because our room kept losing electricity, even though the rest of the hotel was with power.  Thanks to our new friend at the hotel front desk, we now have a much larger, nicer room.. and it has electricity!

We took a few pictures today, and I am hoping that tomorrow, I will be well rested and properly hydrated so I can put a little more effort into taking and posting pics.

Good night from Rabat!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 7 September, 2010 12:57

    Hi! I’m friends with Ashley Semrick-DesRochers and I actually did a 3 month stint as a volunteer exactly a year ago in Rabat. I lived in the Medina and worked in Takkadoum at a center for disabled children and young adults.

    Like you, I could not have possibly been prepared for the harrassment from the men. Just brace yourself – I literally never, not one time, walked from point A to point B by myself without hearing “Welcome to Morocco” or “Ca va” or “Wanna fuck”. Mostly I just kept walking, but once in a while they were too vulgar or too persistent to ignore. In the case of vulgarity I usually glared and said “Pense a ta soeur!” If you get one of the guys that starts walking with you and refuses to leave your side (and you will, probably more than once) my advice is to walk to a police officer or yell “Police!” like you really mean it. There is a jail sentence for harrassing foreigners (the King’s way of protecting tourism).

    Dont’ get me wrong – living in Morocco, especially during Ramadan, was a wonderful and exciting experience that I will always cherish. Please feel free to email me with any questions you might have – I’m full of information about the best cafes, internet spots, shopping spots, and ways to get around the city. To be honest I just really miss it there and would be thrilled to visit Rabat vicariously through you!

    I hope you are still enjoying the lovely Ville de Rabat, and that you aren’t too freaked out by a stranger writing this long entry on your blog!

    -April

    • 7 September, 2010 17:34

      Thanks for your good advice! I’m sharing it with the six other women in my program because nothing was communicated to us regarding safety, harassment, etc., so we’ve all been doing what we can to accumulate an arsenal of phrases and actions to use. And I totally welcome a stranger writing here 🙂

      While in Maroc, did you by any chance make your way out to more remote parts of the country? We are all here for language training, and then after three weeks each go to our separate posts further out into the country.

      Thanks again!

      Tracy

  2. 8 September, 2010 03:20

    I did a trip to Chefchaouen over a long weekend where we hiked in the mountains to a couple waterfalls, and I did a similar long weekend trip in the Sahara. I also visited the beautiful Skhirat Plage a little bit south of Rabat (absolutely beautiful and I strongly advise you to go if you get a chance before heading out to your ultimate destination). Both were absolutely amazing. All of my work was done in Rabat though. Mostly I visited the other cities (Fes, Marrakesh, Casa, Asilah, El Jadida, Meknes, Tangiers).

    Anywhere you go I just suggest you make friends with local people. Knowing there were a couple shop owners who had my back made me feel safer. Also, if other people see you talking with them they leave you alone more because you “belong.” I wouldn’t suggest taking gifts from them, lest they feel you owe them something, but a friendly chat and a short Arabic lesson (which they LOVE to give) will usually get you in and ensure you don’t get ripped off.

    Hope you have a great time in the Medina! If you are DVD shopping, word to the wise: ask what language it is in. If you check the back of the disc and there is data only halfway to the edge, its in one language and you can bet it isn’t English (I’m not sure if you speak other languages – watching some movies in French helped me to learn it, but sometimes I just wanted to veg out). If you check the disc and it is full to the edge with data then there are 2 languages on it.

    Have fun!
    April

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