Rabat to Meknes and Back

Where do I even begin? It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Morocco for a little over a week. I feel like I just got here, but at the same time, I feel like I have been in Morocco for forever. In the short time I have been here, I have stayed in two cities with two host families.

The last week was jam-packed with orientation activities. As soon as I got to Morocco, orientation began. Our orientation was split between two cities, Rabat and Meknes. We spent the first two days in Rabat going over basic transportation & safety information, and exploring the city. The city is breathtaking (see proof in pics below).

After these two days, we traveled to a different city, where we spent the next nine days. During this week, I was with my first homestay family. For this homestay, I had a roommate. Having a roommate was INCREDIBLY helpful as I learned how to communicate through a language barrier.

The view from our bedroom in Meknes
The view from our bedroom in Meknes

A huge part of orientation was the Survival Darija Class. We spent three hours a day, 9:00 AM to noon, learning Moroccan Arabic (Darija). At first, three hours of Darija class every day sounded overwhelming. In reality, the three hours flew by. It helped that we had a short break every hour with mint tea and cookies.

Around noon, we had a two-hour break. My roommate and I walked back to our homestay for lunch. Our host mom, Zineb, made us an amazing lunch every day. After lunch, my roommate and I walked back to the center for a cultural activity. The program had a new activity for us to try each day. Over the week, we had cooking, henna, calligraphy, and pottery lessons.

After these long days, I usually went home to relax and study. Mama Zineb would help me pronounce words in Darija.

View from where I studied
View from where I studied

Other days, I explored the medina with other IES Abroad students.

The square was always bustling
The square was always bustling
The medina at sunset
The Medina at sunset

At the end of the week, I took my final exam for the Darija class. So, my first IES abroad class is officially over! This week, I’ll start the rest of our classes.

On Saturday, we took a field trip to Volubilis and Fes. Volubilis is an ancient city, and it is particularly excavated. We arrived just in time to see the sunrise over the mountains. Our tour guide took us around the ruins and provided a brief history lesson.

In Fes, we had a guided tour around the city. We spent the whole day walking and touring the city. Later in the day, we went to a leather tannery, where we could see the whole process unfold. The tannery had a really strong smell, so we were given fresh mint to block out the smell,

On Sunday, we had a free morning. I used this to catch up on some much needed sleep, pack up my bag to head back to Rabat, and say goodbye to my Meknes host family.

When we got back to Rabat, our host families were waiting for us in the IES Abroad center. I stood in a large classroom waiting to meet our host families. Soon, our host families came into the room holding signs with our names written on them. My host mom, Saida, greeted me enthusiastically, and brought me to my new home.

The week has been a whirlwind, but I have loved every moment. I start classes tomorrow, so I am using today to catch my breath and get ready to dive into the rest of the semester.

Published by Skylar Sundquist

Class of 2020 IES Abroad Rabat, Morocco Chemistry w/ minor in Biology

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