My name is Claire Gothard and I’m a junior Economics and Political Science major at UofL. I’m spending this fall semester in Morocco to work on my Arabic language skills and immerse myself into new experience. A little background on me, I’ve traveled to Morocco twice before to learn Arabic. Both of those visits were for about a month and I was living in Rabat, the capital city. Rabat is an international city, full of diplomats and other foreign workers. This semester, I am spending three months in the smaller, more traditional city of Meknes. In this entry, I’ll tell y’all a little about a couple of the many cities in Morocco.
This time, I am exploring the country with a group of amazing students from all across the States. My program through ISA has set up so many amazing opportunities for me to bond with both my fellow students, but also some local students. We all have varying levels of the languages spoken here: French, Modern Standard Arabic, and Darija (the Moroccan dialect). Navigating in each city is a trial of its own!
We started the journey in Casablanca, the New York City of Morocco. It’s big, loud, and industrial. It’s home to not only the largest mosque in Africa, but also the largest shopping mall (2 million square feet). The hallmark event of our short visit was a tour of the Hassan II Mosque. Typically, non-Muslims are not allowed inside of mosques, especially during prayer time. We were lucky to be able to walk around the inside of the monumental building. Our group had time to explore the magnificent mosaics then hear a presentation on the internal décor and structure.
After being impressed by the enormity of Casablanca, we took a long bus ride to the red city, Marrakech. As the largest tourist destination in the country, Marrakech is full of both Western amenities (Starbucks and McDonalds) and traditional vibes. The red city, called such due to the red clay buildings, is most famous for the large square Jemaa el-Fna that is the entrance to the souq, the outdoor maze-like market. A group of us spent our first evening getting lost (purposefully and not-so-purposefully) in the never-ending alleys and corridors of the Marrakechi souq. We eventually ended up at a rooftop café with a gorgeous view of the souq. We ate traditional Moroccan tagine (stew) and mint tea. After those amazing, but all too short, adventures, we started the long journey to Meknes. I’ll save the wonderful descriptions of my home city for another time.
Morocco is constantly surprising me – it’s an entirely new experience each time. Yesterday, I completed my first full month here. Time has honestly flown by! And while I can’t wait for all of the adventures to come, I don’t want them to go by too quickly. Until next time!