Home || Away from Home – Anna Cunningham

Home is about familiarity. In the United States, I find “home” in simple things, like knowing where to find the cups or the trash can. When I’m at home, I can be independent, because I know what to expect and how to handle it. With so many controlled variables, it feels easier to address the occasional unexpected circumstance. Of course feeling at home while I’m abroad is harder. Since so many things in Morocco are beyond my control, I have been forced to expand what locales I consider home.

For my third blog post, I wanted to share the spaces I’ve occupied so far. Some are in my new “Home” and other places have been temporary stops beyond it. Although I’m the only person in my homestay right now, our program’s community has given me a sense of belonging in many of the “Away from home” locations you can see in this post.


Fez has been my city for the past three weeks, and much like home, I rarely explore beyond my usual travel routes. This bad pattern is mostly because we have at least one or two trips every week, as well as programming on most other days. Constant movement can make it hard to find a sense of home, yet lately I’ve felt comfortable with my daily navigation to the Arabic Language Institute in Fez (ALIF)s and around the medina. While I adjust more each day, I miss home (both Texas and Duke) a little bit more each day as well. My homesickness shades many of my new adventures, and I’ve even started missing my homestay in Fez when I leave the city.

Feeling at home in Fez is fairly simple at times. I gain that feeling of comfort from walking briskly through the medina each day. I know my path: once I make it past the local cellular store and a large parking area, I can follow the signs to various guesthouses near my homestay.

A sign to a dar near my apartment

A sign to a dar near my apartment

If I’m feeling productive, I can walk to ALIF Riad, which is another familiar place for me. At this point, I’m also very familiar with the rank smell right before I reach the riad and the more enjoyable sensation of sparrows chirping around the orange trees.

A Courtyard in ALIF Riad

My favorite landmarks are elevated above my normal line of sight. Even though the guesthouse plaques only guide me half of the way, I always pass a lone palm tree, straight from a scene in Los Angeles, that signals I am on the right track. At the end of the road, I’m supposed to turn left. Every time I glance to the right, I see a lazy outcropping of flowers bending over the alley.

Flowers by my homestay

Once I see the droopy flora, I make a left and I’m home. I collapse on my bed, and when I look up, I can see light illuminate the wood carving on my ceiling.

Ceiling Carving

Ceiling Carving

Away from Home

As a quick recap – I have visited Chefchaouen, Meknes and Volubilis, and the Sahara. We are scheduled to wander two more cities, Rabat and Casablanca, this weekend. Chefchaouen was a quick day trip, so the following pictures come from the longer excursions.

While we were in Meknes we stayed in Riad D’or, where we met a cat we christened Jeremy. She was very sweet, and her four-year-old owner was happy to see us check out on the last day. We visited a few different riads, dars, and palais on our long tour of Meknes. Each one had a unique way of capturing and altering light.


Iron window grate at a dar


[Light fixture in a palais]


We even stopped in a horse home (ancient stables). Where the roof is intact, thick walls keep the entire area comfortably cool.

Old stables in Meknes

Once we left Meknes, we traveled to the Roman city of Volubilis. 80% of the original stone from the city is gone, but the mosaics that decorated the floors of some homes are still intact.

[Mosaic in the Orphan’s Home in Volubilis]

Our trip to the Sahara involved around 16 hours of driving total. On the first night, we stayed in Hotel Xaluca, a five-star hotel, to rest before facing 105+ degree temperatures. Almost everyone jumped in the pool for a midnight swim, and it was a great way to cool off.

Hotel Xaluca Arch

Hotel Xaluca Arch (Photo Credit: Harry Sanderson)

Hotel Xaluca Arch

Hotel Xaluca Arch (Photo Credit: Harry Sanderson)

The next day was not so cushy. We stopped at a hotel for lunch, then slowly baked in a dark room. The outside temperature was 109 degrees F, and the weak AC unit couldn’t make a noticeable improvement. Fortunately, Texas humidity prepared me well, and although I didn’t feel fantastic, the dry heat was very manageable. Watching an episode of Black Mirror together and dangling our feet in the pool helped temperature control as well.

Hot Hotel {Backside}

Hot Hotel {Backside}

A few hours after sitting in the toaster oven hotel, we were riding camels to Marzouga. I named my camel Olivier. He had an edgy, but friendly personality. He also had a nose ring.

Camel shadows

Camel shadows

The wind was warm. There was a lot of sand. The sky was clear. The desert met my basic expectations. I’m tempted to ask for more, but at the same time, this simple alignment between expectation and reality made even the desert feel a little more like home.


2 comments to Home || Away from Home – Anna Cunningham

  • Austin Zhang

    I like the part about the balance of expectation and reality, definitely something to keep in mind whenever experiencing something new.

  • Ed

    I really like the pictures you’ve uploaded! Always interesting to hear everyone’s unique personal definition of home!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>