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Outsider or Neighbor

We’ve been in Morocco for about a month now, and we’ve visited several places throughout the country. I’ve loved every minute of it. We are staying in Rabat now after the three weeks we spent in Fez, and both cities are beautiful and rich with culture and history. The weather in Fez was definitely hotter than the breezy summer days of Rabat. The taxis in Fez are red while the taxis in Rabat are blue or white. In Fez, I had a five minute walk to the American Language Center from my home-stay family’s apartment. In Rabat, I take a ten minute taxi ride to the American Language Center from my home-stay. Rabat is a bit more expensive a city and is the capital of the country. I don’t know if my time in Fez just gave me enough experience to make the transition in Rabat more fluid, but I’ve enjoyed my time in Rabat immensely. I wouldn’t say one city is better than the other, because both are wonderful, but I think my time in Rabat has been more fulfilling for me.

In Rabat, I’ve found myself able to be more independent, and feeling more like a part of the community here. That is not to say that I felt awkward and uncomfortable throughout my time in Fez, because I had meaningful interactions with the locals there, but that I’ve had more such meaningful encounters here in Rabat. I think a big factor in my ability to feel more comfortable and independent in Rabat is that I feel safer. My understanding is that Rabat is a generally safer city by almost all accounts, which has made me feel more at ease here. Further, in just this week, I’ve gotten much closer to my home-stay family than I did in Fez, which again is not to say my family in Fez was not great, because they were. However, my family in Rabat has really welcomed me into their home and has made me feel like one of their own. I’m always out with them doing errands or seeing friends. Their house is always open to extended family and neighbors, and it’s wonderful to be part of such a lively home. I’ve happened to experience some distinctly kind and generous instances of hospitality here, and I’m so grateful to have met so many fabulous people while studying on this trip.

The area I live in is so different from where I stayed in Fez. The homes are closer together, which is conducive to the close, neighborly feel to my experience here. The main street is basically a 24/7 market and I’ve started to recognize certain vendors already in just a week. Because my family has emphasized this sense of community, I also encounter neighbors and family friends on the street all the time, and I make an effort to greet them the Moroccan way- with a kiss on each cheek and genuine inquiry about how they’re doing. I’ve begun to feel less like a strange outsider, and more like part of the community.

It is worth noting that my experience in Fez was all new, and perhaps the initial rough start was solid preparation, allowing me to have a fluid transition to Rabat and enjoy the experience more. I don’t know, but I do know I’m so glad to be in Takdoum, the part of Rabat I live in. It’s an energetic neighborhood filled with hospitable, kind-hearted people who have made me feel not like an outsider, but like their neighbor, and that has totally elevated my experience in Rabat. And I’m thankful. I only hope I can contribute some sort of goodness back to this community that has welcomed me so warmly.


By Amani Ahmed

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