A Day in the Life in Rabat!
November 14, 2022
by Madeline Liberman
As much fun as I’m having in Dakar, I HAVE to talk about the FMS experience in Rabat. I’ll take you through a typical day in my favorite (shhh don’t tell!) stop of the semester.
8:00 am: wake up for class in my lovely room at the top of my host family’s house! I get ready for the day in my own bathroom (!) while my host mom makes breakfast.
8:30 am: I come downstairs for breakfast with my host mom, Housna. Housna and I eat in a little nook on the main floor of the house, sitting on benches with tons of comfy cushions. Breakfast starts with Moroccan tea in a silver teapot- as I learned, you always pour the first glass out and then pour it back into the teapot before pouring it out again to drink. When my host mom pours it she always holds the teapot high up to pour, and I try to do the same but I never get quite as high!
There’s always warm bread for breakfast- usually Moroccan khobz, a thick round wheat bread cut into quarters. Whatever the bread is, there’s always salted butter, strawberry jam, honey, Nutella, and cheese to eat it with.
Before or during breakfast Housna switches on the TV in the little dining area, and we half watch the news or Moroccan or Turkish soap operas while we eat. It’s typically in Arabic, so I ask a lot of questions and Housna explains things to me. After eating I stay at the table chatting with her. I learned a ton about her and about Moroccan life this way!
10:30 am: leave for class! All of our host families were under 20 minutes by foot from the LangZone center where our classes were held. We all lived in the Medina, the old city of Rabat (all the historic Moroccan cities have a Medina). My walk through the tiny streets of the Medina was always a riot of colors and smells. First, I pass a food market. The street is lined with vendors selling piles of fresh vegetables with dirt still clinging to them. There’s the delicious smell of bread from the women who cook it on the griddle and sell it warm. There’s also people selling piles of fish, which I tried to keep far away from because I’m squeamish. I also walked quickly past the butcher stalls, with cages of squawking live chickens below and whole plucked not-live chickens above- eek. A few twists and turns later (the Medina is quite literally a labyrinth) I arrive in one of the loud main streets of the Medina, which have larger stalls of clothes, shoes and cosmetics. Men standing in front of the stalls yell SALE!! in Dharija, French, English, and more.
Finally, just past the Medina, I arrive at LangZone.
10:30am: it’s time for class! One of my favorite classes in Rabat was Passages through Francophone Cities, a literature class. Our professor was super engaging and challenged us to draw out fascinating analyses of excerpts from books about Rabat, Tangiers, Casablanca, and Fez.
1:30pm: lunchtime! getting lunch was one of the highlights of Rabat for me, because you can have a lovely sit down meal for under $5.
Dining out with my APA friends each day between classes was such a treat. One of our go-tos was a grillade place next door to LangZone, with grilled meat, sandwiches, pizza, and salads (and a KILLER couscous on Fridays). If it wasn’t couscous Friday (alas) I would get an enormous Moroccan salad of chopped cucumbers, tomato, onions, and tuna, served with lots of bread.
3:00pm: back to class, this time for Intro to Morocco! In each class we talked about a different aspect of Moroccan current events, society, and history. For example, in one of our classes we discussed the Moudawana, the Islamic code of laws about the family in Morocco. This is a big issue for gender equality in Morocco because it talks about things like regulations on polygamy and divorce. As we learned, there have been several positive reforms to the Moudawana, but there’s still plenty of work to do to achieve gender equality.
4:30pm: our group soutien linguistique (linguistic support) with Maroua, our lovely program coordinator. Each session was a slightly different way of training our French skills. My favorite day was when we did an intense spelling quiz, where we guessed the correct spelling of French words and phrases that were spoken in a video. It was definitely harder than I expected and there were some surprises!
5:30pm: done with class! I either head home or to one of the three nearest student-y cafes with the rest of the FMS cohort. All of the cafes in Rabat are very reminiscent of Paris, with tons of chairs and tables outside and people hanging out for hours. For ambiance, my favorite was Cozy Cafe, with good wifi and comfy blue couches and chairs.
Sometimes, if we don’t have soutien linguistique, we might have Dharija class (the Moroccan Arabic dialect) or Arabic calligraphy class! With our APA cultural program, we had two calligraphy classes our first two weeks, and a Dharija language class every week. The Dharija class was helpful and taught me useful phrases for stores and around the house- I was really proud when I started to use what I learned to buy water at the corner store all in Dharija. But calligraphy was my favorite. It’s both writing and art. Each of us got a plume and a small pot of ink and we practiced carefully writing each letter while the soft-spoken instructor walked around and gave encouragement. We learned the most basic letters and techniques, but the result was still beautiful.
7:00 pm: I arrive home and greet my host mom, sister (Ghita), and cat (Luna)! I put down my bags and chill in the main room of the house, which is also lined with beautiful comfy couches and pillows. While I ask Ghita about her day or start to work on some homework, Housna cooks or does housework while playing Moroccan songs. She’ll sometimes bring me and Ghita a glass of fresh pomegranate juice or ginger lemonade- I feel truly pampered.
8:30pm: my two favorite words: “viens manger” (come and eat)! Housna was an INCREDIBLE cook. All of us (me, Ghita, Housna, and my
host dad Mohammed) would eat her version of delicious Moroccan dishes like chorba (vegetable soup), briwate (sort of like crispy egg rolls that she filled with eggs and cheese), or a tagine of meatballs in tomato sauce (a tagine is anything cooked in a clay tagine dish, typically some kind of stew). There was always khobz to eat with, and lots of fruit for dessert. Sometimes Ghita and I would stay at the table and chat- she’s the same age as me, and we would talk about music or our life and career goals or a date she went on.
10:00 pm: I head upstairs to read, journal, and get ready for bed!
So that’s what my day usually looked like! Of course, every day is a slightly different adventure on FMS, but you can expect a sensory overload in the Medina (which I eventually came to enjoy), a warm family, and TONS of food.