Our host Hakim was kind enough to pick us up the at the airport in Rabat, Morocco. In AirB&B messages, he had mentioned that he doesn’t speak English (and that his wife was translating), but I had kind of assumed that he didn’t speak English in the same way that many people we’ve met during our travels “don’t speak English,” which often means that they speak it fairly competently.
However, Hakim really doesn’t speak English. He does however speak excellent French and Spanish (presumably, in addition to Arabic), both of which Brian and I speak poorly. So, our communication on the drive home consisted of us just grasping at whatever Spanish or French word would come to mind and communicating using the mangle that resulted. It worked surprisingly well.
We’ve been expecting that Morocco will make for one of our steeper language barriers and push us to practice other languages. It should be fun!
We have two tortoises that live in the yard that we share with our hosts, as well as several peacocks that live a house away. The peacocks are loud and sound at times like quarreling cats while the tortoises, unsurprisingly, are very quiet and demure.
Every time I reach for detergent, I’m startled by a cool looking lizard that lives in the cabinet above our clothes washer. He, alas, has refused to pose for photos.
Moroccan tea, a blend of green tea, mint, and sugar, is served pretty much everywhere here. Even though I don’t usually like my beverages with sugar, I have to admit that I find this particular super-sweet beverage delicious.
With Theo stashed away at his new preschool, Brian and I visited Chellah — the ruins of an ancient Roman town, later converted to a necropolis, and now a lovely, stroll-able garden and stork nesting ground.
Continue reading “Chellah”
Finding a Moroccan cooking class in Rabat was challenging – when searching online, I kept being redirected to classes Marakesh. Luckily, I eventually found the web site of Salam Cultural Center, which offers cooking classes in Rabat in addition to language and cultural exchange programs.
For our main course, we made the ubiquitous tajine, a word that describes both the pot used to cook/serve the dish and the food itself. Continue reading “Cooking in Rabat – Tajine”
The Kasbah des Udayas is a walled, protected region of Rabat. At various points in its history, the kasbah has been destroyed, reconstructed, deserted, and occupied by pirates.
Continue reading “Kasbah des Udayas”
Last Saturday, within the span of about two hours, Theo received seven kisses and two lollipops, all from people we’d never previously met.
We mentioned the attention to a Rabat resident, who told us that this was typical in Morocco. When he was visits Europe, it feels strange to not pick up and play with random children. Even further on that extreme: the United States*, where he found that mothers would look concerned if he simply smiled at their children.
Cultural norms – they vary. Brian and I acknowledge this, and understand that in some countries (well, Turkey) strangers will find it very natural to spend an extended period of time petting our child’s blondish hair, even though it feels odd to us. And that in most parts of the world, people just give candy to children. This is in stark contrast to the United States, where we actually have a saying about candy from strangers. (For anybody from outside the US, the saying is: “Don’t take candy from strangers.” Pretty simple.)
Continue reading “Candy (and Kisses) from Strangers”
Friday is the day when most Moroccans eat couscous for lunch – so last week, Brian and I did as well. The couscous, vegetables, and sour milk were all very good, but our favorite part was an amazing chutney, with onion, raisins, and cinnamon.
People at the cafe explained that Friday was couscous day because it is the holy day in Islam, but I still wasn’t exactly clear on why holy day equaled couscous. After some searching on the Internet, it seems like in Morocco the weekend previously included Friday, and this was the day when families would gather for this filling, tasty meal. The Moroccan weekend now falls on Saturday and Sunday. While many people are still heading home to eat with their families each Friday, some people (like us) are eating their couscous in restaurants.
We’ve experienced amazing weather in Rabat, with blue skies and lots of sun most days. It can get warm in the afternoons, but it’s not very humid and cools down again overnight. This is probably the closest climate to Oakland, California (which I think is pretty perfect) that we’ve experienced since starting traveling.
I’m not the only one to appreciate the weather. We found the yard-tortoises hanging out on the sun drenched patio outside our neighbors’ house.
We also saw these cool cats in the medina, soaking up some sun on a motorcycle.
(The general state of cat-health in Morocco seems not great – but these seemed better than average, at least.)
In 1195, Sultan Yacub al-Mansour started construction of Hassan Tower, intending it be to be the largest minaret in the world, attached to the largest mosque in the world!
Then, the Sultan died in 1199. Construction stopped with the tower only half of its intended size. Continue reading “Hassan Tower”