The following photo blog was submitted by Elliana Bisgaard-Church, a student at Swarthmore College and a participant in session 2 of AMIDEAST’s Summer Intensive Arabic program in Rabat, Morocco. In it, she documents some of her most memorable moments of the program.
On weekends, groups of AMIDEAST students planned trips together to get out and see Morocco, and put our Arabic to the test. We visited Marrakech the first weekend which absolutely overwhelmed me – all the noises, smells, and people – but was one of my favorite cities. I shared many laughs with Moroccans there, like this young boy who encouraged me to speak in Arabic with him. Marrakech’s souqs, such as this one with its spices, herbal remedies, oils, and the occasional iguana, could be found throughout the historic medina. Just looking at my smile you can tell how much fun I was having!
Another weekend I traveled with some AMIDEAST students to Asilah on the Atlantic Coast near Tangier. The small ocean-side city was breathtaking – white buildings always adorned with splashes of color – with architecture so different from that in the U.S. We were lucky that it was Asilah’s acclaimed art festival that weekend, in which local artists are given white walls on sides of buildings and homes to paint, like this mural here. The variety of art, all so compelling and vibrant, was an amazing sight to see. Strolling through the narrow neighborhoods with the ocean breeze at our backs and never knowing when the next mural would appear was an adventure I will never forget.
There were many activities to do in and around Rabat as well, of course. One day after class, I went on a henna-seeking adventure with my youngest host sister, Aicha , ten years old. I had expressed to her my desire for the intricate paste design, and upon seeing her excitement, I asked if she would join me. We (literally) raced through the old medina, weaving through people, until we came to rue Mohammed V, and then skipped holding hands to Kasbah Oudaya where I had seen others stop to get the art. Women lined the walkway up to the kasbah, ready for our business. After choosing an artist, we sat and watched as she deftly decorated my hand, front and back, and followed with Aicha’s. After admiring our designs in the fading sunlight, we ran home. People laughed at the site of us racing down the tramway line holding our decorated arms up out of danger with fat grins plastered across our faces. I experienced a special part of Moroccan culture that day. Returning home to the U.S., everyone I saw remarked on the beauty of the henna, which of course prompted my sharing my many beautiful memories of Morocco.