Cultural Insight through Moroccan Food

This semester reflection was submitted by Kristina Domaney, a student of Political Science and Psychology at College of the Holy Cross. Prior to direct enrollment her fall 2012 in Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, Kristina participated in a 3-week Pre-Session with AMIDEAST in Rabat. She reminisces about some of her delicious adventures around the country!

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Some of my best memories of my first semester in Morocco have involved Attay (Moroccan mint tea), from sitting with my host parents in Rabat just practicing my Arabic to presenting how to make mint tea in Arabic class.

Before entering the country, I was never a tea drinker; I simply turned away at the very sight of tea.  However, within my first week of living in Rabat, I discovered a strong satisfaction for this delightful drink.  Each night after diner (since Ramadan did not permit us having afternoon tea time), my senses would become overwhelmed with the smell of mint and instantly I knew that it would soon be teatime.  My host father would then appear with the detailed, polished teapot, and we would sip the tea while discussing our eventful days.

While I know that I will continue making and drinking Moroccan mint tea when I return home after this experience, I am certain that tea time in America will never come close to replacing the plethora of fond memories I have from this seemingly simple, little drink in Morocco.

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This very picture is of the first meal I ate at a Moroccan restaurant.  Vegetable tagine… Yum!  This tasty tagine was from a small, tucked-away restaurant within the Fes souk.  I was pleasantly surprised by how wonderful this colorful plate was.  Also, the dinner was my first experience with the hospitality of Moroccan strangers.  The workers of this restaurant were some of the most warm and welcoming people I had met since my time in the country.  I was so delighted to feel comfortable enough to practice my Arabic and hold a conversation.  Once learning about where my friends and I were from and what we were doing in Morocco, the owner returned to our table with complimentary mint tea!  He told us that it was a gift from him because of the wonderful conversations we all shared.  I was so surprised by and gracious of his amazing hospitality.  I am fortunate to study in such a culturally rich and truly hospitable place.

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Freshly squeezed orange juice for just 5 d’s [dirhams]?!  Whaaaat?!  If I even made the slightest effort to think back to how many times my friends and I stopped for some delicious orange juice, I would have a number well over double digits.  Seriously.  My orange juice addiction (along with my Attay addiction) become overwhelmingly within just one semester.

There are fresh orange juice stands in almost every souk I entered, and who could pass up such a refreshing drink?  I certainly couldn’t!  Whenever I would hear guys yelling out as many luring phrases about juice as possible to attract the crowds of people that pass by, I knew that an orange juice stand had to be somewhere in my realm of visibility.  They provided brief breaks from bustling souks and swarms of people as my friends and I would share a moment to enjoy this citric beverage.

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“You guys HAVE to try snails!”  This was one of the first suggestions received from my friend Selma (second one in from the right).  She insisted that they were delicious, especially the ones at this stand (the one in the picture) in Ifrane.  Hannah (second in from the left), Selma, Keisha (furthest right) and I gathered around this teeny, tiny snail cart to begin feasting.

The best part was watching Selma pick out the snails from their shells like a pro; she wasted no time!  Soon after, we were all following her lead.  The snail-cart experience was definitely a memorable one.  Since it, every time I even walk past the street, I know exactly what the potent and distinct smell is.

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Filed under Arab Friends, Arabic, Food, Host Family, Morocco, Photography

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