Kristin Licciardell’s time away from Rutgers University on the Morocco Area & Arabic Language Studies fall 2014 program was well documented through the lens of her camera. Here are her favorite moments from four months abroad.
Jumping off the Edge:
Taken along the river separating the city of Rabat from neighboring Sale, this location is a hot spot for locals and travellers alike. The river is lined with cafes, a small amusement park for children, and small boats that take people from one side to another. On a casual afternoon walk, I spotted a group of young boys jumping off the sidewalk edge. I tried to sneak a shot without them noticing, but they quickly recognized the foreigner with a camera and began doing stylish jumps and flips to show off. I have noticed that cliff jumping is a popular activity for young boys throughout many Moroccan beach towns. A Moroccan friend of mine in El Jadida (one of the best places to jump, because of the old Portuguese fort walls) pointed out to me that there are often separate levels of jumping— the higher the jumper, the higher the level. The older boys like to jump from the highest levels, while the younger boys jump off lower levels.
I was given the wonderful opportunity to experience this holiday with my host family. During Eid Al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, it is tradition to sacrifice a sheep for God. In some cases, it can be a goat. Before the day of Eid, I went out to the market to help my host father choose a goat for his father. To say the least, it’s not an easy job. My host father had very specific qualifications, such as its gender, size and hair color. Shepherds from all around the surrounding area came to this outdoor market to try to sell the sheep and goats they had spent the year carefully raising. The following day, I celebrated with my host mother’s extended family. My host father bought a sheep especially for my host brother and sister. Here, my host cousin is showing off the head of the sheep that his father bought for him. During the day, different members of the family took time to prepare different parts of the sheep. Nothing is left to waste. While hesitant at first, I did try at least a little bit of everything that was prepared. After Eid, the meat is kept and eaten for weeks after.
During a road trip throughout Morocco, one main stop was the Sahara Desert. As the sun began to set, we were led onto the backs of a line of camels. The sky was clear and the temperature perfectly mild. As we set off onto the dunes, I noticed a large dust cloud in the distance, but within a matter of minutes, the cloud had reached us. I had never imagined what a sandstorm would feel like, but as the sand softly hit and flew away, it felt like a soft, silent breeze. Every word spoken was clearly understood between us even through the turbans that we wore to protect ourselves from any sand and flies. As we rode on camel back I told my friend to turn around.
The farthest destination on our road trip, we drove to Legzira beach, just north of Sidi Ifni but over a 12 hour drive south of Rabat. We set out to see these beautifully carved cliffs that curved over the rocky shores. At sunset, the sun hits the red rocks just right to reflect the color. As we approached the area, we saw a group of hang gliders who had just jumped off the adjacent mountains. The area is a beautiful getaway destined for the most adventurous Moroccan travelers. During this time, there were not many tourists, but we were fortunate enough to meet countless friendly and welcoming Moroccans that helped us along the way.
Oldest Tannery in the World:
When I heard about our class trip to Fes, my only goal was to capture this. After hours of wandering in one of the largest car free urban areas in the world, we were finally able to find the exact location of this tannery. While there are other tanneries within the old medina, this specific one is the biggest. You know when you are getting close because you can smell it. It’s unlike any smell I could ever describe. A man explained the process of cleaning the leather, coloring it, and leaving it out to dry. Other than leather goods, I was fortunate to find locals creating other crafts that I’ve seen in other markets from scratch such as gold plate jewelry, tapestries, pots and pans and combs made from bone. This was by far one of my favorite experiences in Morocco.
One of the last stops on our roadtrip across Morocco was the historical Ait Benhaddou. One may be familiar with this site after watching movies such as Gladiator or shows such as Game of Thrones. Arriving just in time to watch the sunset, Ait Benhaddou was a beautiful fortified city that has become famous for its use in the movie industry. Nevertheless, we were invited into the homes of locals who have lived there since before its popularity. Many locals were impressed that we not only greeted them in Arabic but also spoke the local dialect of Darija. From the very top of the mountain, you can see steep hills and valleys for miles.
Three Sheep and a Lama:
During a class trip to a small village in the middle of the Atlas mountains, my friend Lama and I were invited to explore the inside of a newly refinished building. As she was walking up the steps, she began to turn left, but a group of sheep came hurdling down the steps, backing her into a corner. Simple moments like this is why I carry my camera—to be able to capture all the smiles and laughs that come with studying abroad in such a breathtaking country.