Category Archives: Arabic

“How is Morocco different from the US?” by Sofia Deak

As my first month in Morocco comes to an end, I am starting to be accustomed to life here. I feel more comfortable with the food, am able to have an entire conversation in Darija with my host mom (albeit with many mistakes, I am sure!), and easily know my way around Rabat. As I talk to my friends and family from home, I am constantly posed with the question of “How is Morocco different from the US?”

Initially, I brushed this question off as way too broad to even begin to tackle. “In many ways they are the same!” I usually reply. Mothers walk their kids to school, taxi drivers honk in the streets, couples stroll together by the beach. I am very accustomed to looking for ways in which I am the same as other people; it is in my nature and part of my personal philosophy to focus on shared values and traits rather than the things that divide people.

However, as I have thought more about this question, the more I have come to realize that it needs to be answered. Many friends and family members expressed their shock and worry when I told them I was planning to study abroad in Morocco — a response that baffled me, as all I felt was excitement and some nerves. A cousin asked me if I would be forced to wear a veil while in Rabat, and my doctor asked me why I was not studying in a “safer” and “more Western” country. These questions, I have realized, come from the lack of an answer to that greater, vaguer, question of how Morocco and the United States differ. Even highly educated Americans might be confused about life in a Muslim-majority country and what that life might look like for a twenty-year-old American college student with a Christian upbringing.

So, with only a few weeks experience to draw on, here are a few special moments that strike me as distinctly Moroccan:

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Each Friday, my host family gathers with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents for a couscous feast, chatting for hours before the meal without the distractions of cell phones or television. This is pretty foreign to me, because my family is spread out all over the US and only gathers like this for major holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. I was amazed and touched by the closeness of Moroccan families. My family loves to dance, and oftentimes my host sister Fatima Ezzahra plays music on the TV so she, her cousins, parents, aunts and uncles can all dance and sing together in the living room . . .

One late Sunday night, I arrived at the train station with friends, returning to Rabat from a weekend trip to Essaouira. It was dark out and pouring rain; a woman sitting in our train compartment insisted on driving us home, making sure we got inside safely, and invited us to share a meal with her family. She even gave us her daughter’s phone number so we could meet some Moroccans our own age (Rim is a university student in Rabat, like us) . . .

Upon seeing my friends and I walking around in the rain, a woman rushed out of her shop selling wood crafts and dragged us indoors. She pulled a large plastic tarp from a back room, cut it into five equal pieces, and made a hole in the middle of each — homemade ponchos for us all! She gave us tea, saying we reminded us of her daughter, and sent us on our way . . .

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These are just three examples of the Moroccan values of hospitality, friendship, and family that the people here seem to really exemplify in their day to day life. I feel very lucky to be studying in such a welcoming, friendly country, and want everyone reading my blog to know that these outward acts of kindness are just one of many things that makes Morocco so special!

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Filed under 2017, Arabic, Beauty, Cultural Feature, Education Abroad, Food, Host Family, Introduction, Morocco, Music, Photography, Sofia Deak

Unexpected Surprises – Summer Intensive Arabic Program in Oman

In our Summer 2014 Intensive Arabic Program, scholarship winner, Taylor Mosely, had an amazing experience.  Taylor, a student from Vassar University, found that she not only improved her Arabic language skills significantly, but also learned a great deal about the region and Omani culture in general.  She outlines the highlights of her experience on our program in her end of semester essay.  All photo credit goes to Taylor Mosely.

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Before I made my journey to Muscat, Oman in the summer of 2014, I sat down and contemplated the reasons why I wanted to study Arabic. I came to the conclusion that my home institution, Vassar College, has indeed opened my mind and given me the tools to constructively think about the society I live in. I believed, however, that there was so much more for me to learn that could not be taught on campus. I realized that as an International Studies major, it was imperative that I study abroad. I was highly interested in learning the Arabic language outside of the United States because it would expose me to a whole new world. I was also excited to get an intimate view of culture outside of my own. For me, the possibility of studying Arabic in a foreign country was energizing because I deeply wanted to become familiar with the Middle Eastern region on a personal level. All things considered, I thought that studying abroad would expand my personal horizons, strengthen my language skills and deepen my understanding of the Arab history and culture.

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Filed under Adventure, Arabic, Oman, Photography

(Sixty) Arabian Nights – An Look into the Beauty of Oman

Emmett Potts, an AMIDEAST scholarship winner, studied with the Intensive Arabic program in Oman over the summer of 2014.  In his end of term scholarship essay, he reflects about some highlights from his time in Oman.  All photo credit goes to Emmett Potts.

Sunset over Mutrah

On the night of June 12th, I was about to land at Muscat International Airport on Gulf Air Flight 566 from Bahrain.  Although the past day of travel was not much more than a blur, a blend of unsettled thoughts and diffuse excitement enveloped my mind as I looked down from my window at the scarcely outlined coast of the Persian Gulf.  Did I bring everything the packing list recommended? Would I adjust to life in this new environment smoothly? Would I be able to communicate efficiently?  Trying to maintain a façade of composure, I discreetly tried to review my Arabic vocabulary words, although in reality my behavior was probably more frantic than I realized.

The man sitting next to me on my flight, an Omani citizen, apparently noticed my internal tension and offered me a drink of his water.  Without thought, I immediately responded (in Arabic) with “No, no thank you,” just as I was taught by my Arabic language professor in the United States; it was the proper, culturally sensitive response. I was, however, offered the water again by the man next to me: “My friend, please have a drink. I insist. It is good for you.” I relented, and with quivering hands graciously drank the water he had poured into my flimsy plastic cup. “Welcome to Oman, my friend,” he said, as the orange lights from coastal Muscat came into view below.

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Filed under Arab Friends, Arabic, Oman, Politics

The Perfect Portrait of Ancient Meeting Modern – Jordan in Photos

Lawrence Sinkewich, a student from the University of Cincinnati, studied with AMIDEAST/Jordan during the Summer of 2014.  This photo blog highlights some of Jordan’s most beautiful sites.

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Photo #1: Roman Citadel ruins in downtown Amman.

The first few days in a new country can be quite overwhelming with all of the surrounding amazement and unfamiliarity. A new culture, lifestyle, and friends all at once are what awaited me upon arrival in Jordan. After the first day of class, Amideast took all of us on an excellent tour of Amman, the capitol city of Jordan. At the very heart of the city stands a testament to humanity’s past: a temple to Hercules and a citadel built by the Roman Empire. Atop the hill, one can see the perfect portrait of ancient meeting modern that is Amman. From the powerful roman amphitheater and Umayyad Mosque to the wide avenues of bustling traffic and trendy shopping malls, Amman features a beautiful display of the many eras in time.

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Jordan in Photos – Intensive Arabic, Summer 2014

Keren Saidac, a student from the University of Wisconsin, studied with AMIDEAST/Jordan during the Summer of 2014.  At the end of her program she took the time to reflect on her experiences through pictures.

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The Little Things

 

Standing on top of the highest peak of Ajloun Castle provides one of the most unbelievable views of Jordan’s many wonders. Just taking a few moments to observe and absorb it is really something magical. 

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Filed under Adventure, Arabic, Jordan, Photography

Adventures in the Souq – Morocco

A final essay from our scholarship winner, Isaiah DuPree, an International Relations Major and Arabic Minor at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  Isaiah studied with AMIDEAST in Morocco during the 2013-2014 academic year.  In this essay, he describes adventures in the Moroccan marketplace, locally known as the souq.

In Morocco, the main souqs are usually located in the medina, or the center of the city. I try to visit the souq in Rabat at least once a week if not more. It is the epitome of organized chaos, people heading in every direction possible, men and women yelling out the prices of their goods, incense burning, fruit shops, tannery’s, the souq is truly an experience.

 

Last Friday I found myself walking through the souq looking for fermented lemons a friend of mine wanted in Madrid. At first, as usual when I am looking for something in the souq, I couldn’t find them. I never get discouraged though, failing to find what I’m looking for represents the opportunity to explore and look simultaneously, a way to get what you need and make friends along the way.

 

During my escapades, I stumbled upon a spice/herbs shop that was possibly the biggest I had seen in the souq. Believing they may have what I’m looking for, I stopped to talk to the young man at the cash register. After he brought me everything lemon related besides what I was looking for, we laughed, and began to talk.

 

At this point most of his family and friends had gathered around the cash register, curious about the foreigner who had came in questioning in broken French and Darija. After I convinced them I wasn’t a WWE wrestler, the young man at the cash register, whose name was Anas, wanted to show me the chameleons he had collected and wanted to sell.

 

At first he and his family thought I would be intimidated by the small lizards, but after owning two snakes there aren’t many reptiles I can’t handle.    

 

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Filed under Adventure, Arab Friends, Arabic, Morocco

Fried Chicken Brings Families Together – Morocco

Another essay from our scholarship winner, Isaiah DuPree, an International Relations Major and Arabic Minor at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  Isaiah studied with AMIDEAST in Morocco during the 2013-2014 academic year.  In this essay, he reflects on a special meal with his host family.

Last week was host family appreciation week. During this week we can give tokens of our appreciation to our host parents or play an American game with our host families. We can do anything that both demonstrates our gratitude for what they do, as well as creates a basis of intercultural dialogue. After bringing them cantaloupe and dates from the souq, I decided it was time to take it to the next level. I would bring a piece of my kitchen, to theirs.

 

When I first asked if I could cook dinner, Hajja (what I call my host mom) gave me a hesitant look, which I took as an opportunity to explain to her that I know how to cook and am often required to when I am at home in the states. After Hajja laughed at my eagerness and agreed to let me use the stove, I was on my way to buy my ingredients…

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Filed under Arab Friends, Arabic, Food, Morocco