“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!


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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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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Party Time!

Ryan Anderson, a student at American University in Washington, DC,  is a participant in AMIDEAST’s Area & Arabic Language Studies program in Rabat, Morocco during the Fall 2012 semester. In this post, she describes the mock Moroccan wedding event held by AMIDEAST and reflects on her host family.

So Tuesday was the mock wedding, and our happy couple was elected to be Tom and Elena. It really could not have been a better pairing- both of them not only look good in pictures, but they both have a great sense of humor and chemistry that made the wedding go off with really high spirits. Which was just what everyone needed, since a lot of us had been having bad days. (Namely, me and Jessa. The Wedding cheered us right up!)

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“Cuisine at the Crossroads”

Benjamin Delikat, a junior at Fordham University, is currently participating in both session 1 and 2 of AMIDEAST’s Intensive Arabic Program in Amman, Jordan. Originally posted on Benjamin’s blog on June 27, 2012, he discusses some of his favorite aspects of food culture in Jordan. Enjoy!

Mealtime here is something I look forward to every day.  You never quite know what’s coming so its always a surprise, but so far I haven’t tasted a dish I didn’t like.


Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner are the three main meals of the day.  Like Spain and several other European countries Lunch is the largest and most elaborate, usually eaten between 1pm-4pm with the family coming home from work to share some time together.  I am in class until 2pm and usually hit the gym right afterwards unless I’m doing homework, so except for weekends I typically miss eating lunch with my host family.  All of the food has been excellent (many thanks to my host family, the Zreiqats, and their skillful command of the kitchen), and some highlights from the last two weeks include lamb with rice and yogurt, cabbage, zucchini, and eggplant stuffed with rice, meat, and chick peas, asian-style pasta with vegetables, and grilled chicken with basmati rice.

While reaching across the table to grab a cucumber or dip your pita is completely acceptable, its polite to do so with the right hand rather than the left.

Continue reading “Cuisine at the Crossroads”