“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!


Heavy Metal Jordan

Adam Lucente, a junior at The George Washington University, studied with AMIDEAST for the first session of summer 2011 Intensive Arabic in Amman, Jordan. In this submission, he desribes his Jordanian friends’ taste in music, focusing on the metal genre. Enjoy!

Heavy metal is not the most popular genre of music in the states, so I didn’t exactly expect to find a plethora of “metalheads”, as us fans of the genre are called, in Jordan.  I had read about metal groups in the Middle East, and there is actually a book on the topic (Heavy Metal Islam by Mark Levine), but most of the bands I read about hailed from the more western countries of Israel and Turkey.  I was thus pleasantly surprised to find a group of guys in Jordan who shared my love for this often overlooked genre of music. 

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Arabic Music Favorites! (OSA Blog Post)

Lauren Kardos from George Washington University went to Egypt with AMIDEAST for the Spring 2011 semester.  After the revolution she relocated to Jordan where she continued her studes through the end of the summer.  Enjoy this sample of one Middle Eastern singer, Nancy Ajram, and her entertaining music video.

When stores and taxis in Egypt and Jordan are not playing old 90’s music, Whitney Houston, or Celine Dion, I get to hear some of my favorite new Arabic songs! Some of the most famous singers come out of Egypt and Lebanon and include Tamer Hosni, Amr Diab, Nancy Ajram, and Haifa Wahbe. While I’m also in love with the classic singers such as Um Kalthoum and Abdul Haleem, these newer artists in the Middle East have such catchy, fun songs.

Continue reading Arabic Music Favorites! (OSA Blog Post)