Immersing Myself in Morocco's Exquisite Culture
By Danielle Villareal
It was my junior year of high school and I was studying my third year of Arabic. It was during this time when my Arabic teacher, Mr. Zaidi, informed the class of an opportunity in which we could travel to Morocco, his home country, to expand our knowledge on the language and witness for ourselves the Arabic culture in action. He selected me, along with nine other students, to participate in this trip and of course I agreed to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. At 17 years old, I would be traveling from the United States to Africa; an educational adventure I would never forget.
When we first arrived in Casablanca, the architecture of Morocco immediately captured my attention. We visited the Hassan II Mosque, an extravagant structure with such precise details. I remember talking to my friend Kimberly about the beautiful features of the mosque and the amount of dedication that had to be put into its construction. I have never seen anything more beautiful than the architecture in Morocco. In every city we traveled to, I was mesmerized by the structures and vibrancy of the communities.
I also found myself trying numerous new things in Morocco, such as traditional Moroccan cuisines and bargaining in souqs. My favorite dish that I tried in Morocco was the lemon chicken tagine made by my teacher’s family. It was such an amazing experience visiting my teacher’s family and sharing a traditional meal in a typical Moroccan household. I was extremely grateful for their hospitality and they treated all of us as if we were a part of their family. The love and respect that they demonstrated to strangers serves as one of the many examples of Moroccan generosity. We all became a family, engaging in dee conversations and sharing laughs while drinking the most amazing mint tea. To me, it was a second home that I hold close to my heart and constantly reminisce about.
We were also given the opportunity to bargain in the souqs, which are traditional marketplaces. At first, I was nervous because I was unsure if I would be able to communicate well as I sometimes mispronounced words. Additionally, I had never bargained for a lower price on items in my life. However, my teachers and ImprintEd Abroad program leaders, Hajare and Bilal, always stood by my side and guided me when I needed assistance. With their help, I was able to effectively bargain in Arabic!
Immersing myself in the Moroccan culture is an experience I would never forget. I gained knowledge on a society and culture that I previously had little knowledge about. Through this trip, I was able to learn more about the diversity that exists among us. This trip also allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and interact with a new group of people. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity, for it is one that encouraged me to continue strengthening my Arabic. I was further inspired to learn more about the different cultures that exist all around us and educate others about Moroccan culture, for many hold negative attitudes towards the cultures of the Arab World. I believe that my experience in Morocco will help me challenge these stereotypes and show others how beautiful Moroccan culture is. Thank you to Mr. Zaidi, ImprintEd Abroad, and Qatar Foundation International for making it possible for Bell High School to go on this educational adventure and eye opening experience! Hopefully I can see the beautiful country of Morocco again soon.