You thought I wouldn’t write another post, didn’t you? It’s okay, I thought that, too.
I’ve been in Tangier for more than a week now and I’m still not quite sure what’s going on, but that’s actually no different than my life in America so I can’t be too frustrated about that. Allow me to provide a brief summary of my exploits so far.
The program has placed me and another student with a Moroccan host family consisting of a 22-year-old named Neda and her mother, Houria. Sometimes Neda’s older sister will bring her three children to our apartment. I particularly enjoy spending time with the 5-year-old Aymran, whose favorite activities include dancing, spitting, and making up fake Arabic words in order to trick me. He’s a real angel.
I took a placement test to measure my Arabic fluency, and I proved that I do, in fact, possess some competence in this language. Each class consists of 3 hours of Modern Standard Arabic and 1 hour of Moroccan Arabic. We had to take a language pledge vowing not to speak English on our school’s grounds, on group trips, or with our host families. Honestly, I do slip into English sometimes, but I am trying to be better. Additionally, each week we’re supposed to spend 3 hours with a Moroccan student who is our “language partner.” Two other students and I are in a group with a girl name Yusra, who is going to show us around the city and attempt to improve our speaking skills. God knows I need it.
We also had the chance to celebrate Ramadan with our host families for about a week. During Ramadan, Muslims don’t eat or drink water during the day, so my roommate and I would eat breakfast alone in the mornings, and at sundown we would join our family for iftar, the meal where Muslims break their daily fast. Iftar consists of a lot of traditional foods that aren’t really eaten during the rest of the year, so it’s especially cool to be in Tangier during Ramadan. This weekend we experienced the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr—the feast of the breaking of the fast—which meant that our host family went to the mosque before visiting all their family members. The day consisted of a lot of meeting family, drinking uber-sweet Moroccan mint tea, and eating various traditional sweets. I’ll probably get a thousand cavities, but I did it for the culture.
Tangier is an interesting city. I’m not sure how much I enjoy it because I haven’t gotten to explore as much as I’d like, but Tangier seems like a decent place so far. It’s a sprawling, metropolitan city, and there are areas that seem exorbitantly wealthy, but that luxury isn’t spread very equally. So far I’ve visited al-medina al-qadima (the old city), which is a walled area that has stood for centuries, and still houses many Tangierians today. We also went to a traditional souk, or market, to buy close for Eid. I’m a big fan of Moroccan markets because you can barter, which is fun, and you can buy pretty much anything. When I was in Rabat two years ago I saw people selling food, clothes, DVDs, passports, falcons, fresh-caught sharks; pretty much everything the average person could possibly want. My experience in this Tangier souk wasn’t bad, except that I spent too long standing in front of what I thought was a mannequin, but was actually a Moroccan woman that shouldn’t have been standing so still. This particular surprise may have taken several years off my life.
Later in the week, I joined my friends for a trip to the Cave of Heracles, just outside of Tangier. According to legend, Hercules slept in the cave before completing his 11th labor. I didn’t see him there, but the mouth of the cave is sort of shaped like Africa, which is dope enough for me to include a picture here.
That’s pretty much the gist of my journey in Tangier so far. I’m sorry I can’t provide any truly useful travel tips or introspective commentary on the city, but insha’allah (God willing) I’ll stick to this blog and tell you something worth knowing.