We finally arrived in Meknes and got the keys to our apartments. My apartment is known as “Azhar” who I believe used to be a king…. but regardless, the apartment was definitely an upgrade from the dorms back home. The apartment consisted of three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and two showers. There was no a/c but the breeze throughout the day helped make the place nice and cool; the apartment also had a kitchen with a fridge stocked with food. On top of all of the excellent accommodations was that we had A MAID!!! The maid comes to our apartment everyday (except Sunday) to cook and clean. I was really shocked when I first heard that we had a maid and it’s a really nice to have.
Classes started on that Thursday with Arabic at eleven. I realized that the scheduling would be a bit of a problem considering each class goes for about three hours and having a three hour session right after another really drains the brain. But, overall the classes I’m taking are very enjoyable and educational. I have Arabic four times a week, which I think will help me a lot with my overall Arabic skills, two political science classes in the Geostrategic Importance of Morocco and Islamic Society and Politics, and French. I decided to take French due to the amount of French that is used in Morocco. I knew that Morocco was influenced by France, but I didn’t know the amount of French that is used on a daily basis and since I’m white everyone assumes I know French, which I don’t blame them. Islamic Society and Politics is also a very interesting class. The professor is very educated and knows his stuff (although quite opinionated on some topics). During our second session in that class, the professor took us to the medina and explained why the medina is constructed the way it is and how the medina plays a role in a Moroccan society, both socially and religiously. My Arabic professor is very excitable; when he wants to get a point across he lifts up his voice and does some sort of interpretive dance. Fun enough though, it works and I have to say that after a few classes I’ve learned so much from my Arabic professor.
Overall Meknes is a small (not village small but in the comparison of NY city and Miami, Meknes is Miami) relatively conservative city. However it’s not so conservative that people can’t go out and experience the city’s night life. There are plenty of cafés, bars, and lounges where the Moroccan youth and westerners can go. To really know the city you have to do a little bit of exploring, get lost a couple of times, and make a fool out of yourself, not in a bad way but just don’t worry about making mistakes out in public, after all I am a foreigner. You learn to do what the Moroccans do and try to be as polite as possible when encountering a local. It really amazes me how skewed the American perception of the Islamic world is and how entities like the media and education fuel that ignorance. If America is ever going to better its image in the Islamic world, it has to understand the religion and understand the culture.
Anyways, I think I’m going to enjoy my stay here in Morocco and am proud to say that Morocco is my second home.