My experience studying and living in Rabat, Morocco
As part of my stay at the Netherlands Institute in Morocco (NIMAR) I get the beautiful opportunity to live in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Morocco, namely the Kasbah des Oudaias. It is located nearby the Bouregreg river and the adjacent city Salé. It was built during the 12th century by the Almohad dynasty in order to protect the Caliphate from hostile outsiders during the 12th century, most prominently the Berghouata berber tribe.
… Upon entering the site one can only imagine the rich history saturating its narrow, blue-painted corridors…
Enjoying my new view
During the often warm and sunny days tourists roam around looking for the most scenic view, taking photos in front of old wooden doors with traditional decor. I like to sit on my terrace and watch the spectacle from above, not least because my research at the NIMAR is focused on the social order in the Kasbah des Oudaias. I watch while outsiders mingle with residents leading to a surging cultural exchange between people of various social backgrounds, nationalities, economic statuses, ages, and more. For me, it is both a place of pure relaxation as well as a stimulus for observing daily life in Morocco.
I had many questions leading up to this stay abroad, and despite my extensive travels to Arab countries I was slightly anxious about living there. Would I be overwhelmed by the myriad cultural inputs that awaited me? How would locals welcome me into their communities? Would I be able to balance my ambitions to study well and still find time to travel and socialize? How much to pay for a taxi ride, a train ticket to Marrakech, a bicycle (...the list is long)? And on perhaps less significant matters, would there be a bakery that could cater to my spoiled sense of taste for German bread?
Adjusting to the new life
Having lived here for two months, and having finished my first part of the semester at the NIMAR, I am starting to find answers to these questions. Yes, I was (unsurprisingly) overwhelmed at first. No matter how well you think you are prepared, you will ultimately find yourself caught in a seemingly endless flood of new impressions. The NIMAR pre-departure orientation certainly helped to weaken the current of this flood, as did the group of students with whom I shared a similar experience. And sooner than later, I started to even feel a bit at home. I now know that a taxi from my home to NIMAR (in case I’m too lazy to take the bicycle) costs around 10 dirham. I know that on Mondays is a popular live jam session at La Renaissance (a place you will definitely visit in case you opt for studying in Rabat). I have made numerous Moroccan friends who welcomed me with open arms into their culture, activities and homes. I have three favorite spots for drinking mint juice, Panache, and sugar cane juice, respectively. And yes, I have even found a bakery that sells tasty bread (Himmi at 34, Avenue Laalou, to be precise). And most importantly, I have found a new passion of mine: surfing! Every other day I would go to the beach, which takes me roughly three minutes from my home in the Oudayas, and then set out to ride the waves both small and lately even big.
In short, going to the NIMAR has so far been a lively mix of studying in an academically stimulating environment, exploring cultural attributes home to Moroccan society, and making friends that inspire me to go beyond routines in order to seek out the unfamiliar in this vibrant country. And with that in mind, I am really thankful I have another two months left to feed my curiosity about what else this place as well as the NIMAR, have to offer.