Hi! Or, As salamu alaykum as we would say here in the magical land of Morocco. As salamu alaykum means “peace” and is the way locals greet each other. It’s equal to saying “Hi”, as we do in the United States.
This spring we will have a wonderful adventure in Morocco, which is located in the continent of Africa. In fact, the word “Morocco” means “The Western Kingdom” because it is the most western of the North African nations. It is also a very old country. Our journeys will include exciting cities and visits to souks, which are busy marketplaces with spices, pointy-tipped shoes and colorful lamps for sale. We will also explore ancient palaces and see exotic animals like camels. Are you excited? I certainly am.
I had been preparing for my journey for many months. Then the exciting time finally came. I’ve been here for one month already. My journey to Morocco started right where you are now, New York City. It was a long journey. The airplane took me on a seven-hour trip to Madrid, the capital of Spain. After waiting for two hours, I took another flight to Casablanca, Morocco. This is a very important and famous city. It is where our adventure really begins.
As the plane was about to land, I looked out of my window. It was a bright, sunny day. The first image I saw was palm trees. That’s what I always remember! I didn’t know what was in store for me. I was also nervous because I did not know any of the local languages. The local people, or Moroccans, are talented. They are excellent polyglots. This means that they speak many langauages. Many Moroccans speak French, Arabic and Berber.
I got out of the plane and got my luggage. I exchanged my United States dollars for the Moroccan dirham. This is the name of the local money. My two friends and I got a train. We were tired and needed food. A man on the train pushed a trolley with snacks and drinks, and we bought some. The train passed through many other exciting places, including Morocco’s capital city, Rabat.
As we traveled, the country’s landscape rushed by our windows. There were more palm trees, bustling little taxis, green countrysides and clay buildings. I saw kids returning from school or playing with their toy tires on the streets. Then the train arrived in Fes. We struggled with our heavy luggage and hopped off onto the platform. My university’s van picked us up and we drove for over an hour. My other schoolmates told stories and we laughed. We also looked at the many stores outside our bus window.
Suddenly, the view changed. We drove onto a lonely road and started driving upwards. We were driving towards the High Atlas mountains. These are famous mountains in Northern Africa. The crimson sunset was disappearing and it was becoming dark. My stomach growled. I was very hungry. However, I was enjoying the drive and the scenes. We drove round and round the mountain and saw little rock signs. These told us how far we had to go. I wondered if my hand could reach a snack at the bottom of my bag. I didn’t know which bag it was in, though!
Finally, we arrived at our destination, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. It is the only English-speaking university in Morocco and is quite popular. It is at the very top of the mountains. That night the weather was cold. Some of the snow from the previous day was still thawing out. I finally ate dinner. I had French fries and chicken nuggets. I then dreamed of a warm bath, but had to settle for cold water instead. Brrrrrr! Later, I went to sleep and dreamed of this new land.
Morocco is famous for a mix of African, European and Middle Eastern cultures. I was ready to see more! I’m studying Islamic Civilization and its art and architecture.
I am learning the basics, such as what the government is like here. Did you know that Morocco has a king? His name is King Mohammed VI. He inherited the position from his father, and one day his son will become king. The king’s father started my university, so the current king visits here on special occassions. King Muhammed VI’s son is almost ten years old. He travels with his dad around the country to learn how to be a king. Moroccans love their country and their king. His pictures are everywhere.
I’m also learning that Islam plays a very important role in Moroccan life. There are almost 33 million people living here. Almost all Moroccans idenitfy as Muslims and follow the religion called Islam. This means that they believe in one God named Allah and that his final Prophet was Muhammed. The Prophet is believed to have revealed the Holy Book called the Quran or Koran to Muslims. When a Muslim says the Prophet’s name, they always then say “Peace be upon him.” This is true for Muslims around the world, not just in Morocco. The religion is seen in other areas of Moroccan daily life. My roommate prays five times a day in the direction of Mecca. (This is a city in the country Saudia Arabia that is holy to Muslims.) Moroccans also do not eat pork because it is forbidden in their religion.
I grew up in Guyana. Can you find that on a map? Morocco reminds me of Guyana in many ways. The food is yummy, there are many Muslims there, and there are palm trees, hot weather and forests. I have started to miss Guyana a little bit. I don’t miss the U.S. as much! I’m sure my family misses me, though!