Sunny and Warm: Study Abroad in Morocco Part 1

Sophomore Del Jacobs, one of several Parkland students immersing themselves in Arabic culture during a three-week trip to Morocco this month, shares her Week One adventures below. This opportunity came about due to a three-year federal grant Parkland has obtained to boost foreign-language study. In year one of the grant (AY 2015), students taking Portuguese classes were able to study abroad in Brazil last summer.


May 16
We arrived in Tangier by ferry in the afternoon. The weather is similar to Southern California, warm (about 77 degrees) and dry with a slight wind. We transferred by bus to the American School of Tangier, where we were met by our host families.

May 18
Our host family consists of the father Saad, mother Nisrin, oldest daughter Lina, youngest daughter Ritaje, and two-year-old son Islam. They are a happy family, and Nisrin is a very pleasant woman. She has been making us traditional meals and they are really tasty.

stairwell - MoroccoThey live in a four-story house. The first floor is a combination garage and den. The second floor is where our family lives; another related family lives on the third floor,  and they rent the fourth floor to a single woman. The two families leave their doors open and run between the two homes.

This picture is the staircase leading from the front door to the second floor home. As you can see, it’s lined with beautiful tile. There is no air conditioning, but the house is cool to cold, and you forget how hot it is outside.

May 20
This is my new djalaba and head scarf. The djalaba is basically a coat that the women wear when they go outside. It slips over your clothing; if it has a zipper, it’s not authentic. The djalaba comes in a rainbow of colors and designs. It can be embroidered in many different patterns, and it may or may not have crystals. It comes in various weights suitable for any time of year.

My djalaba and scarf
My djalaba and scarf

May 21
Today all the girls went to the local hammam. A hammam is a spa-like experience.

Doors to the hammam.
Doors to the hammam.

Everybody sits in the sauna for 10 minutes. Instead of sitting on wood, you sit on marble. It’s very hot. Then the woman comes in and rubs a form of henna all over your body. Off to the next room; you lie down on a heated marble table and they scrub your whole body until you’re raw. You move over to a stool and they rinse you off and wash your hair. Then, back on the table, they cover you in a light mud and give you a massage. They rinse you off again, you get dressed and then get your hair blow dried.

The whole process is wonderful. I feel clean and soft and all for $10. Moroccan women go to the hammam once a week.

Henna tattoos
Henna tattoos in Morocco.

Henna is best applied after you have been to the hammam. Our host mother arranged for a professional henna artist to come to the home and tattoo all five women on our trip.

The artist applied the henna with a syringe and the process took about 30 minutes. We all had both hands and one foot done. After the henna has been applied and dried for about a half hour, the tattoo is dabbed with a mixture of sugar and tea. It takes about an hour for the henna to dry and set. The longer you let the henna stay on your skin, the darker the stain. Typically it’s best to wait three hours.




***For the upcoming academic year (2016-2017), Parkland’s foreign-language grant program focuses on learning Chinese, with an opportunity to visit the country of Taiwan in summer 2017. Study abroad scholarships will be offered for this country, too, for degree-seeking students finishing the language course. For more information, give me a call!

Jody Littleton
Associate Professor, Communication
Study Abroad Coordinator
Parkland College

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