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 Three 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.
This morning we went to the Majorelle Garden, a moorish villa and garden built by Jacques Majorelle in 1931. The garden has 1,800 species of cactus; some look like aliens. The house and grounds were bought by Yves Saint-Laurent. Saint-Laurent collected Berber crafts and household items while he lived in Marrakech. The small studio pictured has been converted into a Berber museum. The Berbers are Moroccan mountain people, some think of European decent, who specialized in crafts such as rugs, jewelry, and clothing.
This afternoon we visiterd the Saadian Tombs built between 1578-1603. They were discovered in 1917 and restored by the Beaux-arts service. There are 60 members of the Saadi dynasty interned there. The wood carving and stucco work is amazing.
We also visited the Bahia Palace, which is located on the northern edge of the medina in the Jewish quarter. Built between 1859-1873, this is an enormous palace covering 8 hectares. There was no plan; each part of the palace is very different because it was built section by section by artisans from all over Africa. They used several materials including Carrera marble, glazed terra cotta tiles, blue and yellow ceramic screens, and painted cedar.
We traveled by bus from Marrakech to Fez and made a stop in Volubilis.
Volubilis is a partially excavated Berber/Roman city located between Meknas and Fez. It was founded in the 3rd century B.C. and is a UNESCO world heritage site. This was the most western part of Africa conquered by the Romans. You can see a family of storks on top of a pilar, the aqueduct, the victory arch, and a mosaic.
This was the most interesting stop we’ve made so far. The country side is one of the most fertile agricultural areas in Morocco. In this part of Morocco some farmers use modern farming equipment. They grow olives, corn, wheat, grapes, sunflowers and pumpkins. They also raise sheep and use donkeys for transportation. This is a very pretty part of Morocco with gently rolling hills and cypress trees.
Today we toured Fez. The first picture shows the medina, which is the largest in the world. It has 10 miles of walls, 11 gates, 275 mosques, 400,000 people live there and 80,000 stores.
The gate is called Bab el-Semarine, Gate of the Ferriers, also known as the blue gate. The entrance leads to the food section of the medina.
The building shown is the Gregorian Mederssa Attarine dormitory for the nearby ancient university built in 1325.
I had a delicious lamb tagine for lunch. The rest of our day was spent visiting the leather, weaving, and pottery section of the medina. Fez is the most authentically preserved medina in Morocco. It’s certainly the most interesting, I really enjoyed watching all the artisans at work.
We were invited to the Embassy by the public affairs section. There are no pictures of the Embassy due to security issues. Embassies report to the U. S. State Department and employees work for the foreign service.
The Embassy just moved into a new building about a year and a half ago; there is a family of storks living just outside the walls. It’s a beautiful building and has been certified LEED gold. The building was constructed by local contractors to a certain stage, then certified cleared contractors take over. Certain construction jobs must be completed by US citizens. The walls, doors, and glass are extra thick, it takes muscle to open the doors. There is tight security, we could only enter with our passports, no bags or cell phones.
Working for the foreign service sounds like a lot of fun, but you have to like change. Employees must continually work their way up the ladder and must tenure in 5 years or they are out. Posts last 2-3 years and employees are expected to be interested enough to do their own research on the next country they will work in. Employees can and should transfer between sections; some of the sections are management, political, and economic. It’s hard on spouses because if they want to work they must find it on their own or telecommute. The State Department provides housing based on family needs such as size or pets. If you pay 50% of parents’ expenses, they can live with you. An employee should be outgoing, work well with others (teamwork is essential), and be able to network with known and unknown people.
We listened to three employees about their experiences in the foreign service. Although we didn’t get a tour of the building it was certainly an interesting day and an honor to be invited. Our picture will be on the U S Embassy Rabat Facebook page.
We have reached the end of our trip. I loved everything about Morocco.
The food was outstanding. There was only one thing I didn’t like, a dessert that was made with 14 spices, almonds, and raisins typically served by the Berbers.
The people were really nice; they are just like us in their private lives. The women do cover up in public, but I noticed that the younger generation seems to be modernizing; they wear western clothes. Some wear scarves, but a lot don’t. I never felt uncomfortable while walking, but I was always with someone after dark.
Morocco is an inexpensive country to visit. One US dollar equals ten Dirhams. You get the best deals on leather, pottery, and woven goods. The only difficulty I can see is transportation. To get from city to city, you must have a car. Morocco is putting in a high-speed rail system, but it won’t be completed for several years.
I recommend this country for anyone who is looking for a non-western cultural experience. There is so much to see and do, I think you should plan to stay at least 10 days.
***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!
Associate Professor, Communication
Study Abroad Coordinator