I’m writing this on the plane from Toronto to Vancouver which is, obviously, our last flight. First we flew from Rabat to Paris, then had a very long and delayed flight from Paris to Toronto. So I’ve had about ten hours to write this blog post, but I’ve been putting it off like crazy because I’m not ready to admit that the trip is over! But Westjet’s TV’s aren’t working, so there’s not much else to do but write.
Our last day was incredible. We slept in until ten, which was the latest sleep in we got all trip! I was so exhausted from our Sahara trip and I literally fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow. Somehow I snuck in a much needed shower before passing out, and the stone cold freezing water that I was complaining about earlier felt pretty good after the heat in the desert!
So we woke up and packed a little bit while the Medina started waking up. Our first stop of the day was a quick trip to McDonalds because it’s about the only place that offers wifi in the day during Ramadan, and Mom wanted to let everyone know that we survived the desert. After that, we dropped some stuff back to the house and headed out to the souq for some last minute errands (mostly gifts for people – you’re welcome). I guess Sunday is the day that locals do their shopping, so the main souq streets were crazy! The Rabat medina is so interesting because there’s so few tourists, so we were definitely the minority, and almost everything being sold is stuff that the locals buy, rather than just tacky tourist things. It’s going to be hard to come home and pay full price for things with no discussion! I’ve gotten pretty good at the whole bartering thing! Competing with the locals did prove quite challenging, though! They have much better stamina than us, especially without drinking water! I found out that in Rabat it’s actually illegal to drink or eat in public during Ramadan, not just frowned upon, so it’s a good thing we’ve been so careful about it!
We also went to the grocery store one last time to pick up a few things. We were trying to find the best Moroccan tea to bring home and a woman who spoke English started helping us. We started talking, and turns out she’s from Canada too and recently moved to Rabat! She was really nice and she gave me her card so that I can contact her if I come back to study Arabic next year! So that was really nice!
We didn’t have Tajine at dinner, which was incredibly disappointing, but it was still delicious. There was a lot of the usual stuff, and then something that was almost like cold Tajine, so it was really good. Warning: my table manners are going to be absolutely terrifying when I get home after using bread as a utensil and a table as my plate. I think Moroccans have the whole eating thing down way better than we do in North America. It’s so much more fun cramming as many people as you can around a little table and just going for it. And then there’s less dishes to do after!
At dinner we met two guys from a high school in Maryland who are also staying with our host family, but only for a couple days. They seemed a bit overwhelmed with everything, and were very relieved to have someone to talk to in English. Abdulmajid was pretty happy to have me there too, I think, because I spent most of the night translating from French to English for them!
After dinner Abdulmajid took Mom and me into the little kitchen to teach us how to make Moroccan tea. It’s quite the process! I don’t remember exactly, but you start by boiling water and then you pour some into the teapot with green tea. You pour one cup of the green tea and then pour the rest into the sink to clean the tea. I think you clean it twice. And then there’s a bunch of in between steps that I’m hoping I can find online! What I do remember is the absolutely terrifying amount of sugar he put in the tea. The teapot isn’t that big, and he put the equivalent of about thirty sugar cubes in it! It’s a very good thing we didn’t find that out until the end! The most important part is at the end. You put four different kinds of mint into the teapot and fill it up with the boiling water, and then you put the actual teapot right on the stove and sort of cool the mint leaves in with the water. Finally it’s ready, but you have to pour a few cups and put them back in the teapot a couple times to mix up the sugar and to make the tea stronger. It’s a long process, but man, it’s good.
Once he got back from the Mosque, Abdulmajid took us out for our last night in Rabat! The new guys came along too, and we wandered around up Mohammed V avenue and around the Nouvelle Ville. We said that we don’t want to leave, so he said he was going to call the Canadian ambassador and ask him to let us stay. Eventually we sat down at a little cafe and got tea and coffee. We sat there for at least two hours, and had the most interesting conversation! I was translating back and forth for everyone, so that was fun! One of the new guys wanted to to ask Abdulmajid about the king. We were advised not to talk about politics, but I asked anyways and I’m so happy I did because it was such an interesting conversation! He is very passionate about the king, like a lot of Moroccans. He said that when the king was young he used to go to the beach and just hang out with everyone so people feel like they know him and he is very much a “King of the people”. He’s only 40 years old, and Moroccans love having such a young king. I guess he goes around and interacts with the locals a lot. Everyday during Ramadan he goes up and speaks with people and helps them out. When people meet him they can give him their national ID and then the king gives it to someone who finds the person a job. It’s interesting, though, because everyone is very passionate about him, but I don’t think you’re allowed to openly dislike the King. Abdulmajid said that when the Arab Spring hit Morocco, all the protests that happened were centered around specific issues, rather than against the King.
Abdulmajid also wanted to hear about the Sahara! I told him that a man said that I was worth more than 500 camels for marriage, which created quite the reaction. Abdulmajid said that if I’m going to marry a Moroccan it will have to be his son Mehdi. He had mentioned before that Mehdi is a judo champion, but I didn’t really understand exactly what he meant. Turns out, we’ve been living with the judo champion of all of Africa and all the Arab States! So that’s pretty cool! Abdulmajid was quite adamant that I have to marry his son. I don’t know about that, but after seeing the crazy wedding chairs they make in Morocco to carry the bride down the aisle, it is a lot more tempting! They have these white seat things decorated in lace and diamonds and everything you can imagine, and the brides get carried in by four men! So clearly Moroccans are doing wedding right too.
On the way back to the house, Abdulmajid helped Mom buy a tray for her teapot and teacups, and then bought us this giant bouquet of four different types of mint to take home with us! Packing it was quite the adventure, but we’re so happy to have it!
When we got back to the house we had to say goodbye to everyone, which was so sad! Abdulmajid made Mehdi take out all of his judo medals to show me, and informed everyone that we’re getting married! The medals were pretty impressive! He just keeps all these crazy prestigious gold medals in a little shoebox in a cupboard! I think it’s pretty cool though that he’s the Judo champion of Africa and of the Arab states like every year and he then comes back to their little house in the Medina and sleeps on the couch with all his siblings. That’s what’s so cool about Morocco!
We got a few pictures with everyone, and I got a few names for Facebook
which was exciting, and then we had to say goodbye. We got hugs and kisses and thanked everyone so much for everything. It was so so so sad! Eventually we had to actually leave to pack a few last minute things, and then get a couple hours of sleep before our flight!
The hardest part was saying goodbye to Abdulmajid! He walked us out of the Medina in the morning to the Poste Police, where Thaqafat had ordered us a taxi to. We didn’t have too much time to say goodbye, which was probably better, but it was so very sad. We don’t want to leave!
I’m not sure how to finish this post. It was such an amazing two weeks, but it’s impossible to put everything in words. Mom and I both agree that the best part was definitely living with the host family. They were so welcoming and nice and happy, and I’m really going to miss them. The only reason I was able to get into the taxi and drive away is knowing that I can come back and stay with “La Famille Souini” in their little house in the Rabat Medina again.
It’s funny because I named my blog “Midnight in the Medina” because I’m a bit corny and it had alliteration. Little did I know that I would write almost every post around midnight from our little purple room in the middle of the Medina. Funny how things like that turn out.