Day 4: Tour Hassan

I can’t believe it’s already Thursday! It some ways it feels like we’ve been here forever but it’s also only our fourth full day here. So it’s kind of crazy.

Today has been really great. We woke up as usual, and went down for breakfast to the main room. Every morning we’ve been having bread with this really interesting soft cheese and strawberry jam, and then today we also had little homemade mini cake donuts left over from last night. Oh, and of course there’s the tea! The tea is fast becoming our favorite part of morning. We’ve had it a few different places but we’ve decided our host family definitely makes it best. Abdulmajid showed us the two plants they use to make it, and now we always recognize them out in the Medina. There’s mint leaves and then this other flower that sort of looks like a thistle. They put it in this beautiful silver tea pot, and then of course there’s quite an art to pouring it! It’s so good.

Today Mom and I were let out on our own to find our way to work, which is really easy thanks to the tram! It was built in the last few years, and it’s weirdly modern and clean compared to the rest of the city. It’s definitely cleaner than the sky train back home. Sitting on this tram looking out at the city is such a strange contrast. It will definitely take some getting used to.

School was so much better today because other volunteers actually showed up! We met Neena, who is also with Thaqafat, and then Chelsea and Sebastian from a different or organization. Sebastian has been here for a while, and he gave us a few suggestions for teaching, which was really helpful! He felt so bad that we were on our own yesterday! Today Mom and I got to teach in the same class, along with Tori who we met yesterday, so already it was so much easier.

We started with my first class from yesterday, so ages 8-10, and they were really good! We focused on spelling today, and taught them body parts. That was super fun, and they seemed to really like it! We would point to something on our body like an elbow, and the kids would scream out the English word for it, then we’d invite one of them up to the board to write it out. Apparently in Arabic there isn’t really a concept of vowels, so a lot of then struggle with knowing which vowel to use when.

By the time break came I was ready for it. We went downstairs and visited with the other volunteers, and we could drink water because there were only kids around. A lot of people are going to Tangier or Marrakech this weekend, but Mom and I are going to go to Fez instead! It’s a pretty short train ride, and I’m really excited!

Our afternoon class was absolutely insane. We were with little kids, probably ages 4-7, and there was a lot of them. Class started out really great. I spoke to them in French to help them understand, and they were really excited that we’re mother daughter. We sang the alphabet song, which they loved, and then sang twinkle twinkle little star. We learned all their names, forgetting them all shortly after, and counted with them to 100. This was all before the chaos erupted. I don’t know how to explain it, but all of the sudden they all went crazy. They started running around and fighting and crying and playing hand games and going CRAZY! We would have to sidestep the kids begging us to play hand clapping games with them to break up fist fights between other kids. In the chaos we missed a little boy who smacked is head on the side of a chair and now has an enormous welt on his forehead. Tori went to get help and Mom went with a few little girls to get water, and I was left with this giant group of keeps running and screaming and crying and fighting all around me. I guess my voice is too quiet, but me telling them to sit down and be quiet in French did absolutely nothing. Finally when the class came to an end, there was a total shift in behavior. Almost every single kid came up and thanked each of us and kissed us on both cheeks. It was so adorable, and it made me forgive them instantly!

We took the tram back with all the other volunteers and talked about Morocco and things like that. Everyone was jealous of the food we’ve been having and of how involved Abdulmajid has been; I guess other people’s families aren’t quite as involved. On our way home through the Medina Mom and I stopped and bought pain au chocolat that they were selling in the market for 25cents each! We couldn’t eat them until we got back from the house and were away from people fasting, but they were delicious.

We slept a little bit until Abdulmajid got back from Mosque and then we headed out to see the Tour Hassan, which is one of the most famous landmarks in Rabat. They started building it in 1195 to celebrate the King’s victory over the Spanish, but when he died five years later, the construction was sort of abandoned. Since then, a lot of the surrounding structure has been destroyed, so all that is left is rows and rows of broken columns, and the Hassan Tower, standing half as tall as it originally did. We had to rush to get there before closing, which meant walking about as fast as I normally would in Vancouver. People walk extremely slow here, and I think it’s because of Ramadan. Everyone is conserving their energy. We made it there in time to see the guards outside the gates on white horses, and to go inside and see the tower. Abdulmajid insisted on taking pictures of us in front of everything, which is so sweet despite the fact that all of his pictures a taken on a slight angle.


The Hassan Tower, or Tour Hassan, is so impressive. It’s tall and strong20130719-100917.jpg looking, and made of this sort of red stone that changes in the light. It was supposed to be the largest Mosque in the world, but since it was never finished now the tower stands out even more, and can be seen from all over Rabat.

Also on the same sight where the original mosque was supposed to sit is a much smaller royal mosque, and a beautiful white marble building that serves as the tomb of Hassan V and some others king, both relatives of the current king. The tomb was incredible. At first we thought it was closed for the day, but it turned out that the guard was actually just at the mosque, so he came back and opened it up. Abdulmajid took us both by the hand and we ran up to see the inside. It was stunning. The walls 20130719-100959.jpgwere covered in Moroccan tiles with this beautiful and intricate design, and there was rich red fabric on the floor surrounding the tombs down below. We were on this sort of balcony, looking down at the tombs that were surrounded by Moroccan flags. That is, until we looked up. The ceiling went up into this sort of dome, and was handmade entirely of gold, interrupted only by little bits of stained glass. I’ve never seen anything like it. The gold patterns were so intricate, and all
made by hand, and the stain glass added a little bit of colour here and there. The pictures don’t at all do it justice.

20130719-100935.jpgDinner tonight was better than usual. Sanae, who usually makes it, was still away somewhere, but the meal was still incredible. We had all the usuals, but inside the Tajine there was this egg and turkey dish that was sort of out of place but really good. We also had sardines, which were incdible, even though I usually hate them. What made it so fun was all the energy brought on by the six young guys who were at dinner tonight. They were so funny and loud and everyone was laughs and joking around, and even though we couldn’t understand every word, you could totally understand what was going on. This TV show came on that was live stream from the Morocco Mall, and there was this singer doing a concert, but then there was some sort of prank, and all of the sudden he was getting married to a fan and everyone was howling with laughter and I guess it was pretty funny.

When we left to go back to our little room to get ready for this Thaqafat event we have tonight, we crossed the little alley and saw a man out there eating the same food we had eaten for dinner. Turns out, our family prepares some food for a homeless man who can’t afford to pay for food himself! We have the nicest host family!


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