Monthly Archives: September 2011

Intro to Meknes

How fast the time has flown and yet it seems as if we’ve been in Morocco far longer than just two weeks.   Spain was fantastic.  Between wandering the city of Granada, getting to know the people in the program, and going between bars and clubs for tapas and dancing until the early morning, I was rather exhausted by the end of the excursion.  It was definitely worth it though, the Alhambra was beautiful, the people fun-loving, and the overall experience was great. After several days with the group in Granada we left for Tangier, via ferry across the Straight of Gibraltar.

The busy port city was our first real exposure to Morocco and I should probably say more about it but in all honesty the food was what left the biggest impression on me.  For lunch our first day, a group of about six of us went to a restaurant recommended by Daniel, our resident director.  Though we were followed and accosted by a faux guide, my first real Moroccan lamb tajine was worth far more to my tastebuds than a few dirhams and a little bit of hustling.

The next morning we got a tour of some as the city, as well as some free time to explore before hopping on the bus to Meknes.  Everyone was excited to fully unpack and move in to what would be our home for the next several months.   After a five hour bus ride, we finally reached Meknes around sunset.

We made it to Meknes!

First impressions of our apartment were amazing.  They are huge and have anything one could possibly need, from a fully-stocked kitchen to school supplies, medicine, and notes of advice left from past ISA students.  The tile floors will probably freeze our toes off in winter but for now they offer blessed relief from the heat.

Thursday (8 Sept 2011) was our first full day in Meknes.  We all got our first tour of the university, which is especially cool because it’s in a fort.  Then, after a ceremony in which the professors welcomed us with speeches, Moroccan sweets, and mint tea, we took the language placement exams.   I ended up placing into Beginning Arabic II, right were I should be according to the number of chapters I completed at UCSD before I left.  However, this meant that I would not have Arabic classes at all until halfway through the semester.   You can guess how excited I was about that.

Sure enough, I lasted one day of classes without Arabic before starting to audit the Intermediate Arabic class.  Knowing I was in a class that should by all rights be above my head, I was surprised when the professor complemented me on my Arabic and insisted I should be enrolled in the Intermediate level.   There are whole tenses the rest of the class knows that I haven’t seen before, but I am learning so much.  The class is demanding and I need to study a lot more than I ever have before, but it is an excellent challenge and I feel like I have already learned as much in two weeks as I did in two quarters back home.  It’s hard, it’s crazy, it’s slightly insane, but I love it.

University Moulay Ismail

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Categories: Morocco, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Albayzin

2 September 2011
Early morning
Granada, Spain

Travelling from Madrid to Granada was surprisingly easy and relatively painless.  I got to the bus station (via the ever so handy metro) around 9am on Wednesday, hoping to catch a bus at 9:30.  However, the line for the ticket window was full of other people who had taken the metro as well and by the time it was my turn I had less than 15 minutes before the bus would leave.  Would I make it?  No problem.  The lady at the window implored me to hurry, repeating her instructions in Spanish rather earnestly, clearly unsure how much I could understand but everything went off without a hitch.  The bus was just starting to load up and in no time we were off, driving south through the Spanish countryside.

The ride got more interesting about half-way through where we drove through this huge rocky mountain pass.  Welcome to the province of Jaén.  After a quick stop for lunch we loaded back up and drove through fields and fields of pungent olive trees, easily smelled on the bus.   I thought it was interesting that all the tunnels we passed through were named, too.

The bus finally arrived in Granada around 2:30pm and after dragging my hefty luggage around Spain on public transport for so many days I decided to take a taxi to the hostel where I would stay in Granada.   I swear that was the best ten Euros I’ve spent on the trip so far.   The taxi driver was friendly and we chatted in Spanish as he drove me through the metropolitan center of the city and up to the windy, cobble-stoned streets of the Albayzín (the Arab quarter).
My hostel was a modified riad, with colorfully painted walls, marble floors, and a big open courtyard downstairs to hang out.  After settling in, I headed out to explore this new, ancient city I had been so excited to see.

I spent two days exploring Granada on my own, mostly in the Albayzín as it was easily my favorite neighborhood.  All the windy, narrow streets have so much character.  You never know what you’re going to find.  I found the Mirador, where there’s the best view of the city and the Alhambra above it.  I made friends with a Moroccan man selling calligraphy and used Arabic for the first time in real life.  I explored old buildings, found cool graffiti, and ate delicious tapas.   I loved Granada from the very first day.

The hostel I was at made for a great time too.  I had roommates from all over the world and stayed up late just talking to a lady from Holland one night.  Another night we all went out on the tapas tour, pub crawling through the city and meeting everyone else staying there.   It was a lot of fun with cool people.

Now my time here at the hostel, and even in the Albayzín is coming to an end, though I will remain in Granada for several more days.   Today I check into the hotel ISA has booked for us, it’s about a 10-15 minute walk south, in the more modern part of the city, and from what I’ve seen walking by, it looks pretty fancy.  I’m really excited to meet the rest of the people I will be studying abroad with in Morocco, and I can’t wait to get the program started.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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