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On Saturday, Houriya taught me to make chbekia - my favorite Moroccan snack!

The ingredients: oil, orange flower water, nut butter, anise, cinnamon, flour, yeast… probably some other things, but this was all in Arabic!

We rolled the dough into very thin sheets, and cut them into squares with 5 slits, like Houriya is doing below.

Then, by pinching the corners and folding the dough, we formed the squares into shapes kind of like flowers.

Houriya also used a spaghetti maker to cut the dough into strips for a different shaped sweet.

Next, we fried our chbekia in oil, and then in hot honey.

 I took this picture from Google, but this is pretty much what our chbekia (shbek-EE-ya) looked like when we finished.  Chbekia is a fun treat any day, but is traditionally eaten with dates and harira, the traditional tomato and chickpea soup of Morocco, to break fast during Ramadan.  Houriya knows that this is my favorite meal, and we eat it often - delicious!

Some pictures of my pets…

The canary is getting old, but she still sings beautifully.

Just yesterday, my host brother came home with two new finches.  They’re still a little nervous in their new environment.  This one is named Omar, and he also loves to sing.

Our two goldfish.  When there are new visitors, the big, orange one gets nervous and tries to jump out of the bowl!

This weekend, we took trips to Meknes and Ifrane.  It was beautiful and sunny! 

In Meknes, we visited the Dar Jami Palace, which was built in 1882. This palace originally included its own hammam, mosque, slaughter-house, and shops, so that the family never had to leave their home.  It has now been turned into a museum, but our professor, Said Ennahid, pointed out sadly that due to lack of funding, many things have fallen to the wayside and it’s a little run-down.

We also visited Volubilis, the best-preserved ruins of an ancient Roman city in North Africa.  Its construction was begun in 40 CE, as an important town near the westernmost border of Roman conquests and the administrative center of the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana.  Residents exported to Rome the grain and olive oil that grew plentifully here, and the architecture reflects the wealth of this community.  We walked through the ruins of beautiful houses that had systems for heating the floors, private hot tubs and baths, and many beautifully tiled sitting rooms.  There is an example of the tilework below - stolen from Wikipedia - that details Hercule’s 12 labors.  Archeologists have also found evidence of a Jewish community here.

The next day, we traveled to Ifrane, which is home to Al-Akhawayn University, an American-style college.  The picture below is proof that no matter how far you take us from L&C, we’ll still act just the same - couldn’t this be South Campus?

Al-Akhawayn University was a bizarre experience.  It’s a gated school a few kilometers outside of Ifrane, and driving onto the campus felt like we were being transported back to the US to visit any typical American small college.  The grounds were pristine and being mowed when we visited - after we haven’t seen a lawn in two and a half months.  The school is attended by about 1600 students, and 4% are international.  The University was funded by the King of Saudi Arabia when an endowment to clean up an oil spill off the coast of Morocco was suddenly unnecessary (the wind blew the oil spill away).

Next, we visited Azrou, a small town in the Middle Atlas.  We visited the Cedar Forest where we saw Barbary Macaques.  The apes have many human visitors, and were pretty friendly - each day, they are fed, petted, and photographed with people.

The family - On the left, Samir holding Shadda.  My host mom, Houriya, in the middle.  On the right is Miriam, Samir’s wife and Shadda’s mom, and in the front is Toufak, Houriya’s son and Samir’s brother.

I live with Toufak and Houriya - Samir and Miriam are just visiting.  Samir also has another daughter from a previous marriage.  Her name is Dina, and she’s a model - look for her through my Facebook if you’re curious!

Toufak is great with Shadda - she loves him.  No real surprise though, because Toufak is by nature a caregiver. He takes looks after our canary and goldfish very tenderly!

This is kind of fun - Prince Charles and Camilla visited Fez yesterday.  Camilla ate lunch at our favorite ex-pat cafe, and my friend Omar Chennafi (below) was the photographer, and the picture above is one he took!   The woman to the left of Camilla is Fatima Sadiqi - our Gender in Moroccan Society teacher, and a co-founder of our school!

Houriya cutting chamomile for tea

Sorry the posts have been few and far between - we have about 2 weeks left here, which means crunch time for all our classes!  We’re headed to Meknes and Volubulis this weekend, so I’ll let you know about that when I get back!

This weekend we visited Casablanca and Rabat.  Here are some pictures!

CASABLANCA

 

The tourist trap called “Rick’s Café.”  As you probably know, none of the 1942 romance starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman was filmed in Morocco.  Still, here’s looking at you, kid.

 

(Photo credit: Wikipedia.  This mosque was actually too big to fit in my camera’s view, and all the pictures I took of it only capture little pieces.)  On the former king, Hassan II’s birthday in 1980 he had a dream about a mosque by the sea, based on a Qur’an phrase that indicates that God’s throne is on the water.   In the next 13 years, the Hassan II Mosque was constructed with (as the Rough Guide puts it) “not entirely voluntary” donations and labor.  The end result is the third largest mosque in the world, the tallest structure in Morocco, and the tallest minaret in the world.  St. Peter’s, in Rome, could fit comfortably inside it.  Its total cost was estimated to be around $800 million.  Every surface is covered in ornate woodwork, marble, and plaster carving, and almost all the materials are Moroccan – only the glass was imported from Italy.   The mosque employs modern technological conveniences – the titanium doors, weighing 10 tons, open electronically, and then hundreds of speakers used around the mosque blend perfectly into the artwork.  Even the roof opens, allowing the worshiper to contemplate the glory of the sky while praying.  At Ramadan, 25,000 Muslims fit into the prayer hall, with another group more than this size outside.  Impressive and daunting!

The ablutions room, located under the prayer hall.


We toured the souq of Casablanca and visited an olive market.  There were more olives in this small square than I had ever seen, and unlimited free samples!


The view of the sunrise from my hotel room in Casablanca!

RABAT

The Hassan Tower was begun in 1195 by Yacoub Al-Mansur and, if completed, would have been the tallest minaret in the world at the time, at 86 meters.  Unfortunately, he died 4 years later, when the minaret was 44 meters tall, and the mosque was never completed.


This site is also home to the Masoleum of Muhammad V, former King Muhammad V is buried along with his two sons, Prince Abdellah and the previous king, Hassan II (of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca). 


Next we visited Chellah, a wonderful example of how centuries of civilizations use the same grounds for different purposes.  Chellah houses the ruins of a Roman city center – the forum, including public baths and meeting places – and main roads.  After the Romans left in 1150, the Merenids built a mosque and minaret at the same site, as well as used the area for burials.


It was a beautiful day, and we spent a relaxing hour in the sun.  Chellah is home to many storks, and we could see their dozens of impressive nests from our view in the gardens.


This is what it looks like when Oren tells us about the history of Morocco!  On the far right is his wife, Julie, and Oren is to the left of her.


Lastly, Rabat is the seat of government in Morocco, and we drove by the royal palace – we also used the bathrooms at the rest stop of the royal palace – but we didn’t visit it.

I finally got some pictures of the family!  (This is at McDonald’s, by the way - the place to be on a Saturday afternoon!)

I finally got some pictures of the family!  (This is at McDonald’s, by the way - the place to be on a Saturday afternoon!)

Here are two article suggestions, compliments of my parents!  If you want more updates about the situations in Morocco, these are pretty good.  However, a word of warning - the situation in Morocco sounds much scarier from outside the country!  Here, things are calm; in fact, if I didn’t read the news or talk to other Americans, I wouldn’t know about the riots here.  The other day, we had a discussion with university students who yet again reiterated that they love the president.  Moroccans are proud to be working as a team - with the government - in order to move further toward democracy.  The Christian Science Monitor piece also points this out.  Apparently more protests are scheduled for this weekend (a month after the first riots) and so perhaps I will have more to report this weekend.

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0310/Can-Morocco-s-King-Mohammed-VI-outpace-Morocco-s-winds-of-change

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/world/Moroccan+youth+movement+condemns+violent+repression/4442761/story.html

I also added a “page” on my blog that has an article that Fatima Sediqi, our Gender in Moroccan Society, professor wrote about the events, if you’d like a Moroccan intellectual perspective!

Last week, I came home to find two of the girls on my trip sitting in my living room and drinking tea with my host mama.  Apparently she had seen them sitting at the “sharif’s” office and recognized them as being in my group.  Before they knew what was happening, she insisted that they come have snacks at my house. 

My host mom loves company, and routinely invites my friends to have dinner or even spend the night.  Helen and I are pretty sure that she actually thinks Helen lives with us – every day Houriya asks “Fin Helen?” (Where is Helen?) and everyday I re-explain that “Helen fi dar dyalha!” (She is at her own house!).  “Why is she not sleeping/eating/drinking tea here?”  “Because her family would wonder where she is.  Helen has a different Moroccan family!”  In fact, Houriya often just calls me Helen.  “Helen, time for dinner!” she calls, and then a few minutes later, realizing her mistake, bursts into laughter and tries to pronounce my name, which has never quite stuck.  “Anne” is generally too short for people to understand, and is also really close to the Arabic word for “I,” so I told Houriya that my name was “Anne Marie.”  This is the opposite of too short – instead, it seems to have too many sounds and syllables to pronounce, and so each time my host mom refers to me by name it sounds a little different.  “Amawy” tends to be the most consistent.  It’s even trickier because she is missing her four top/front teeth, so all words sound a little different.  

We rarely understand each other, but we have come to a wonderful understanding of this fact.  After having an especially confusing conversation, we both usually just burst into laughter and proclaim that we have a “good mom” or a “good daughter” – “Mama zuina!”  “Binti zuina!” and then she hugs me and kisses my cheek.  Houriya raised two sons and has two granddaughters, but I definitely get to fill the role of “daughter she never had.”  Most evenings I do my homework on the couch while she watches various Lebanese soap operas, and we share a blanket.  It’s absolutely the perfect homestay for me. 

Houriya is also fun because she is a student, like me.  She never had a formal education as a child, and therefore never learned to write.  Some days we have class at the same time and then practice writing Arabic together.  When I leave her notes to tell her of my whereabouts, they involve stick figures and arrows.  I will miss her very much!

(I still have yet to get a picture of her - it’s tricky to find her when she’s wearing her headscarf because she stays home most days, or leaves the house while I’m gone. I’ll keep trying!)