Author Archives: marimorocco

About marimorocco

I am a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar to Morroco, studying Arabic in Rabat.

2012 in review


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Homecoming… And Leaving Again


It feels a little strange to be writing about my return to the States once I have already made it overseas again – this time to France for my MA. That’s my own fault for not updating my blog in the two months since I left Morocco. I think I was too busy relaxing with my family. Anyways, this blog is about my Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship in Morocco, so what’s the point of this entry? Well, my scholarship didn’t end when I left the country. Part of my obligations were to share my experiences with people back home, including through giving presenations at Rotary Clubs. This summer, I spoke to three (Northbrook, Gleview, and Glenview Sunrise).

I will admit that there were a range of reactions from friends and family to my experience in Morocco, from, “Why on earth did you go there?”… to “That’s awesome, tell me all about it!” In my presentations to Rotary Clubs, I tried to satiate both the skeptics and the enthusiasts by packing as much relevant information as possible into 20 minutes, in order to leave plenty of time for questions and answers. I was impressed by the quality and breadth of questions from Rotarians, even though it was to be expected. They were interested in my daily activities, the history and culture of Morocco, the Rotary Clubs there, the impact of the “Arab Spring” on my experience, how Moroccans reacted to me being American, and my community service work.

Through these presentations I was also able to convey my deepest gratitude to Rotary for this wonderful scholarship opportunity, as well to express my hope that I served the organization well by furthering its goals of enhancing international understanding and putting sevice before self.

Speaking to the Rotary Club of Glenview Sunrise

Speaking to the Rotary Club of Northbrook

Farewell Morocco!


I recently returned home to the states after a fantastic 9.5 months in Morocco, with just a few road-bumps along the way. Thanks to all who made it possible and worthwhile!

Paintballing memories with friends

Thank you Mehdi for the beautiful 3-piece painting! (Mehdi attended my English lessons)

Lovely day with friends at the beach between Rabat and Casablanca, days before my departure

“Last Supper”: Saying goodbye to friends over dinner at Rabat’s chic Le Grand Comptoir

Visite au Rotary Club de Casablanca Lumières


Il y a quelques semaines je me suis présentée au Rotary Club de Casablanca Lumières.

De même, Ils m’ont présente leurs projets différents et intéressants, et j’ai été vraiment impressionnée. Bien que le club ait peu de membres, ils ont réussi à améliorer profondément les vies de milliers de marocains.

Ils ont donné les examens oculaires gratuits aux enfants nombreux à travers le Maroc, et ils ont fourni des lunettes de prescription à ceux qui en avaient besoin. Pour les personnes âgées, ils les ont examinés pour des cataractes, et ils ont opéré gratuitement à ceux qui en avaient besoin. Avec leur aide, les gens qui avaient perdu leur vue pourrait voir à nouveau.

De plus, ils ont réalisé de projets pour aider les gens handicapés, donner des aliments et des vêtements aux pauvres, et enseigner les enfants au sujet de l’environnement. Leurs projets ne se limitaient pas au Maroc. Avec ses partenaires américains, ils ont envoyé des livres scolaires à Fukushima au Japon après la catastrophe là-bas. Et le Club a parrainé plusieurs Clubs Interact et Rotaract au Maroc (y compris dans les écoles de médecin).

Je voudrais remercier le Club Casablanca Lumières pour l’accueil chaleureux, et pour avoir partagé leurs activités de Rotary avec moi.

Avec Club Rotary Casablanca Lumières

English Translation:  Read the rest of this entry

Checking out Rabat’s Mawazine Festival


Rabat has been abuzz this week due to the Mawazine Festival, which brings scores of musicians from around the world to play nightly concerts at a few different venues throughout the city. The most well-known ones are set up around large, outdoor stages– Souissi, for the big-name international stars (e.g. Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Pitbull),  the Nahda and Salé stages for the Arab World and Moroccan local stars respectively, and another on the Bouregreg River, for African / Afro-Latino beats.

Except for a VIP section closer to the stage at a couple locales, the shows are free! On one hand, this is awesome. But on the other, it can make the concerts– particularly in Souissi — far too crowded and rowdy for comfort. Groups of teenage thugs go there for a combination of partying and trouble-making, including rock throwing (which has also occurred at soccer games here). It’s definitely not recommended for women to go there alone. I did go to Souissi to see world famous Algerian singer Cheb Khaled, known as “The King of Rai,” with an American friend of mine, but we were fortunate to have our own teenage bodyguard to protect us from the other teenage boys. Actually, he was the 17 year-old brother of my friend’s friend. It was sufficient enough. I enjoyed the concert, though not sure I would repeat the experience. Being that far back from the stage, you might as well watch the show on TV from the comfort of your home. My friend wanted to wait to see Khaled play her favorite song of his, “Aicha.” Of course, this is also his most famous song, and singers always save the best for last. So we waited until the very end of the concert to hear it, and then made our exit, in a mad rush together with the swarms of concert go-ers.

Perhaps the exception to the craziness of Mawazine is the Bouregreg venue. I went earlier tonight and greatly enjoyed it. There was a full and lively audience, but it still seemed rather calm. I saw relatively high percentages of families with kids, as well as expats (perhaps because the rowdy crew went to see Mariah Carey in Souissi instead). But it still had a festive atmosphere, with many swaying and clapping to the music of Chiwoniso, a Zimbabwean group.

From way in the back, at the Mawazine concert of Khaled, “King of Rai.”

Seeing Zimbabwean group Chiwoniso at the Bouregreg stage of Mawazine.

Another shot of Chiwoniso.

Réunions aux Clubs Rotaract de Rabat


Les dernières semaines, j’ai assisté à deux géniales réunions de Clubs Rotaract à Rabat (Rabat Chellah et Rabat Agdal ILCS), et j’ai appris de leurs projets divers pour aider les enfants pauvres ou à besoins spéciaux / handicapés,  améliorer l’environnement, et contribuer au développement de la société.

Moi avec une partie de la groupe Rotaract Rabat Chellah

À Rotaract Rabat Chellah: En recevant le drapeau du club

Avec les filles de Rotaract Rabat Chellah

Visit to Rotaract Rabat Agdal at The Instiutte for Leadership and Communication Studies (ILCS). Here the meeting was actually in English. On the far right is an American instructor at the university who supervises the group. To my left is the Club President, Soukayna, an MA student at the ILCS.

Visit to Morocco’s National Human Rights Council


Last week I participated in a school trip to Morocco’s National Human Rights Council, originally established in 1990 (though under a different title). We heard from one of the council’s officials, who discussed (in Arabic) its work and evolution over the years. He emphasized that 1999 was a time of change in Morocco, when the new King Mohammad VI ascended the throne and decided to advance human rights reforms, including by seeking to reconcile the problems of Morocco’s past, which had involved arrests and disappearances of political opponents. He then talked about the role of the council in protecting the rights of women, children, and marginalized groups, as well as combating corruption. Some of the specific measures he mentioned included raising the age of marriage to 18 in accordance with international law (though there are possible exceptions with agreement of parents and a judge), as well as increasing the age of required schooling to 15. Other laws he highlighted included those requiring the reporting of child abuse and banning child labor, as well as one  allowing Moroccan mothers to pass their nationality on to their children even if they are married to a foreign spouse.

Many of the questions in the following Q & A session, including my own, centered on the gap between the law and its application (as well as gaps in the laws themselves), which particularly affect the poorer and more isolated areas. In this regard, the speaker highlighted Morocco’s progress, as well as a number of measures to monitor the situation in these areas, spread information about the new laws (including in Amazigh/ Berber for the non-Arabic speakers), and provide mechanisms for the reporting of human rights abuses across the country. Another question concerned freedom of expression. In his response, the official mentioned the role of judges in determining when there are violations of expression, as well as the announced creation of the National Council of Journalists, and the extensive use of the internet–a domain largely free of restraints– by Moroccans to express their views.

See previous post on challenges to press freedom in Morocco here:

Inside Morocco’s National Human Rights Council

The meeting room in the council.

Celebrating Mamounia


Yesterday, I attended my first Mamounia celebration at the home of a Moroccan family. Mamounia is a holiday unique to Moroccan Jewry, marking the end of Passover. It is a time when Morocco’s Jews open their doors to celebrate with their neighbors and friends of all faiths (i.e. Muslims, as well as Jews). Of course, no Jewish holiday is complete without plenty of good food. And last night included the kinds of delicious breads and cookies many in the room had been deprived of for a week during Passover, when leavened baked goods are forbidden. The celebration also featured Andalusian musicians, singing in Arabic in the “Grenadan” style, as well as a bout of piano playing and singing in Arabic, French, and Hebrew (and possibly a Spanish song or two).

Enjoying Andalusian music in a traditional Moroccan salon, in celebration of Mamounia.

The buffet table at Mamounia

Singing by the piano. Too bad I can't figure out how to get the video to upload.

This pic is actually not from Mamounia, but I thought this was an appropriate place to include a shot from another Jewish holiday, Pourim. It's a Sephardic tradition: an egg inside a bread bowl, symbolizing the eye of Haman (instead of his ear or hat, as in the Ashkenazic tradition).

Touring Technopolis


A couple weeks ago I participated in a school trip to Technopolis, just outside of Rabat. Opened in 2005 and sprawling across 300 hectares, it’s an initiative that aims to bring high-tech investment to Morocco and reverse the brain drain of high-skilled workers. Technopolis specializes in a variety of fields, including services, off-shoring, cars and planes, communications technology, and high-tech gadgets. And there are also academic research and training facilities, focusing on the applied more so than the theoretic. Technopolis currently employs more than 5,000, mostly Moroccoans, though it’s goal is to reach 30,000 employees by 2016. Companies like Amazon and France Telecom are attracted to invest in Technopolis because of its promise of low taxes for several years.  There are a few other such techno-parks in Morocco, though they specialize only in off-shoring.


Inside Technopolis, looking out

Touring Technopolis

محاضرة في مركز قلم ولوح لطلاب كلية علوم التربية


استضاف مركز قلم ولوح محاضرة الاسبوع الماضي لحوالي ثلاثين طالباً من كلية علوم التربية في الرباط, وتطرقت المحاضرة إلى مناقشة اهمية تعليم اللغة العربية لغير الناطقين بها, وكيفية تدريسها من منهج نظري فكري من جانب, ومن منهج تطبيقي وتجريبي من جانب اخر.

افتتح المحاضرة مدير المدرسة عادل الخياري بترحيبه بالطلاب وبطرحه بضع اسئلة عليهم, مثل لماذا يدرس الطلاب اللغة العربية؟ وتكلم عن الاهتمام القوي باللغة العربية في مجالات عديدة, ومن ضمنها السياسة والدبلوماسية, التجارة, السياحة, والبحث الأكاديمي, بالاضافة إلى الاهتمام الشخصي عند بعض الطلاب من جانب الدين, او الثقافة, او التواصل.

تلاه بعد ذلك قاسم الايوبي منسق الاساتذة في قلم ولوج وبروفسور في جامعة مولاي اسماعيل في مكناس. كذلك أبرز الايوبي اهمية اللغة العربية مشيراً إاى إنها بين الرتبة الثالثة والرتبة الخامسة في قائمة اللغات الحية. وأضاف أنها ليست فقط اللغة الاولى المستعملة في اكثر من خمسين دولةٍ عربيةٍ, ولكنها أيضاً اللغة الثانية المستعملة في مجموعة الدول الاسلامية, ويوجد كثيراً من الاهتمام بها من الاجانب كما ذكر الخياري.

بعد ذلك ناقش الايوبي مفاهيم العلم اللغوي ونظريات عن تركيب اللغات. حسب رايه الشخصي لا توجد لغة اصعب من الاخرى رغم ان الامريكيين يصنفون اللغة العربية مع اللغة الصينية في قائمة اللغات الصعبة. المشكلة بالنسبة له في موقف الشخص ان اللغة. ثم شرح كيفية بدأ تدريس اللغات لاهداف تطبيقية مع تدريب العسكر وتطور بشكل اساسي لتعليم اللغات لكل غير الناطقين بها. وذكر اختلاف عامّ بين الطلاب الايطاليين الذين يركزون على القواعد ولكن لا يستطعون ان يتكلموا اللغة العربية بسهولة, والطلاب الامريكيين الذين يهتمون اكثر بالتواصل باللغة ويتكلمون جيداً لكن مع الاخطاء في القواعد.

بعد ذلك أستاذين من قلام ولوح اشركا افكارهما وخبرتهما في تدريس اللغة العربية وردا على اسئلة الطلاب. أكدا باهمية تبادل الحوار مع طلاب اللغة العربية فقط باللغة نفسها منذ الصف الابتدائي, وحثا على التركيز على المواضيع التي تهتم بها الطلاب.

دارت بعض الاسئلة من الجمهور حول كيفية تدريس الثقافة العربية خلال عمليات تدريس اللغة. اجاب الاستاذين ان هناك طبعاً علاقة بين اللغة والثقافة, ولكن شدد استاذ حسن انه حسب ما يريد الطلاب واذا يهتمون كثيراً بالثقافة ام لا. اضافة انه غير ضروري لاي استاذ ان يقم بعمل وزارة الثقافة, لكن اذا قال الطالب شيء لا يحترم الثقافة او يسيء للاستاذ قعلى الاستاذ ان يدعوه لشرب قهوة ولكلام في ذلك الشيء بعد لاصفّ.