This summer I had the amazing opportunity of studying abroad in Rabat, Morocco and I can safely say it was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. While some aspects of the program took some getting used to, I really felt that the experience helped me grow as a person and also ensured that I am (somewhat) fluent in Arabic now though nowhere near close to being a native speaker.
I felt that as a Muslim and someone who is Pakistani and has lived for over eight years in Dubai and extensively traveled to countries like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Qatar and Oman, I really felt at home in Morocco. Our host families in the Rabat Medina treated us like their own and it really felt as if I had come to live with some family in Pakistan. We ate delicious tagine, couscous (on Fridays!), fish and endless amounts of croissants and pastries, it was a perfect east meets west food heaven sort of experiences. We even got to experience Ramadan in Morocco something I was very used to but my American friends took some time adjusting to. We all eagerly watched the special Ramadan programs (though not really understanding much of that they were saying) and ate all the Iftar specialities like Chebakia and Harira. And although Rabat is general very temperate, the 30 degrees Celsius sometimes be really exhausting especially in the Medina where theres not much air conditioning and very few fans so sleeping was the only way to survive Ramadan.
Apart from the occasional heat spell, Rabat was an amazing city to live in. Very easy to get around yet it had all the comforts of a bigger city just without the congestion and craziness . The downtown area around the train station and parliament were always full of life in the evening with families sitting out at cafes, street artists performing and occasional shows at the National Theatre and the 7eme Art Cinema. This was the area we mostly frequented as the centre where we took classes was in this area so we would mostly hang around there for coffee and ice creams breaks in between classes. The places which remained our favourite spots when we just had way tooo much tagine were Ty Potes, La Mama and Bistro Petri. I especially loved the fresh salads at Ty Potes and their Sunday brunch definitely hit a spot. Also, although we missed the Jazz atmosphere on the weekends at Bistro Petri as it was closed for renovation during our time but I heard great things about it.
When we finally had time away from our classes and didn’t feel like travelling to another city, it was great to escape to the beach at Skhirat particularly in Ramadan when it was completely empty but even afterwards as it was one of the few places we met other young people. We all had a wonderful time playing football and trying the sugar-coated donuts selling at the beach! Other places that I really enjoyed going to were the Chellah and the Mausoleum of Hassan II and Mohammed V, both definitely well worth a visit and tell a unique story about the history of Rabat and Sale. One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Rabat was Agdal, although its very modern and could be anywhere in the world after living in the Medina it provided some much needed peaceful escapes! We watched the Football World Cup games in some cafes in Agdal and also went to Upstairs one day to check out the local music scene. I also introduced my friends to the food at Paul and the clothes at Mango two places I became very used to while living in Dubai! I also had the chance to check out the food at SushiBox, Il Giardino at the Italian centre and the Goethe Institute Cafe (which is not actually in the centre) and loved all these places for non-Moroccan alternatives. As we ate Moroccan food almost everyday at our homes whenever we got the chance to go out we frequently went for the non-moroccon options also because the food here was also incredible. Another one of our favourite hangouts in Rabat was Le Dhow a fantastic old-boat converted into a restaurant and lounge-cum-bar with live music playing in the evenings and So Lounge a chic lounge/nightclub in the Sofitel Hotel. During our time in Rabat, I was lucky enough to see Major Lazer at the So Lounge and I can honestly say it was one of the best concerts I have ever been to!!
So while I’ve said a lot about our time in Rabat I haven’t mentioned any of the places we visited such as Erfoud, The Sahara Desert, Marrakech, Tangiers, Casablanca, Essaouira, Fez, Chefchouen, Imlil, Jabel Toubkel but more on that later …………….
Meanwhile watch the video about our experiences made by my talented friend Kevin!