By Hannah, NSLI-Y Morocco, Summer 2015
One of the most memorable aspects of my trip to Morocco was not any single outing, sight or moment but instead the feeling I developed towards our neighborhood in the last leg of our journey. For the last week of the program, all of the NSLI-Y kids living in Rabat and Marrakech joined together in Essaouira, a small beach town. Our hotel was located in the heart of the Medina, or old quarter of the city, at the end of a ten-minute walk through the souq, or open-air market. This walk was a straight line through seemingly endless stands selling bags, trinkets, spices, argan oil, cosmetics, clothes, fruit…whatever you could think of. I had experienced souqs before since the one in my homestay town, Marrakech, was huge. But here, the smaller size allowed for less pushy vendors and a calmer yet active atmosphere. Vendors highlighted their products but left you alone if you weren’t interested. People were friendly and asked if we spoke Arabic, rather than assume we were tourists (even though I still think it was pretty clear). We practiced our linguistic skills telling them about NSLI-Y and bargaining over prices.
Taking this walk twice a day for seven days, even though that is still such a short amount of time, made me feel like I was part of a community. I said hello to the same baboush (slipper) vendor every day. I saw the same scrawny cat at the same corner. I avoided the same aggressive cactus-fruit vendor. The stalls were no longer an indistinguishable mass of commerce but a patchwork of individuals whose faces became familiar. On our last night, as all thirty of us walked out of the medina for the very last time, I realized how much I would miss this feeling of having become more than a day tourist and still having so much too see and learn. I guess I will just have to come back and live it all over again.