First Days In Morocco:

We got off the plane in Rabat, on a sunny Moroccan morning. The airport was small- its quaintness reinforced by the sweltering heat and the memory of the tent cities we had just flown over. My friend Jon and I were both a little overwhelmed by the reality of it all, or rather the absence of any familiar reality. We went through the motions nonetheless, braving customs, rusty baggage carousels and relentlessly nagging taxi drivers.

The Moroccan American Cultural Exchange Commission had arranged for our first few days in the country. Hotels had been booked, travel arrangements made. This was customary for new Fulbright arrivals in Morocco. Yet, somehow, none of us ever really knew what we were supposed to be doing or where we were supposed to be until the last possible instant. And when we thought we knew, something unexpected would occur, reminding us that that this year would have something to teach us about "taking it easy". A good lesson for anybody, I might add.

Two days in Rabat, morning and afternoon orientation sessions... A crash course in Moroccan everything: from religion to politics, with an occasional stop at cuisine, culture, manners. Between sessions, Jon and I would hit the streets of Rabat, taking in some first hand impressions- gardens, terraces overlooking the raging Atlantic, century old mosques. We wandered around quite a bit, trying to absorb the feel of the city, the pulse of the land. I hoped secretly that I would be able to divine my potential for happiness here: could I possibly live in this city for the next 10 months? I left with a positive impression and an urge to return.

In the meantime, I had some business to start and finish in Fes.
The Commission sent all 9 of us to Fes, for a 5 week training stunt in Moroccan language and culture. To have to start my travels in Fes was a welcomed blessing, as Leo Africanus once spent his childhood and adolescence in this city. It felt right to start in the same place Leo's life and thoughts had originated from.
Superstition? Perhaps...
Or simply the desire to do things in the right order.