I received the warmest Moroccan welcome, it was bizarre to be missing Freshers Week in Trinity but I was enthusiastic to start my new adventure. The first word I heard on arrival was shukran the Arabic for thank you, and it has set the tone for my experience so far, receiving a genuine and caring Moroccan welcome.
Upon arriving I expected a hectic cityscape packed full of hustle and bustle. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when I landed in Rabat-Salé to find one of the nicest and most modern airports I’ve been in. It vastly surpassed my expectations and the standards of Paris Beauvais Airport where I had to stop on my way from Dublin.
The Morocco that is sold to you is the exotic, busy and sensuous medina- and that does certainly exist. But what you’ll see first is a modern and beautiful city. The boulevards are paralleled with palm trees and ornate street lighting and the attractive streetscapes continue throughout the entirety of Rabat. I was struck by the number of vibrant Moroccan flags that stood out among the pure white buildings and surprised by the greenery, open spaces and parks along the way to my hotel.
The Moroccan welcome
The next day, Morocco continued to surprise me. The country has a lot more to it than camels, spices and mint tea. When I eventually waded through a few hours of administration to get to my student accommodation, I was also shocked to find that I needed a lead to connect my laptop to the wall for internet. What happened to the modern Morocco I had just seen? Although it was dark by the time I got to my room with my essentials, I decided that an internet connection is a necessity too and ventured outside the accommodation’s campus. I sought advice from the security guard who gestured to a friend of his who asked me: “Parlez-vous Anglais?” (Do you speak English?)
After an exhausting day, I jumped at the chance to revert back to my mother tongue. And I received an amazing welcome. Amar was his name. He was kind and asked me a lot of questions and spoke about himself and his own studies, he showed me some local shops and sights then brought me to get the internet cable and configuration information. Amar even introduced me to some of his friends and arranged for a female friend of his to help a girl from my class in the same situation. (The accommodation buildings are separated by gender) I was astounded by the kindness of him taking his time to help me. He told me he hopes someone will do the same for him when he travels.
Amar then helped me to configure my internet and set it up so I could use my laptop for a personal hot-spot for my other devices. I was extremely grateful and was reassured after my stressful first day. He told me that in Morocco sometimes prices are different for tourists and locals. I will have to improve my Arabic quick to get the best bargains.
The Moroccan welcome didn’t stop there. The following day the Professor who is helping coordinating my exchange invited the three Irish exchange students for some traditional pastries, mint tea and some biscuits in case the Moroccan treats were not quite to our taste. It was beautifully prepared and presented. I was astounded by the generosity and kindness we were receiving here.
Even on the streets taxi drivers and shop owners would be delighted with our imperfect French and appreciative shukran, thanking them for their time.
Although this is only my third day here, I can say the Moroccan welcome has been amazing and genuine and my experience so far has been wholly positive. While a lot of advice warns of scammers and tourists being targets, don’t let this cloud your time in Morocco, as with every place there are chances of having positive experiences and negative ones. It is always best to be cautious of your belongings and aware that you may be perceived as a tourist and have a different experience to locals, but as you get to know the language, culture and how bargaining works you’ll be a professional in no time.
Be cautious, be safe, but don’t be afraid to ask for help and appreciate the warm Moroccan welcome I am sure you will receive.
If you have any questions about my experience moving to Morocco don’t hesitate to ask me questions on my socials. I’d be happy to answer any questions I can.