The Peace Corps has three main goals, with the Third Goal focusing on bringing our host countries to our readership. With that being said, understanding my host country is exceedingly important to me, and one of my own goals is to bring a deeper understanding of everything Morocco to all of my readers. “Moroccan Mondays” are blog posts specifically catered to educating all of you about my host country, not necessarily the Peace Corps.
Morocco is a captivating country, and in some ways, it reminds me of the United States. Yet, it’s still pretty foreign to me. I’ve noticed a number of things in this country that are strikingly different than anything I’ve experienced in the US, so I thought I’d share them with you:
This stuff is everywhere. It comes in individually packaged cups like pudding, and I’ve seen it in almost every refrigerator, in almost every store, in almost every town I’ve visited. I’ve had it served to me as a dessert, and I’ve had it offered to me in an office waiting room. I’m assuming it’s so popular here because of Morocco’s close proximity to Spain, but either way, I’m not complaining. Flan is bnin bzaf (very delicious).
2. Fruit for Dessert
While Moroccan meals are massive, they’re not necessarily unhealthy. Most of the food is made from scratch, including the bread (If you’re interested in learning about Moroccan bread, I highly recommend this video.), and I don’t feel as if I’m ballooning up. Even though these meals come in several courses, dessert is something I definitely relish. After we devour enormous meals in American restaurants, servers ask us if we “have room” for overly-rich, gluttonous desserts, and we usually refuse them. However, desserts here are much anticipated. Peaches, grapes, plums, apples, and dates are ripe right now, and they’re the best post-meal pallet-cleansers. Plus, they’re absolutely delicious.
3. Avocado Everything
One of my favorite fruits is the avocado, and fortunately for me, avocados abound in this country. Like “vanilla,” “strawberry,” “banana,” or “peach,” “avocado” is a staple flavor here. I’ve had several avocado milkshakes at coffee shops, gas stations, and restaurants, and they have all been incredible. I haven’t found guacamole, but I have tried a dipping sauce that is literally just an avocado smashed into a paste. If you haven’t crushed an avocado to a pulp and plunged a fried ball of goat cheese in it, you haven’t lived yet.
4. The Communal Cup
A lot of people know about this phenomenon, so maybe it’s not “unique,” per se, but I think it’s pretty distinctive to Moroccan culture. When a large group shares a meal, one carafe of water and one cup are brought out on a platter. If someone wants a drink, he or she will fill up the glass, guzzle the whole cup, and put it back on the platter. I’ve never seen someone drink half then put it back, so it’s not like the next person is drinking the previous person’s backwash. Still, I use my own personal water bottle at the table, and no one has given me strange looks yet. I might just keep doing this until someone calls me out.
5. Steamed Milk for Coffee
I LOVE this. Every cup of coffee I’ve had in Morocco has come with a steaming jug of milk. I have yet to see cold milk or cream; it’s always piping hot. This makes immediate consumption basically impossible, but it also keeps the coffee much hotter than if it were mixed with cold milk. Plus, it’s like drinking my own personal latte each time.
6. Soap Operas
My host family, and most of my friends’ host families, seem extremely enamored with American, Turkish, and Bollywood soap operas. When I was first told that I’d most likely be watching mediocre, exaggerated acting for the next two years, I was somewhat displeased. I’m kind of an irritating Rotten Tomatoes snob who only watches TV shows or movies that are labeled as “Certified Fresh.” However, I won’t lie, I adore the TV here. I just spent the past two hours watching Days of Our Lives with my host mom, and I’m in love.
7. Adidas, Adidas, Adidas
ADIDAS. EVERYWHERE. I can’t go five minutes without seeing those three parallel bars on some boy’s shirt, or pants, or shoes, or [insert basically any clothing item here]. I’m not sure what the overwhelming appeal with Adidas is, but the vast majority of teenage boys in this country are obsessed with the brand. Any time I stroll through a souk or medina, I see the Adidas trademark for sale. I’m not convinced that many of these are authentic, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.
8. Pictures of the King Everywhere
I’ve mentioned the king in previous posts, but if you haven’t had a chance to read them, Morocco is a kingdom. It’s officially the Kingdom of Morocco and is ruled by Mohammed VI. He is known as the “King of the Poor,” and is generally well-perceived by his subjects—so much that his photograph can be found everywhere. I’ve seen pictures of him in stores, schools, and bathrooms (Yes, bathrooms.). Morocco loves its king!
9. “Libraries” are Office Supplies Stores
I first noticed this when I asked my language teacher where I could buy a notebook. He told me I could find one at a library, and I didn’t think much of it. However, when I asked him where I could buy some pencils, he said, “Oh, I’m sure the library would have those, too.” I remember thinking to myself, “Why wouldn’t I just get them at an office supplies store?” As our language group toured a Dar Chebab (Youth Center) one day, we stepped into a computer lab with a sad, empty-looking bookshelf in the corner. My language teacher announced this room as “the library,” and I was shocked. “Library” has an entirely different denotation in this country, and the American version of a library isn’t really common.
10. Laughing Cow Cheese
I LOVE cheese. I know it’s rather unsustainable and high in cholesterol, but it’s my guilty pleasure. Sadly, the stinky, moldy, fuzzy cheese that I love the most is extremely hard to come by in Morocco. However, Laughing Cow is NOT difficult to find at all. I’m not sure why, but Laughing Cow is placed on an extremely high pedestal. Moroccans generally eat it on special occasions, but my host family gives it to me almost every day. A slice of fresh malawi slathered with a triangle of Laughing Cow, a scrambled egg, and fresh olives is truly the best breakfast I’ve ever had. I must admit, I’ll miss the hard-to-pronounce cheeses that I used to eat in the United States, but that little smiling cow is definitely growing on me.
If you understand this reference, be my friend right now.