It was a close call when Photography and Digital Arts major Natalie Nelson’s mobile phone was misplaced at the Madrid Airport, but after retrieving it with the help of Fashion Design major Drashti Pandya she made it just in time for our 11:35 am departure for Tangier. An hour later we arrived in this buzzing metropolis port located where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea converge. There we were met by our travel coordinator Allen Hoppes, guides Mohammed Tahiri and Rabab and after shuffling our bags into a trailer drawn by a cozy 20 seat bus we were whisked away with our driver Lassen at the wheel for a quick tour of portions of Tangier’s new city sites as well as the old city, called the medina.
In preparation for our two-week stay, Liberal Arts Chair Dr. Kelly Kirby, provided students with materials to review prior to leaving for Morocco. “Each culture must be seen on its own terms,” read one document while another stated that anthropological fieldwork while participating in this country’s culture will be a personally transformative experience. That we will learn about ourselves as much as about other people and that the students will be changed in the process.
The itinerary for this, our first day in Morocco, provided us with a number of opportunities to do just that. Our bus tour took us to the Association Darna Women’s Center. A center for women who are illiterate or semi-literate to gather and learn basic skills such as nutrition, traditional sewing and hygiene in addition to other skills that will help in preparing them to become successful, contributing members of society.
Our time at Darna consisted of food, history and students engaging in conversations with four Moroccan women students: Zainab, Yasmine, Rabab and Shaimae. Chatter and laughter could be heard throughout the room as these women shared stories of their culture and, likewise, Moore students shared stories of theirs. From fashion and makeup tips to life as women in their respective countries, the conversations were the beginning of the transformative experiences our students will have while here.
Allen then asked each of the Moore women to introduce themselves and to share with the group, their expectations or hopes for the Moroccan trip. Many were excited about seeing the textiles, the colors, the architecture, and looked forward to learning more about the cultures of the country. And it was Fashion Design major Aliya Pooser who has plans to use the trip as a research opportunity for gathering design ideas for future collections.
Conversations were had over a lunch that included bri-wa, which are triangular shaped packets of chicken and spices wrapped in a pastry similar to filo, pea soup, tagine with meatballs, hot, very sweet green tea and an assortment of delicious pastries. Gabby Wharton said, “I don’t like peas at all but I like this soup.” Natalie reported that the bri-wa reminded her of chicken tortillas. As the conversations were winding down and the food was consumed, calls to prayers from nearby minarets could be heard, providing a devotional-style finale to our afternoon activities.
Later that day, prior to dinner served by a perfectly charming waiter with an amazing sense of humor, a more solemn meeting with three undocumented immigrants and their infants, two of whom were from Guinea took place at the Hotel Mamora where we were staying. The heart-breaking, yet uplifting stories our students heard from these women left them with what some referred to as the most memorable moments of a very long and very eventful day.