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"A Year in Morocco" by Elizabeth Beaton

"A Year in Morocco" by Elizabeth Beaton

Elizabeth Beaton is from Mount Holyoke College and she spent the year on our Area & Arabic Language Studies Program in Rabat, Morocco. She shares with us here some of her favorite moments!

While walking around my neighborhood, Agdal in Rabat, for one of the first times, I came across this painted message. When I first saw it several things crossed my mind. I love public art pieces and was so excited to see one so close to my house. Next, part of the message was in Arabic and I understood it! It was empowering to understand written Arabic in a city where, in the first few weeks, I was feeling overwhelmed by all the new visual and audio content. Lastly, the city was greeting and welcoming me. It was a sign of encouragement to me to continue to go on walks and to explore the city that I was now a part of. This photo also captures the beginning of my understanding of art and architectural styles in Morocco.  Photo credit: Beaton, 2017.

In my first week in Morocco I visited Chellah with my classmates and embraced being a tourist. Chellah is a historical site in Rabat that is filled with gardens, Roman ruins, and ruined royal burial grounds of the Marinid and Almohad dynasties. On this visit I feel in love with the sunlight and the colors of the stone buildings that have withstood the test of time. This visit exposed me to yet another example of Moroccan art and architecture. This photo captures fleeting sun light dancing with the shadows and the permanence of walls and arches from hundreds of years ago. I loved imagining what chellah must have looked like when all of the painted tiles still decorated the walls. Photo credit: Beaton, 2017.

On one of the AMIDEAST excursions I traveled via winding mountain roads to a beautiful green valley called Zaouiat Ahansal. After spending a month living in a city for the first time, spending a few days in the mountains was exactly what I needed. I was surrounded by mountains, forest, lush farm fields, and granary buildings that were hundreds of years old. Being disconnected from the internet really helped to ground me and when my camera died during one of the hikes I was forced to become more present in the beautiful place rather than focusing my attention on getting the perfect photo. The restoration of the granaries is a priority for the community as a way to preserve culture and heritage and I am so glad that I was able to spend time learning in the valley about this kind of building. Photo credit: Beaton, 2018.

One weekend I traveled with a few friends to the region of Andalusia in the south of Spain where 700 years of shared Arab/Spanish history has produced incredible architectural feats like the Alhambra palace located in Granada, Spain. In high school I studied abroad in Spain and visited the Alhambra, at the time not realizing how interconnected Morocco and Spain are. Visiting the Alhambra after studying Arabic for 3 years I was able to understand more of the context of the palace’s construction and was able to slowly read some of the calligraphy that covers all of the walls. This close up of the detailed walls reminded me of my progress in Arabic and the reason why I began to study Arabic in the first place. Photo credit: Beaton, 2018.

In Chefchaouen I spent a weekend walking all over with close friends and engaging with friendly shop owners who were so happy to speak with me in Arabic. We walked up one of the surrounding mountains to visit the Spanish mosque at sunset. Looking out over the city I was also looking back on my experience in Morocco. I remember feeling so grateful for close friendships and the mountains in those moments. After spending time in this beautiful blue city I felt so ready to put my Arabic knowledge into practice and to explore more places, while remembering to more carefully appreciate sunsets and the people around me. Photo credit: Beaton, 2018.

"Language, Dance & (of course) Camels!" by Luci Meade

"Language, Dance & (of course) Camels!" by Luci Meade

"What I'll Miss Most" by Mallory Mrozinksi

"What I'll Miss Most" by Mallory Mrozinksi