“The Road to Rabat” by Rowan Ibrahim
I made it! I’ve survived 10 days in Morocco and almost a week in Ifrane! I can hardly believe it – I’m actually doing this and time is flying by!
I’ve officially settled into my new home at Al Akhawayn and started classes just yesterday, but getting here was not without its rocky hurdles in the beginning.
Once I landed in Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca and arrived at my terminal to find my driver, who was supposed to meet me and drive me to Rabat to get to the AMIDEAST center there, I was immediately swarmed by a legion of men trying to persuade me to let them give me a ride to wherever. Even after politely saying no and making my own way to try and find my driver, a few of the unsuccessful gentlemen decided to follow my trail while continuing to berate me. I’m not sure how they thought this method would get me to magically change my mind. This behavior was not what I was expecting at all, especially right outside the airport, in broad daylight.
I turned around and walked straight back inside the terminal gates to collect my breath and my wits. I’m not going to lie it was very overwhelming and as a result, Morocco did not make the greatest first impression on me. To make matters worse, my phone had trouble finding a signal. But as the old adage goes, “Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out yet, it’s not the end,” and everything did work out in the end! After a couple of minutes, I was able to get in contact with Alex Novelli, the Director of Programs at the AMIDEAST center in Rabat, and he helped me locate my driver.
My driver’s name was Naeem. The meaning of his name is comfort and tranquility in Arabic, which is fitting because he put me immediately at ease after an insane and hectic morning. He wasn’t the chattiest fellow, which was fine by me because I slept for most of the trip. And I have to say I’m so glad I did because Moroccan traffic is not a joke y’all – make sure you have that seat belt ON.
In the context of traffic control, a lane is a part of a roadway that is designated for use by a single line of vehicles to control and guide drivers and reduce traffic conflicts…at least that’s what I learned in driver’s ed. In Morocco, traffic lane lines seem to be used merely for decoration purposes. A red stoplight? A kind suggestion.
That being said, I am amazed how everyone is able to expertly weave in and out of traffic unscathed. It’s the norm here, but in my eyes it’s truly an art form.
At a couple points during the trip, we had to stop at toll booths. As we were waiting in line at one of them, Naeem suddenly jumped out of the car, popped open the trunk, and started rummaging through it. It was our turn to move up towards the booth, but Naem was on a mission. After about three minutes, he found what he was looking for and plopped back down into the driver’s seat. I craned my neck around the head rest in front of me to see what was so important that he had to literally stop in the middle of the highway to retrieve. It was an apple. I looked at the clock; it was 12:45 pm. It was lunch time.
Without any hesitation, Naeem skillfully split the apple in half with his bare hands and handed me a piece without turning around or saying a word. The drive from Casablanca to Rabat took about 2.5 hours with traffic and he offered his modest lunch to me (a complete stranger, mind you), without even thinking about it.
I quickly learned that unwavering generosity is part of the Moroccan way. Everyone shares everything here and no one eats alone. Whether that be with your friends or complete strangers. As a complete stranger to Morocco, I find this very comforting and in that moment, a completely strange place instantly felt like home.