"Cotton Candy by the Beach" by Ammarah Rehman
If you ever want to relive a childhood favorite and are craving cotton candy while in Rabat, take a trip towards the kasbah (Arabic word for the central part of a town or citadel) and you’ll be able to fulfill your craving! The best part about studying abroad is that you have a ton of free time to act on your cravings and time to explore all the hidden features of a new city.
My host mom one day suggested I put henna in my hair to give it a nice red glow. She told me I would be able to find henna at the medina (Arabic word for a city or city center). I asked her if there was any specific shop and she said that it’s everywhere. So I journeyed off to the medina in search for henna. When I first entered the medina, I wasn’t sure where to even begin looking. I found a few small beauty shops and asked if they had henna and they pointed to different ones, but it wasn’t the specific brand I was looking for. Then I entered the spice market and found a man who was selling loose henna by the kilogram. My host mom told me to be careful while buying loose henna because it can be old; fresh new henna is a rich green. I stayed away from the loose henna and instead asked the man if he had the specific brand of henna I was looking for. He pulled out a few boxes and I spotted the one I wanted. I asked him how much and he said each box is 6 DH. I paid the man and he asked me where I was from. I told him I was American, but originally Pakistani. When he heard Pakistani, he immediately got happy and started said "Salam" to me. I thanked the man and left with the box of henna.
The best part about walking through the medina is you get to see spices and fruits and vegetables out in the open unlike in America. People will try to usher you into their shops or ask you where you are from while you’re just walking through. If you walk through the medina, you can end up by the kasbah and the water. Past the water is Sale and it’s possible to take a boat to cross the river. I walked through the medina towards the kasbah because I was still craving cotton candy and knew a man would be on the side of the steps selling pure happiness for 2 DH. As I walked towards the water, I could smell the sweet sugar in the air. I found the man selling cotton candy and while waiting for mine, I asked him about his day. He told me it was a beautiful day and a beautiful life. He said the sun was out by the grace of God and there was nothing he could possibly complain about. Not only was the man selling the happiest delicacy, but he was also just the kindest person. People in Rabat are genuinely kind and will ask you how you are multiple times and in different ways. A lot of foreigners are studying or working at the embassy in Rabat and the local people are always curious to know where people come from.
I took my cotton candy and walked towards the water to sit by the edge and enjoy the sound of the waves and the sun. As I sat down, I saw a bunch of little kids swimming in the water and throwing a ball at each other. It had been raining for the past few days, and the sun was finally out. Everyone around me was soaking in the sun. After a while, some of the kids who had been swimming came up to me and asked if they could have some of my cotton candy. It felt wrong to give someone something that is already been eaten so I handed him 2 DH so he could buy his own.
Afterwards, the boy came back with his friends and asked me where I was from. I told him I was American. He asked me if I liked Morocco or America better. I said I like Morocco better because it’s prettier and the people are nicer. The boy's name was Muhammad and his friends’ names were Sufian and Adam. Sufian said if I were in America I would like America better and if I were in Morocco I would like Morocco better. Muhammad told me I looked Moroccan and I told him that my family is actually from Pakistan. He asked if I was Muslim and if I read the Quran. I told him I am and that I have read the Quran. Sufian asked if I could recite a little and I asked him instead to recite something to me. With his beautiful voice he recited the first Surat from the Quran. Afterwards, the boys started showing off and doing cartwheels and flips on the side of the water and left. As the boys were leaving, I looked up at the sky and noticed a double rainbow was starting to form. I could hear all the kids around me pointing and shouting towards the rainbow. Other people picked up their phones and took pictures of the rainbow. Rabat is truly magical and you never know who you will meet or what you will see throughout the day. The best thing to do is constantly be on your feet and and always be willing to converse with people.