GETTING TO KNOW RABAT

Morocco is the gateway to Africa and the Middle East. Situated on the northwestern coast of Africa, you will immediately be welcomed by the kindness and generosity of the Moroccan people. From the beaches to the mountains to the desert, you will have an opportunity to lose yourself in the incredible landscape and culture.

Learn About Morocco

Like many of the countries in the region, Morocco was once a French colony. After gaining independence in 1956, Morocco quickly stabilized and has remained one of the most peaceful nations in Northern Africa. Morocco is a constitutional monarchy, with both a king and a parliament. If you’re a history buff, check out everything you’ll need to know about Morocco’s ancient & modern-day history.

A country not much bigger than California, Morocco maintains one of the most democratic political systems in the Middle East. During the Arab Spring (the revolution that took North Africa and the Middle East by storm in 2011), Morocco responded quickly to the concerns of its people and worked hard to rectify them. The country is still struggling to overcome policies set down by previous monarchs, but great strides have been made since the current king, Mohamed IV, assumed power in 1999.

Tourism is one of the top three sectors of Moroccan economy and this is evident throughout the country. Whether bustling around Fes (which boasts the largest medina in the world) or gazing out in awe at the vast Saharan desert, the appeal of Morocco attracts adventure-seekers worldwide. In fact, the Washington Post reports that Morocco is also among the top three most welcoming countries for foreigners in the world!

Morocco is an explorer’s paradise. Whether you are drawn to the ancient Kasbahs and magnificent dunes of the Sahara, the shopper’s paradise that is Fes, the blue medina hiding inside Chefchaouen, or Essaouira’s sun-bleached beaches, there is something for everyone. Due to its rich cultural history, Morocco also has some incredible festivals that are sure to delight, including the Gnawa and World Music Festival in June, the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival in July, and the Imichil Marriage Festival in August and September.

Rabat is THE place to be - a vibrant epicenter for history, religion, and culture. You can spend hours meandering around the medina (trust us!), but don’t let the city walls stop you from exploring further! Overgrown and crumbling, the Chellah ruins are some of the oldest collections of structures in Morocco. Volunteers can also visit the Archaeological Museum, which contains the most extensive collections of archaeological artifacts found in Morocco.

In the capital city of Rabat, you’ll be surrounded by swaying palm trees as you overlook the banks of the Atlantic Ocean. Throughout Morocco, but particularly if you take a weekend trip to the Sahara Desert, it’s essential to be aware of the high heat – taking a water bottle with you to keep well hydrated, watching out for signs of heat stroke, and wearing comfortable cotton clothing.

In the capital city, animal life is sparse, but once in the desert, you may find yourself riding a camel, or visiting a group of monkeys as you cross the Atlas Mountains. It’s also important to be alert for scorpions in the desert specifically, checking your shoes for any signs when in this area.

Cultural Do’s and Don’ts

Entering a new culture is an exciting and challenging experience. And just as you bring your own culture to share, it’s important to be open and respectful to the culture of those you’ll meet during your travels. You’ll often find that you have a much more positive experience if you are aware of and take into account cultural norms when meeting new people and getting to know your new community.

Do!
  • Learn some basic Moroccan Arabic phrases
  • Study up on the culture and history
  • Dress respectfully
  • Remember that we are guests in the community!
Don't!
  • Take yourself too seriously
  • Forget to bargain in the markets
  • Take a taxi without making sure the meter is on
  • Be too affectionate in public (it’s frowned upon)

For Fútbol Fanatics! Moroccans are also extremely passionate about their futbol (known in the U.S. as soccer)! Here’s what you need to know: the Moroccan national football team, nicknames Lions de l’Atlas (after the Atlas mountain range) was the first African team to qualify for the World Cup finals and the first African team to win a group at the World Cup.

Culture Shock

Picture this: You’re living in a country far from home. You can’t understand the language, and you’re trying to order food, but everything seems to be moving so slowly! Why can’t it just be like in your home country: fast and efficient?

Sometimes, these and other frustrations can build up, and you may even become angry or annoyed at with this new and unfamiliar place, its cultural norms, and its people. If this happens to you, you might be experiencing culture shock.

Culture shock can be a normal part of traveling to a new country, but it might surprise you that you can also encounter reverse culture shock when you return home. While everyone experiences some degree of culture shock, the impact that it has on your experience depends on how well prepared you are to handle its different phases. Here are some tips and tricks to get you assimilated (and re-assimilated once you’re back home) so you can enjoy every moment of your journey.

"I - I hardly know, Sir, just at the present," Alice replied rather shyly, "at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • Have a sense humor.
    Try to see something of value in every new experience you have. While it can be challenging in the moment, try to keep it all in perspective. The ability to laugh and go with the flow are two key tools to coping with initial culture shock.
  • Expect differences.
    In any new culture, there will be some differences. If you’re prepared for there to be challenges and differences before you arrive in-country, it can make a world of difference in how you adjust.
  • ...but look for what’s the same.
    You will likely encounter differences in cultures, but you might not immediately realize the similarities. Take a moment to appreciate those attributes that make us more alike than different.
  • Keep learning.
    Immersing yourself in a new culture is a constant education. So continue making an effort to learn and understand what you’re experiencing.

Language Skills

Living and working within your new community is a great way to learn the local language. Whether you’re an advanced speaker or just learning a few key phrases, you’ll enjoy CCS-organized language lessons during your time in-country to help you through your journey. Here are a few important phrases to learn before you depart for your volunteer program. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect (yet), give it a try! Your attempts to connect with new friends in the local language will always be appreciated.

Here are a few key phrases to get you started:
Moroccan Arabic PhrasesFrench Phrases
HelloSalam AlekumHelloBonjour
How are you?Keef dayr?How are you?Ça va?
GoodLabasGoodBien
PleaseAfakPleaseS’il vous plait
Thank youShokranThank youMerci
It’s a pleasureMtsharfinIt’s a pleasureAvec plaisir
Do you speak English?Wash kat’ref negleezeeya?Do you speak English?Parlez-vous anglais?
I don’t understandMafhemtchI don’t understandJe ne comprends pas
Do you understand me?Wash Kat fhamni?Do you understand me?Comprenez-vous?
I am from…Amen meen…I am from…Je suis de…
I need…Mahtaj…I need…J’ai besoin de…
How much does it cost?Bsshal?How much does it cost?Combien ça coute?
See you tomorrowNtlakaou ghadaSee you tomorrowÀ demain
GoodbyeBessalamaGoodbyeAu revoir

Intro to Moroccan
Arabic: Basic Level

As with learning any new language, reading phrases is helpful. But listening is one of the best ways to grasp sounds and vocabulary. Click below to hear Country Director Mohamed Mhmmoudi begin your first Arabic & French language lessons.

Ready for the next level? Practice your Moroccan Arabic with these online sites:

http://www.speakmoroccan.com/ »
http://mylanguages.org/learn_moroccan.php »

Recommended Reading and Films

We believe that travel and firsthand encounters are the BEST education. But there are also plenty of resources to help you learn more about the history, travel opportunities, culture, stories, and language of Morocco so you can begin to immerse yourself even before you arrive. Here are just a few of our favorites to get you started:

Moroccan Arabic »
CCS Blog: Morocco »
Book: The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca »

Free Time

Between volunteering, cultural activities, navigating a new language, and immersing yourself in a brand-new culture, you’ll still have plenty of time to explore the local area and even the country during evenings and weekends. Free time is an important part of your experience for independent exploration and self-reflection, and our in-country staff will always have some great, local tips to share.

Start your planning with a few of our favorite suggestions, but also remember that you can plan most of your trips once you arrive in-country (especially if flights aren’t required) with your fellow volunteers.

Head southeast into the magnificent Sahara Desert. After a trip over the Atlas Mountains, spend your evening riding over sand dunes on the back of a camel, and sleep under the stars to the stories and music of the Berber people.

Get lost in the historic medina of Fes (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Narrow and winding streets, shops displaying their unique (and inexpensive!) wares, and tasty Moroccan treats await, with a surprise around every corner. It’s easy to travel to Fes for a quick weekend trip – it’s only a three hour journey from Rabat.

George Orwell published an essay about Marrakech in 1939 and it remains just as enchanting today as it was then. Visit the Jemaa El Fna square in Marrakech to see the infamous story-tellers, snake-charmers, and monkeys. Visitors can also view the beautiful Jardin Majorelle, built by the French painter Jacques Majorelle, and wander around the 15th century Saadian Tombs.

Venture off the beaten path and visit smaller towns such as Essaouira and Chefchaouen. Essaouira is a tiny beach town in southern Morocco known throughout the country for its wooden carvings and fresh fish. Chefchaouen rests inside the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco. Its blue-walled medina and excellent hiking trails attract visitors from all over.

Training Sessions

If you’re ready to start learning more, review your online Training Sessions below (these are required – so make sure you allocate enough time to review each of these trainings, each under 30-minutes). About two weeks before your program begins, you’ll join your final pre-departure call with your group. We can’t wait for you to join us, meet your fellow volunteers, and explore all that CCS has to offer.

Training Call 1:
How to be a Successful Volunteer »

Training Call 2:
Savvy Street Smarts »

Training Call 3:
Volunteer Work Assignments »

GO TO: Volunteering in Rabat

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