On Friday September 6th I arrived at Rabat. Omar, one of the staff members of Nimar picked me up from the airport in Salé, and brought me to the host-family where I was supposed to stay for the first month. Since I’ve never stayed in a host-family before, I didn’t really know what to expect. So, I decided to just let it happen. The family I had been assigned to, lives in a beautiful riad, which is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard. The house has two big lounges, one for formal use and one for informal use, three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, all around the courtyard.
Since the moment I arrived, I was overwhelmed with attention and love of the family. My host-sister gave me a tour around the house and made me feel at home. She told me to pretend as if it was my own house. When I unpacked my suitcases, I sat down on my bed and I heard some whispering. My little host-niece was asking me ‘Tu t’appelle comment?’ I told her my name and asked her if she wanted to come inside. We played hide and seek a few times, until I got really tired. It had been a long day traveling to Morocco and I still had to settle for a bit. So the first thing I had to look up in Google translate was: ‘Demain je veux jouer au cache-cache avec toi, mais maintenant je voudrais dormir’. That was my first night in the old Medina of Rabat.
Despite my thought having enough time to rest at the weekend, my two host-sisters and brother asked me if I would like to go to a neighbour’s ceremony, where we would celebrate that the neighbour had just returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca. Of course, this seemed a fantastic way to get to know the family better and get used to the habits of Moroccan culture. So I said yes! We went to the house of a neighbour of the family where the ceremony would take place. Many people were present. Everyone sat at tables, was drinking tea and chatting with each other. After that, every table received a big bowl of couscous. I really had been looking forward to my first couscous in Morocco.
Living in a host-family in Morocco is a once in a lifetime experience. Not only do you feel more welcome than ever, you also get the chance to experience the habits of Moroccan culture and it’s the best way to learn and practice Darija. Speaking of habits; one day my host-mother took me to the hammam. A hammam is a steam room where people can wash themselves. At that moment it seemed like a very good idea. I had been a busy week at Nimar and I could use some relaxation. But then I didn’t know how intense it would be. My host-mother told me to put on my bathing suit, and bring a towel, shampoo and shower gel. She put these in the big bucket she brought with her. When we arrived at the hammam, my host-mother introduced me to everyone. I immediately noticed that the atmosphere was very cosy. It’s a kind of gathering place for women to chat and gossip. I didn't have to do anything myself. A woman who worked there took care of me scrubbing and washing. This was not the scrubbing that I was used to, because it was very rough. Because of the language barrier we could not understand each other well. Therefore, she pushed me in the direction in which I had to stand or sit, without consulting. I actually thought it was funny but at the same time really exhausting. It has been quite an experience.
Every weekend my host-sister and nieces also stayed at the house. On Saturdays I would go out with my nieces to do some groceries. Because the children almost know everyone in the medina this sometimes would take hours. Not only did we chat with all these people, but also, we would go into different houses where we got tea and cookies. Whilst walking through the medina I still come across many familiar faces.
I had a really good time living in a host-family. We made many nice memories and shared lots of experiences.
“But now I’m also looking forward to move to an apartment in the city and cook for myself. Fortunately, my host-mother gave me her couscous recipe!”