Birthday Weekend in Sidi Bouzid

Robert and I share the same birthday (January 28), which is always a source of mild surprise from people. When we told our Moroccan best friend, her reaction was to jump up and scream “NO FUCKING WAY!”

She snatched her wallet and pulled out her National ID card. “THAT’S MY BIRTHDAY TOO!” We were in the middle of the dar chebab, but the three of us shamelessly jumped up and down and exclaimed loudly. It seemed like the most amazing coincidence.

At the beginning of February, she planned a road trip/weekend stay at her family’s beach house in Sidi Bouzid, a little coastal town by El Jadida (where we worked at an English Language camp last summer). It became our 3-way birthday trip!

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The Atlantic February breeze was brisk, but the steady African sun warmed us up. Best of all, the company was perfect. A relaxing adventure with my best friends! Plus, we didn’t have to take public transportation for once (PCVs are not allowed to drive). Despite the environmental guilt, I adore road trips in actual cars.

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Plus: no crowds and no tourists! Finding local gems like Sidi Bouzid (always facilitated by local friends) is one of the best parts of living abroad. The beach was mostly empty except for a few scattered Moroccan families and a couple of guys practicing for le bab baroud/Fantasia, which is North Africa’s traditional horsemanship festival. (Check out February’s 1 Second Everyday video to catch a second of the horses galloping down the beach!)

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I wish we had taken more pictures of the trip, but we were too busy romping around and being ridiculous. We made a sand kasbah, buried Robert under a fat merman tail, and threw around an American football. We had milkshakes and mocktails at beach-view cafes. We ate grilled fish fresh from the sea. We meandered through Sidi Bouzid’s souk, where Robert was given a free stethoscope.

We feel more and more that our lives are defined by these desultory adventures.

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We still have a while before we even have to start thinking about leaving Morocco. But still, every now and then I get a pang of nostalgia for a place I’m still living in. And it’s not the beaches or the strawberry milkshakes or the outdoor markets we’ll miss the most. Those things can be found anywhere. But how are we supposed to leave all these friends we’ve come to love so dearly? When we left Seattle, it was easier because we knew we’d be back. I want to say that we will definitely be back to al Maghrib too, but the truth is that we don’t know what the future will bring. So… inshallah, inshallah, inshallah.

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie

 

 

6 Incredible Moroccan Women You Should Know on International Women’s Day 2016

Today is International Women’s Day 2016. To celebrate, we’re highlighting 6 of Morocco’s countless extraordinary women from the past century.


 

Touria Chaoui

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Touria Chaoui was the first Moroccan and Arab female pilot. In 1952, when she was only sixteen years old, she debuted her aviation skills to the public to wide acclaim. She became a Moroccan national hero during the time of French colonization, and thus became an target for French authorities. When she was mysteriously assassinated at only nineteen, the whole country mourned.

Zineb Benalla

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Zineb Benalla with Dwight Bush, the US Ambassador to Morocco (who swore us in as PCVs in April 2015!)

Benalla is this year’s recipient of the U.S. Embassy Rabat’s International Women of Courage Award. She is the co-founder and director of the Transnational Initiative Countering Violent Extremism. She has spent the last two and a half years working on capacity-building programs and civil society projects in Northern Mali. Benalla has dedicated her career to advocating for peace and advancing social progress in North Africa.

Nezha Hayat

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Nezha Hayat is the founder and deputy chair of the Association des Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises du Maroc (Association of Women Business Managers in Morocco). She has dedicated her platform to campaign for the presence of women on boards of directors. Hayat is the first woman member of the Executive Board of Societe Generale Morocco.

Hind Touissate

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Hind Touissate is the award-winning writer and entrepreneur behind According to Hind, a popular lifestyle blog. She describes herself as “a Global Citizen born in Morocco.” She’s also a public speaker, a world traveler, and a human rights activist. Hind is the founder of BETA Changemakers, a social enterprise with a mission to enhance the lives of students through art programs and build a community of changemakers in Morocco. This month, she is launching a new venture: Hind & Company, a fashion hijab design company.

Aicha Chenna

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Chenna is the founder of the organization Solidarité Feminine, which opens its doors to marginalized single mothers in Morocco. Despite backlash from conservatives, she continues to be dauntless in her advocacy. She is a staunch defender of the under-resourced and underprivileged. In 2009, Chenna was awarded the world’s largest faith-based prize for entrepreneurship, the Opus Prize, for her life achievement as a social activist.

Merieme Chadid

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Chadid holding up the Moroccan flag at the South Pole

Chadid was the first woman astronomer, and first Moroccan, to set foot in Antarctica. In 2006, she led an international expedition to install a major astronomical observatory in Antarctica, where she was also the first to place an Arab flag (Moroccan) at the South Pole. There, she is continuing her research and continuing to be a badass pioneer.

 

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie