Mad About Meknes: Why I Love Studying In Morocco

Annie Cutler is a student at Kansas State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Annie is currently studying in Meknes on an ISA Summer 2 program.

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Africa is not your ‘typical’ study abroad destination. Most students I know tend to favor programs in Europe or South America. However, studying in Morocco has so much to offer! Let me share with you the top five reasons why everyone should want to at least visit, if not study in, Morocco:

Morocco is not beautiful in a traditional sense; it is dusty, often smoggy, and it rarely rains during the summer months. Especially when traveling in larger cities such as Tangier or Casablanca, it is easy to categorize Morocco’s scenery as crowded, dirty, and uninspiring.

If you doubt Morocco’s real beauty, though, there is only one solution: go up. The view from a Moroccan rooftop at any time of day is a special thing, but especially so at sunset.

Meknes is nicknamed “City of the Hundred Minarets,” and it certainly lives up to its name. The beautiful towers reach up to the sky all over Meknes, marking the location of the city’s many mosques, but also giving a spiritual feel to the Meknes skyline. In Casablanca, you can visit the world’s tallest minaret, at Hassan II Mosque. This mosque in the largest in the country and the 7th largest in the world; 105,000 believers can worship at the same time!

Moroccan Mint Tea
You have not truly experienced Morocco until you have drank the traditional mint tea. Served in a small silver teapot, the tea is made with green tea, mint leaves, and a heaping of sugar. Drinking tea together is a social experience, and this tea is often served when you are a guest in someone’s home.

When served, the tea is often poured into the traditional glasses (no tea cups in this country) from two or three feet above the glass, allowing the tea to be cooled by the air. One of my fellow ISA-ers, a physics major, argue that this practice really has no palpable cooling effect; regardless of its true effectiveness, seeing the tea being poured from a pot several feet above without spilling a drop is an amazing sight.

Even if you aren’t a feline fan, the thousands of street cats found throughout Morocco are still a sight to see. Morocco is home to a virtual army of street cats; dogs are rarely seen in comparison. Many of these cats are flea-infested, maimed, or otherwise not as cute and cuddly as the ones you can buy at a pet store back home. Still, seeing kittens cuddled up behind a street vendor’s cart or taking a nap in a potted plant is a comforting sight; these predators keep the rats and other creepy creatures at bay.

The Story of Moulay Ismail
Known as the Warrior King, this former ruler of Morocco was known for his cruelty as well as his economic success. Under Moulay Ismail’s reign, Meknes was known as the “Versailles of Morocco.” Moulay Ismail built beautiful palaces, including one that houses the university we ISA students study at. His influence and legacy is seen throughout Morocco, not just in Meknes. Plenty of stories, ranging from historical to the bizarre, are told about him. Among other accomplishments, he is said to have fathered nearly 1,000 children!

Regardless if you are interested in the cats, the crazy dictator, or the culinary aspects, Morocco is a country worth visiting. If you’re lucky, maybe you can even spend some time in Meknes!

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