An Afternoon in the Meknes Countryside

Celene Barrera is a student at Bennington College and an ISA Featured Blogger. Celene is currently studying abroad with ISA in Meknes, Morocco.

Morocco‘s landscape diversity is simply incredible. In many ways it reminds me of my home state, California. There can’t be too many places in the world where palm trees, desert, snow, heavy rain, and forest can coexist in the same territory. Naturally, Morocco facilitates this odd mix with ease.

Thought Morocco was a desert? Think again!
Thought Morocco was a desert? Think again!

In the spirit of trying to explore Morocco as best I can, the other day my roommate and I accompanied my host mom to her friend’s house in Khedrache, a countryside area about 30 minutes outside Meknes. Lydia, my roommate, likes to make fun of me because I’m very much a city slicker; the moment we stepped in the front yard of the country home, I noticed some wandering roosters and exclaimed, “now that’s free range!”

Happy as can be!

For all of my city living, I often forget how peaceful it is to live simply. The home was old-fashioned yet utterly charming. I was introduced to farm animals, saw the inside of a chicken coop, and opened a door to, quite literally, a “rabbit hole.” There were rabbits inside. The bathroom was outdoors, and there was a John Deere tractor for planting assistance. Toto and I were definitely not in Los Angeles any longer.

I have no idea what's on that truck
I have no idea what’s on that truck

I’ve come to the conclusion that individuals abroad are generally more hospitable and kind than those I’ve met in the U.S. Moroccans have the U.S. beat in terms of making you feel at home. Though I must admit my roommate has been showing me the ways of Southern hospitality, which is a definite competitor. We were immediately sat in front of a gorgeous feast of tea and melwi (ملوي), a thick, crepe-like bread. Lydia and I ate and vocalized our gratitude with murmurs of appreciation, and stopped after a few melwi. Moroccans love to eat. It’s a fact. So when Lydia and I didn’t continue eating, we were immediately asked if we were on a diet. Oh, Morocco.

Q: Guess how much of that meal was homemade? A: All of it... even the olive oil!
Q: Guess how much of that meal was homemade? A: All of it… even the olive oil!

My host mom‘s friends were so kind and genuine. I couldn’t understand much of what they were saying, but I was able to pick up fragments of someone telling me I was welcome to come by whenever I wanted, which was very sweet. Another fun part of the trip was meeting a little girl named Malikah, who was a bundle of sass and joy. It had been quite a while since I’d been around children; in contrast, my roommate works at a preschool. I turned to her and muttered “I don’t remember what the protocol is for this” when Malikah wanted to sit on my lap.

Isn't she adorable?
Isn’t she adorable?

After eating, we got a tour of the grounds and walked around. The highlight was definitely walking to the top of the house and finding a beautiful rooftop view. What do you hear when you climb to the rooftop of a building in Los Angeles? You hear traffic, horns, and chatter.


Do you want to know what you hear when you climb to a rooftop in the countryside in Morocco? You hear silence, the chirping of birds, and the laughter of a child playing next to you. It’s a scene that makes you pause, close your eyes, breathe in the fresh air, and quietly count your blessings for knowing what it means to experience a moment of serenity in a place you are slowly learning to call home.

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