While I am definitely still getting settled into Meknes, I have had the chance to explore some with my class and on my own. Listing the places I can get to without getting lost gives a pretty good introduction to my time here.
Classes! The route from my apartment to the AALIM center and back is definitely the first one I learned. It crosses between the old, walled city, the medina, to the new city. The particular area I live in is called Hamria. There’s a large park in between I hope to explore at some point. The teachers are fabulous – they push us to learn but are friendly and encouraging while doing so. Hopefully I will be able to fully absorb all the Arabic being stuffed into my brain. Just a little ways up from the center through the winding streets of the medina is an excellent place to buy fruit. I got amazing peaches, plums, and apples there. Unfortunately it was closed for Eid, so I resorted to a giant bag of dates, which were nice and sweet.
The apartment I’m staying in is perfectly located about a two minutes’ walk from the only church in Meknes. How cool is that? The Protestant (Église Évangelique au Maroc) church meets in the Catholic church Notre Dame des Oliviers. The congregation is primarily made of immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, plus a couple of American students from two different Arabic programs, and the service is in French. Everyone has been so extremely welcoming there.
I am also only a few minutes’ walk from a bookstore, which makes me quite happy. I went once with my language partner and just browsed around. When I went back to pick a book to buy, it was closed for Eid, but I hope to go back soon so I can find a book to slowly stumble my way through.
Probably the most recognizable spot in Meknes is the Bab Mansour gate. Between the gate and the souq is a square, which was quite busy at night during Ramadan. There were booths set up where children would go, get dressed up in wedding attire, and get their pictures taken. Honestly that sounds much more appealing than sitting in Santa’s lap for Christmas pictures. One of the buildings off the square is the Dar Jamaii museum, a palatial home built by a vizier in the 1800s that showcases Moroccan and specifically Meknesi craftsmanship. There is a lot of carved and painted wood on the doors and ceilings, as well as tile and woven and embroidered fabrics.
Whenever I move to or travel to a new place, I tend to start collecting places I feel comfortable in. I look forward to seeing how my experience in Morocco continues to expand.