So where do you stay when you volunteer with Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) in Rabat, Morocco? Good question! No, we do not stay in some kind of crazy mud hut. I was pleasantly surprised to find that our home away from home, known as the “Home Base” is quite lovely. It is located in the nice, posh neighborhood of “Hay Riad” where all the ex-pats and embassies are located. It is quite a different experience than being in the medina, that is for sure! Instead of ancient, white-washed buildings, the neighborhood is lined in majestic palm trees and enormous, mediterranean mansions all huge, all with gorgeous, lush and tropical gardens and security guards.
Here are some pictures of the Home Base:
I must admit it was not at all what I was expecting. After staying in the old medina area my first night in Rabat, I was very surprised that this neighborhood exists. But as Rabat is the capital city of Morocco, of course there has to be a place for all the embassies and wealthy people to live.
Here are some pictures around the Hay Riad neighborhood:
Our home base used to be an embassy which opened for CCS in 2007. It is a large building that can accommodate up to thirty volunteers (there are about four bunk beds per room) however we are quite fortunate now as there are only ten of us here, meaning I only share a room with one other volunteer.
The rent cost is huge, especially in Moroccan standards. It costs about $3,500 a month which explains some of the high costs involved in short-term volunteering for CCS.
Our residence has a beautiful, tropical garden and yard space filled with hibiscus flowers, birds of paradise, roses, palm trees and of course turtles! (There are several ones living in the backyard so you have to be careful not to step on them!).
The main living space downstairs is lovely and has a traditional moroccan “coach” that is L-shaped, and the room is lined with large windows. There are also several “poufs” or moroccan ottomans around so you can easily kick back and relax.
We are served all our meals at the home base, which are homemade by two Moroccan ladies. Breakfast usually consists of french baguette or Moroccan crepes, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, coffee and juice. Lunch is served at one pm after we return from our volunteer work and is always traditional moroccan food such as tangines, couscous, lots of vegetables, soups and lentils. Dinner is then served at seven pm and is usually the same types of meals served as lunch (but of course different each meal and each day). The food has been quite delicious so I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
Our general routine has been wake up (today I woke up unexpectedly at 5:17 am to the sounds of the muezzin (call to prayer) which could be heard through closed doors AND my earplugs! I of course went back to sleep!). After breakfast, we leave for our three volunteer placements: The Children’s Hospital, The school for street children and the Women’s Association (My placement where I teach English). We work for a few hours and then come back for a late lunch.
After lunch, we have cultural activities and learning. Yesterday, we did a city tour (which I will discuss more later) and today we are having a two hour lecture on Women in Islam.
Then we typically have a little downtime which can be spent shopping, resting, reading or talking with the other volunteers, followed by dinner at 7 PM and a bit of down time before bed. It is an exhausting day, especially given the jet-lag and cultural immersion (it is difficult in itself being in another country and speaking another language, ie. french, all day).
Everyone is wonderful at the Home Base. All the volunteers are very interesting people. About half are from the US, three from Canada and one woman is from New Zealand. Our Director, Mohammed is fabulous and a super funny guy. He worked in the Peace Corps for several years and now works for CCS. He is extremely knowledgeable and we’ve had several fascinating conversations.
The biggest surprise of all has been our discover (of course from past volunteers) of the one restaurant in Hay Riad that serves alcohol! I totally forgot the rules about being in a Muslim country! Muslims are not allowed to drink thus finding booze can be tricky. We are lucky that Morocco is more “liberal” and “modern” than other Islamic countries as you are able to find alcohol. All hotels serve it and the one french “tapas” bar we found serves alcohol but only after 8 PM. We have been there almost every night so far!
An important point to remember: This neighborhood is NOT TYPICAL Rabat. This is the wealthy area. Most Moroccans live in homes styled after medina area or in old apartment buildings. I will show more pictures of other neighborhoods later. I wanted to show you where we are staying and also that there are nice areas in Morocco! Most people wouldn’t believe that there is money everywhere, of course, along with lots of poverty.