Moroccan History & Cooking Lesson

Before coming to Morocco, I had this impression that Africa is a really hot place. When I got to Fez, I thought the weather was pretty similar to weather in the Twin Cities in the spring, which was really really nice. Well, spoke too soon, as for two days in a row already, the temperature high has been around 37 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit), and staying in the shade doesn’t really help that much.

Today we officially finished all the alphabets in Arabic, and we will be learning the alphabet song tomorrow. As part of the U of M program, we take not only just a language course here at ALIF, but also another 1-credit course called “Moroccan Culture & Society”, which would help us dig deeper into the local lives. Our first class meeting was yesterday, in which we talked about Morocco as a country and its history. I probably wrote this in one of the other entries, but Morocco operates under a constitutional monarchy. The constitution was introduced after Morocco’s independence from France. However, unlike the constitutional monarchies in Europe (the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, etc.), the king of Morocco actually participate in the decision-making process, and can actually dissolve the parliament if he deems the country to be in peril (a rather undefined term). Morocco has existed as a sovereign country since the 8th century, and was a sovereign country until 1912, when the French declared Morocco a protectorate as part of its campaign to expand control in North Africa (Algeria had been under French control since 1830). Trying to make Morocco a permanent part of France, the French issued the “Berber Degree” to separate the Berber population from the Arab population in 1930 as an attempt of “divide and rule”. Didn’t really work out that well as it started Moroccan’s resistance toward the French, and with the rise of nationalism in 1940s, cry for independence was getting louder and louder. In response, French exiled the king at the time, Mohammed V (now known as father of the nation). But as resistance continued, French seek negotiation and allow the king to return in 1953. Morocco gained its independence in 1956.

We also had a Moroccan cooking lesson today, in which we learned to make a couscous dish with chicken and a variety of vegetables. What I got out of it, is that Moroccan cooking doesn’t really involve much cooking. All we did was chopping up onions, zucchinis, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and pumpkin. We then put pieces of chicken, and the vegetables into a big pot, added water, and waited for it to boil. The couscous was put in another pot that can be put on top of the first pot to be steamed for 20 minutes. The rest was pretty much waiting. It did look very good when the dish was plated on huge plates though.

You would think after waiting for almost an hour would make people hungry, and it does. But those two huge plates of couscous were more than enough to feed 12 people. There was plenty of food left when everyone was full (couscous does expand in the stomach though). This was at around 9 pm. I went home, and my host-family had dinner at 11 pm. Trying not to hurt anyone’s feeling, I ate, very slowly so I won’t eat that much (I couldn’t, really). I think this may just be the first time I don’t want to see food in recent months…

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