Since I first applied to this study abroad program in the cold Wisconsin winter, I have been longing to experience for myself the Moroccan medina. Small winding roads packed with booths selling artisan crafts, carpets, food, soaps, clothing, and everything in between welcomed me as soon as I entered the old medina in Rabat. The colors and overwhelming amount of options made my first time in the medina a bit stressful, but now that I am more comfortable with the atmosphere I can let my mind wander and can enjoy the bustle of locals and tourists mixing and doing business.
This weekend I came across an entirely different section of the medina that seemed to have more hand-made goods and quality items. As an impulse buyer I had a very hard time reigning myself in, but I did manage to buy a beautiful silver cuff with turqouise and coral as well as a silver necklace of Fatima’s hand (a traditional symbol that wards off the evil eye) and a small leather purse. I definitely need to work on my bartering skills, but when everything is such a good price in US dollars it is hard for me to ask for much less than the marked price. I know it’s the norm to ask for half of the marked price, but until I can muster up some more bartering swagger I am happy with my 10 dirham discounts.
Of particular interest to the public health aspect of our trip is the sanitary condition and general griminess of the medina, especially the food areas. In the most crowded areas, stray cats stroll through the alleys, flies jump from booth to booth of raw meat and fish, and trash is just left wherever there is a free space. The medina is still somehow beautiful with all of these lackluster sanitation practices, but it does make me very aware of the potential health hazards to those who do the majority of their shopping, especially for food, in the old medina.