Markets vs. Supermarkets

Arriving back to Canada took a while, but when we finally cleared customs and the majority of us received our baggage (sorry Mahisha!) mostly intact (boo to my broken ceramics) it was so nice to see our families again. After the airport, my mum and I immediately went to the grocery store to buy the whipped cream we needed for my “welcome back to Canada” cake later that evening.

On the drive, I didn’t notice anything too akin to “reverse culture shock,” the feeling you get when suddenly things at home become completely alien to you. In Rabat, I was used to seeing fairly tall buildings, people of different ethnicities, and decently well maintained highways. Rabat also had a tram system, so even the Toronto streetcars didn’t faze me.

But then we got to the grocery store. It wasn’t a particularly warm day, but the amount of skin I saw showing was quite shocking: knees and shoulders, and even a midriff!! The grocery store too was quite alien – first of all, it was air conditioned and thus very cold in my opinion. I also had to remind myself about prices – I was used to dividing everything by seven in order to convert from dirhams to dollars, that the Canadian prices threw me off. We didn’t go to a particularly extravagant grocery store (it isn’t called “No Frills” for nothing), but to me it seemed completely otherworldly.

In Rabat, grocery stores do exist, though not much is sold there that you couldn’t buy at your neighbourhood hanoot, a kind of small room stacked to the ceiling with all kinds of products. The fancy ones even have a little refrigerated unit where you can buy dairy products, and have shelves of everything from shampoo to eggs, though most just stock candy, chips, and nuts that they roast right outside. The closest grocery store to our host family, a chain called BIM, was about a 5-minute walk away. To get there, we passed multiple hanoots, as well as bakeries, established fruit stores (meaning they had their own storefront), and many carts filled with fresh produce that would change depending on the day and the seasonality of the products.

The BIM itself was a little odd. It was not very large, and somehow found it ok to stock milk cartons in a big pile in the middle of the store, where there was absolutely no refrigeration. The products it stocked were mostly candy, some dried products such as lentils and bouillon cubes, a tiny area for produce, and some yogurt. The gentlemen working there were very nice, and throughout the three weeks we spent there they got quite a kick out of hearing our Darija progress little by little.

Compared to the imposing lines of cashiers who couldn’t care less about the customers they’re serving, I realized I missed the community-oriented and under-refrigerated BIM. Even though I had yet to unpack my bags, the post-travel nostalgia had already set in.

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