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Peace Corps Day 1998

Peace Corps Day 1998
17 Feb 2020 by Johnny Garces

This material does not reflect the official opinion of the United States Government or of the Peace Corps. The reader should be aware that birth and death rates, literacy levels, school enrollment percentages, religious preferences, life expectancy, health statistics and basic economic and population figures are often difficult to calculate in many countries around the world. Readers should be aware of this reality when they pursue information on Peace Corps host countries. Research updated 8/97.
Research and format by Jeanne Pugh, University of Iowa and Stephanie Hallett, George Washington University and Cristina Everett, Educator. 


Peace Corps Country Information for Peace Corps Day

Country Information

Name: Kingdom of Morocco

Geographic Coordinates: 32 00N; 5 00W

Land Area: 172,320 square miles, slightly larger than California

Land Boundaries: Algeria, Western Sahara

Coastline: 1,835 km along North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea

Highest Point: Jebel Toubkal 13,665 ft

Principal Towns: Rabat (capital), Marrakesh

Percent Urban: 51

Date of Independence: 2 April 15 956 from France

Suffrage: Universal at age 21

Ethnic Groups: Arab-Berber 99.1%, other

Population: 28.2 million (mid-1997)

Birth Rate (per 1000): 26

Death Rate (per 1000): 6

Life Expectancy at Birth: 68

Age Distribution: 36% under age 15, 5% over 65

Literacy: 43.7% over age 15 (1995)

Languages: Arabic (official), Berber dialects, French

Religions: Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%,

Natural Resources: Phosphates, iron ore, manganese, lead, zinc, fish, salt

Main Exports: Food and beverages, semiprocessed goods, consumer goods, phosphates

Currency: 1 Moroccan dirham (DH) = 100 centimes

Environmental Issues: Land degradation/desertification (soil erosion resulting from farming of marginal areas, overgrazing, destruction of vegetation); water supplies contaminated by untreated sewage; siltation of reservoirs; oil pollution of coastal waters

Natural Hazards: Northern mountains geologically unstable, earthquakes; periodic droughts

Peace Corps Entry: 1962-1991; 1991-

Total Number of Peace Corps Volunteers: 3,347

Average Number of Volunteers: 115

How to greet in Moroccan Arabic

Language: Arabic Greeting: Salam oo-alley koom

Comments In Moroccan Arabic, as in Arabic everywhere, this is the standard basic greeting.  It translates literally to "Peace be unto you" and the response, "Oo-alley koom salam" means "and unto you be peace."

Greetings in Morocco will go on for many minutes--sometimes up to 1/2 hour--and the parties ask about each other's health, faith in Allah, families, work, etc.  Other shorter greetings include "La bess?" meaning literally "No harm" or something like "How's it going?" "Salam," used when passing someone on the street you sort of know but don't stop to talk to, and "Ash khbarak?"--"What's new (with you)?"

Moroccans will shake hands when greeting pretty much anyone, touching the heart immediately after the handshake to show that the greeting is sincere.  Sometimes instead of touching the heart, they will kiss their own hand after the handshake, as a sign of particular esteem or affection.  In the case of family or close friends, women greeting women and men greeting men will kiss each other's cheeks back and forth a few times.  In the north, it's right cheek--left cheek--left cheek. In other parts of the country, it could be right--left--right, or right--left only.  How much you kiss cheeks also depends on how much you like the person, or how long it's been since you've seen them.  The longer it's been, the more kisses are exchanged.  Women and men who are not related NEVER kiss.


Celebrations Stories from Morocco for Peace Corps Day 1998

Volunteer: Erin Dolat
Years of service: 1996-1998
Place and location: Missour, where I served is 400 km east of Rabat, 90 km from a small city (Midelt), and 200 km from a large city (Fes).

One special day that is celebrated at Missour is a picnic at the site of a mausoleum. A respected man, Sidi Dowd, was burned a few hundred meters from my village. A small building has been constructed there and at various times, villagers visit his grave. Once a year a picnic is held. People from all over came by donkey or on foot for a day-long celebrations/commemoration of Sidi Dowd. Women make lots of couscous and families eat in the caves of a neighboring hill. Extra couscous is made to give to those who did not cook but still made the journey. It is like a picnic but with more sharing involved. This occasion is quite different than a typical picnic in the United States. People bring buta gas tanks, water, food, etc. I enjoyed this experience and look forward to it again next year.


Volunteer: Sandra Vines
Years of service: 1996 - 1998
Place and location: Rabat, the Capital

During the first week in March, Moroccans all over the country celebrate Throne Day which is the day their king, Hassan II, was first recognized as the new official ruler of Morocco.

At first glimpse this holiday appears much like an American holiday because there were green and red lights everywhere in the streets which reminded me of Christmas. However, I soon realized that these were the national colors of Morocco. At night, there was a parade attended by almost the entire city of Rabat. Women, men and children were all lined along Avenue Mohammed waiting for the Royal Cavalry to appear. The sound of the beating of the drums in the distance reminded me of the homecoming parades in my hometown of Athens, Ohio.

The enthusiasm exhibited here was much greater than any I had ever seen for a football team. As the parade first appeared, children were scaling the wall of the post office to get better view, women began to yell yu, yu, yu! in lieu of
applause. Men in beautiful red uniforms with long capes and blue geometric shaped hats were riding pure bred Arabian horses. Others were carrying brass lanterns on a pole while those in the middle stopped to play their trumpets and drums in front of us. There were flags everywhere. People were cheering and pushing their way to the front, so much that the men on horseback could not move forward. For me this national celebration was another example of the solidarity and the passion of Moroccan people.


Volunteer: Kerry Foley
Years of service: 1997-1999
Place and location: Beni Mellal, the site where I am serving, is about 300 km southeast of Rabat at the western base of the Middle Atlas Mountains.

During the summer I was invited to a Moroccan wedding in Salé, Morocco (a suburb of Rabat). A Moroccan family used henna to dye my hair and to make a beauftiful design on my hands. I was dressed in a long dress, with embroidery around the neck and a gold belt. The groom wore a western-style dark blue suit and the bride wore a similar outfit to mine, but in white with a crown of white and a veil. The wedding celebration had begun two days prior to the wedding day with a truck filled with presents parading down the streets of Salé. At the wedding party, which I attended, the groom walked into the dance hall while the bride was carried into the room on an intricately beaded platform by four groomsmen. She sat on the platform with delight and fear, or so it seemed. The band played Moroccan music from the late evening until the next morning. It was quite a remarkable experience.


Volunteer: Amy Mawry
Years of service: 1997-1999
Place and location: The site where I am serving is El Jadida, Faculté des Lettres, Université Chouaib Doukkali, which is 90 km south of Casablanca on the Atlantic coast.

On Novenber 6, Moroccans celebrate a day in honor of the "Green March" or the movement of a group of people into Western Sahara. There has been some dispute as to what country could rightly claim western Sahara. Morocco's government, in order to claim this land, asked Moroccans to move into it and occupy it. Over 350,000 people went willingly, and the Western Sahara was claimed in part by Morocco.

This event is celebrated much as we celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday. People observe the event and its significance by closing shops and offices, and it affords many people the opportunity to travel to be with family and friends.


Volunteer: Pauline Salser
Years of service: 1997-1999
Place and location: I am serving in Douar Amzough Takarkoust, about 52 km south of Marrakech.

I briefly visited a family celebrating a circumcision of their four and a half year old son. It was a much greater celebration for the extended family than for the little boy, but he did receive small gifts and a great amount of attention and love from each person that attended throughout the day. The only resemblance to a celebration in the United States might have been a birthday party that totally catches participation of adult males of a family.


Volunteer: Erica Clark
Years of service: 1996-1998
Place and location: I am serving in Tazarte (Fig), which is 60 km northeast of Marrakech in the mountains and plains.

On Ashora, children go from house to house asking for 10 centimes pieces (like a penny). If you don't give them one, they can throw water on you, or use a squirt gun, etc. Usually mass water fights break out in the streets between everybody, adults and children alike. It is similar to Halloween in the "trick or treat" spirit of things. A super soaker water gun is our ultimate wish for the day -or a giant hose! It is a simultaneous water fight throughout all of Morocco.


School Life

I worked in an orphanage in Rabat so it is hard for me to remember the public school calendar. Most schools were organized on the French system. I know they would go home for a lunch siesta and then return to school. Most kids went to school from ages 5 to 18. There was a great deal of rote memorization. Most children attended from Monday to Friday, but some students went on Saturday too.

There were many national holidays and shorter days during the month of Ramadan. Summer vacation was like our summer vacation period in the States.

I taught at the Rabat American School. That school was organized much like a school in the United States.


Food in Morocco from Peace Corps Day 1998

Couscous is what Moroccan cuisine is most known for. In my area, it is eaten on every Friday, holy day. It is prepared in big batches. There is always more than we can eat. It is steamed and a sauce with vegetables is put over it. There will be a piece of lamb or beef in the center, carrots, cabbage, squash, peppers and other vegetables around the meat. In the cities it's eaten with spoons but the traditional way is to eat it with your right hand. Take a handful and by squeezing and tossing, shape it into a ball of couscous, pop it into your mouth and eat it. PCVs usually make a big mess in their eating area with this method and provide lots of entertainment for the Moroccans.

Weather in Morocco from Peace Corps Day 1998

In Morocco the climate and seasons are very similar to California. Cool on the coast all year long. Reaching into the low 90's during July and August. Inland it is hot. Summertime in the north gets to be in the 100's; in the south about 110 and up. The mountains get snow. The southern region may get 2-3 inches of rain per year. The humidity is low except on the coast. Spring and fall are beautiful, but they last only about 3 weeks each. The winter in the north is very cold. Typical desert climate.

It was very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter in Taza. Snow fell in Taza for the first time in 40 years while I was there. It stuck and lasted for 3 days. Most people in the town had never seen snow, but all enjoyed the work holiday that it created.


  • Site: Chefchaouen
  • Location: Northern Morocco in the Western Rif Mountains, about 2 hours inland from the Strait of Gibraltar (about 150 km).
  • RPCV: Kristyn Leftridge

Morocco is quite temperate. It's more or less summer there 8 or 9 months of the year. The term for winter is "shtah," or "rain"--it's supposed to be the Moroccan rainy season, but over the last few years there has been a serious drought problem and winters are merely damp and occasionally drizzly. There is snow at the higher elevations, and even some skiing down near Marrakech. There are 2 major mountain ranges in the country ,the Rif and the Atlas, the latter being separated into High Atlas and Middle Atlas. They also have a slight affect on the weather. Generally, though, the climate all over the country is warm to hot and dry--very low humidity. The summers can get well over 100 degrees, with the spring and fall hovering around 85 or so.

Proverbs from Morocco for Peace Corps Day 1998

There are many, many proverbs in Morocco. My favorite was "shweea b shweea, l'jamal imshi f'sooksoo" meaning, "little by little, the camel goes into the couscous." This is also stated by saying, "nqta b nqtaqay amal l'oued"--"drop by drop flows the river." Time is simply not important in Morocco; everything happens at its own pace, and everyone is important. Eventually the camel will get into your couscous when you're not looking, and yes, that river seems powerful when you watch it flowing along, but you must remember that millions of little drops make up the strength of the river.

Of course, the most important word in anyone's social vocabulary is "Insha'allah," meaning "God (Allah) willing." This is used in situations ranging from asking about the weather ("Do you think it will rain tomorrow?" -- "Insha'allah, we need it!") to avoiding an invitation you don't want to accept ("We'd love to have you over for dinner this week." -- "Insha'allah, I will be there.") to finding out about travel arrangements ("Will this bus be going to Rabat today?" -- "Insha'allah!"). If things don't happen the way they're supposed to, it just wasn't Allah's will.