Anyone for a Date? Sweets and Eats Abroad ~

By: Brittany B., Student Services Assistant, API Texas
(former API Peer Mentor & API Granada, Spain: Hispanic Studies Semester Program)

Anyone for a date?

Let’s talk about dates for a moment. Not romantic dinners or calendar days—actually, I’m referring to those golden-brown, wrinkled, sticky bundles of sweetness… (Sigh.) I love dates. Have you heard of these natural delicacies? I could eat them regularly. You can probably think of a few foods that occupy a similar sweet spot in your heart, too.

Qatar market

Imagine picking your way through a market place where your favorite foods (dates?) heap up in great big barrels, overflow out of boxes, and stare at you from within glass display cases! Maybe you can imagine my delight as I stepped into Tetouan’s old medina in the northern part of Morocco. Dates, oranges, and almonds piled high in the midst of fresh fish, flapping chickens, white cheeses wrapped in leaves, colorful seeds, and dangling raw hides of meat. Talk about sensory overload!

Now, I realize that many people do not consider dates one of their favorite foods. For those of you who instead conjured images of barbecue ribs, cookie dough ice cream, fondue, or Hawaiian pizza, I admit I may have misled you a bit. Clearly, my Middle Eastern market scene does not accommodate those tastes. To be honest, however, it did not necessarily accommodate many of my other favorite flavors either. Besides the dates and a few other foods, I encountered plenty of other items that caught me completely off guard. Did I mention the raw red meat hanging to drain? Or the plucked poultry, chickens with their heads hanging limp off the edge of the vendor’s table? As a North American who has only rarely set foot inside a butcher’s shop, these visuals were a little extreme for me.

Tastes like chicken...

But isn’t that the point, at least in part, of studying abroad? As students who choose to live and take classes internationally, we allow ourselves to be immersed in different cultures, letting them challenge everything from our palate to our perception of the world. Many times, that means taking a hiatus from our usual ham and cheese sandwiches in order to sink our teeth bravely into…well, you fill in the blank. And not surprisingly, we often come home at the end of our experience having added a few more favorite foods to our list…except for raw poultry…hopefully.

Back in that Moroccan marketplace, I wandered wide-eyed, clutching my camera. Somewhere in the middle of all the squawking, smoking, chatting, clanging, shouting, jangling, dripping, laughing, rustling, swishing and rumbling, I managed to capture a few moments that still blow me away. For those of you aiming to study abroad in the Middle East at some point, go for it! I thoroughly enjoyed my long weekend in northern Morocco—how much more might you enjoy an entire semester! If you are looking for a way to make it happen, check out API’s new programs opening soon in Qatar and the UAE through Qatar University and the American University of Sharjah. Visit the API Flickr site (www.flickr.com/APIstudyabroad) to see some great photos of these upcoming programs. And for those of you who want a better picture of my experience in Tetouan, perhaps these photos will do a better job than I of expressing that scene. Salam!

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Comments

  1. have you ever had a date stuffed with peanut/almond butter? it will rock your world.

    i miss the market scene so much, sensory overload and all – but i will saw, i’m doing okay without seeing the raw cow stomach.

    morocco is on my must-go list! i think if i were given another semester abroad, i would go to the Middle East. If Italy blew me away, that experience would be like being hit by a cultural tornado! 🙂

    • Jeramy Johnson says

      Do the remove the pit to put in the peanut butter? Sounds good to me!

      You’d love the Sharjah and Dubai markets too 🙂

    • Gillian, I totally agree about the cultural tornado. I could not get over how close I was to Spain and the rest of western Europe, yet how far away I felt because the culture was so distinct! And as for dates stuffed with peanut butter/almond butter, I have not tried it yet but I will definitely put it on my list! I have tried dates stuffed with whole nuts, or even mashed and rolled in coconut–so yummy! Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Love this, Brittany! (=

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