The oddest sound I ever heard in Morocco was silence. My experience studying abroad in Rabat for my last college semester was at times challenging, occasionally bewildering, usually exciting, and always noisy.
In Rabat, I would wake up to the the familiar sounds of my host family talking Darija, the kettle heating up, and the clink of breakfast dishes. Our host parents would greet my roommate and I the same way every morning as we sat down to eat. Sabah-khel khere! Nassi mezuinne?
The school day was filled with the sound of Modern Standard Arabic, Darija, French, and English as my classmates and I practiced, joked, and studied our target languages. A sudden scrape of desks and chairs signaled the end of class and proceeded the bang of a door thrown open. The study lounges were always full of people talking about their next class, new favorite cafe, and plans for the upcoming weekend. Have you been to LPG?
Stepping outside onto the street meant hearing the buzz of construction, the shouts of kids playing in the street, and the sharp instructions of parking attendants. Hawkers offered their wares to men chatting at cafes, and beggars walked by with hand outstretched. Ashara dirham!
At my internship the staff would always be in one long conversation across rooms as people popped in and out to confer over a new project or document. The clatter of keyboards would only be interrupted for a ringing phone or fax. The source of all this energy, the coffee pot, bubbled slowly in the kitchen. Avez-vous soif?
Getting around Rabat exposed me to the distinct sounds of each neighborhood: from the crash of waves in l’ocean to the laugh of security guards outside the Palais Royale. Motorbikes and mopeds would fly by on the side of the road, either sounding right off of the production line or ready for the scrapyard. Cabs would honk at each other, at lights, and even at pedestrians in a language completely reliant on tapping the horn. In contrast was the measured toll of the tram bell announcing its arrival and departure from each stop, prompting pedestrians to amble off of the tracks. Beep beep!
Falling asleep, I would listen to groups of kids talking rapid-fire Darija below my window, or the sudden rise and fall of a car whizzing past while blasting the latest hit. A neighbor found that the best time to practice his guitar as well, adding Johnny Cash’s familiar chords to the night. Because you’re mine, I walk the line…
From the busy cities to the mountains and deserts, I only experienced complete silence once, when I went on an early morning run. Leaving my host family’s residence I was shocked with the overwhelming sound of nothing. I paused a moment, wondering if something had happened. It only lasted a minute before the Call to Prayer suddenly echoed off the apartment buildings from the neighborhood mosque. A moment after, a cafe door opened and a cat yowled. Just like that, the city let out a breath and resumed. Allaaaaah akbar!