Diversity in Rabat
CIEE wants all our students to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to succeed while studying abroad. On this page, local CIEE staff have provided details about conditions and cultural attitudes that students with specific identities might encounter at their location.
The information below is just a broad overview so if you have specific questions or concerns not covered here, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be glad to have local staff share their perspectives, talk with you about accommodations, connect you with resources, and/or put you in touch with a program alum who could speak about their experiences navigating a program in this location.
No matter where you choose to study abroad with CIEE, our staff—all of whom receive regular and comprehensive training in diversity, equity, and inclusion—will be on hand throughout your program to provide advice, resources, and support regarding these issues.
Body size and beauty are perceived differently in Morocco. Moroccans also tend to be direct when it comes to describing physical attributes of people. For example, if someone has more fair skin, they will call them white— if they have darker skin, they will call them black, if a person appears to be overweight, they will say so, if a person appears to be thin, they will call them thin.
Among the local Moroccan culture, gaining weight is seen as a good thing. Moroccan mothers often compliment their daughters when they gain extra pounds and squeeze their cheeks of happiness. Please don't feel offended if your homestay mom does so. Beauty has different standards in Morocco, so you may be asked to eat more out of generosity and hospitality. Your host mom might encourage you to eat more in order for you to gain weight.
Although Morocco’s transition towards democracy has gained considerable momentum since 2011, not much progress towards equality for people with disabilities has yet occurred. Policies to improve the social inclusion of people with disabilities are still poorly implemented, partly due to a lack of funding. People with disabilities have few dedicated services and their inclusion in civil society remains limited.
Rabat is behind the U.S. in providing physical accessibility features at public and private institutions. Students who use a wheelchair and those who cannot see or hear might have a difficult time in Rabat. Nevertheless, people are generally friendly and eager to help.
Students are encouraged to provide as much information as they can related to their specific disabilities (or related needs) prior to arrival so CIEE staff can assess potential challenges and arrange for appropriate accommodations.
While Rabat is more expensive than other parts of Morocco, under-resourced students would have a lot of support in locating places to eat and methods of travel that are affordable to the majority of Moroccans. During orientation, we will locate convenient, healthy, and diverse options of cafes and restaurants, and you will observe the places your homestay family frequents. As most members of the CIEE community come from under-resourced backgrounds, you will be able to see how a little can go a long way while studying abroad in Morocco.
Gender and Gender Identity
In Morocco, it is believed that each gender has a unique and complementary place in society. For example, it is the female that makes decisions for the household and the children, and the male who provides more for the physical needs for the family. Rabat is where modernity and tradition intersect so be prepared to observe a wide cross-section of women’s dress, roles, and expectations.
Women may occupy different spaces, may assume different roles in society, and may express themselves more discretely (dress, sexuality, etc.). Women may also be treated differently by men in public (catcalling, less direct eye contact) and at home (domestic chores, child rearing responsibilities). Men may express societal dominance, displays of affection amongst other men (greeting friends with a kiss on the cheek or linking arms while walking), and may take on less work than women. Differing gender norms can feel uncomfortable or unfair, but every culture has a different history and not one is “better” or “worse”.
Women can experience difficulties adjusting to Moroccan sexual scripts and gendered expectations. During orientation and throughout the semester, CIEE staff are on hand to provide advice and support regarding these issues. Cultural peers are also a great resource for discussing gender dynamics in Morocco.
If you are a heritage seeker, you may struggle to manage your expectations and feelings of belonging in the host country. At times, you can feel accepted by the local community, based on your shared heritage; other times, you can feel like an outsider, when national identity or cultural differences set you apart.
People you meet in Morocco will be very excited to know that you have heritage ties to Morocco or in the region. However, this could be a very challenging and overwhelming experience since there are many interwoven expectations and assumptions—like mastering the Arabic language for example! Keep in mind that even if you grew up surrounded and brought up with North African culture in the states, living in the region is another intercultural experience all together.
While abroad, we urge you to decolonize the narratives that may have impacted you as an American living in the states and attempt to see through a new more nuanced and analytical lens. You should also keep in mind that although it may be your heritage, locals may see you as an outsider, or conversely in some contexts, they may hold certain expectations of you that they do not hold onto American non-heritage students.
Racial and Ethnic Identity
Moroccans don’t have word for race or ethnicity in the local dialect. Instead, we talk about one’s “roots.” There is a certain plurality of the national identity, which includes the Amazigh, Arab, sub-Saharan, “African” and Andalusian cultural components reflecting the richness of our identity. Language is an important element in defining race and ethnicity. And marginalization is often associated with one’s ethnicity. Whether they are of Arab or Amazigh origin. One who speaks French holds more power and privilege than that who speaks only Arabic. Arabic has more prestige than Tamazight (Berber).
Those from a Christian or Jewish tradition are considered in Islam as "people of the book." These religions are widely understood and accepted in Moroccan culture and Islamic tradition. In general, monotheism or religions that have a belief in God are widely accepted and discussed in Morocco. People from an atheist background will be in a position that is not common or widely understood in Morocco. A good place to discuss these topics would be with CIEE staff, faculty, and language and culture peers who have workshops and trainings geared to understand the existence of these views.
Colonialism and culture wars have severely limited tolerance. There is a stark contrast between the writings of Muslim poets in the 13th century and the current political laws concerning homosexuality in many Muslim countries. Heteronormativity is the rule in Morocco, and gender fluidity is not understood by most Moroccans. Therefore, you must be prepared that you might not be able to share that part of your identity with everyone you meet. CIEE staff, faculty, language and culture peers are an exception where you can discuss these topics freely.
Programs in Rabat
Live from Rabat
Morocco’s capital and second-largest city, Rabat has a population of 3 million. It’s home to the country’s most prestigious universities, as well as international institutions like UNESCO and the World Bank. Here you’ll find the modern and traditional, stunning colonial architecture, fascinating ruins, and lovely gardens and green spaces. In stark contrast to the medina, Central Rabat is modern, with large office buildings, palm-tree-lined boulevards, cafés, restaurants, and shopping centers. Learn more about programs in Rabat