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Photo Staff Abroad: Faces of Fes

BY RUBY WALLAU

Published July 30, 2014

This summer, I lived in the city of Fes, Morocco for seven weeks to study Arabic at a local language institute. As my first time leaving the country, I traveled to the city alone, knowing no one and not knowing whether my tuition money had even been received. I took a leap of faith into my surroundings. After a day of panicked culture shock, feeling horribly alone and out of place without being able to communicate with anyone, I realized I had made the best decision of my life. Throughout all of the hardship and daily struggles, I grew to love the city that straddled the old and new world. We lived in the old Medina, a maze of crumbling walls, bustling shops, and tiny alleys. It is the largest area in the world without cars, and once entering it is almost impossible not to become lost. You must be constantly on guard, watching not to step on a stray cat and listening for the men who would yell “Balak!” as a warning for an oncoming donkey or cart. In the midst of the chaos, I attempted to photograph the colors and beauty of Fes’s walls and people. Throughout my stay, I was constantly overcome by Morocco’s hospitality. Despite my obvious status as an outsider, I found myself welcomed into the lives of the people I met without question. I will miss saying “La Bas” to the milkman or laughing with my host family as I struggled to understand the evening TV show. Thank you Morocco for teaching me so much about myself and the world. I can’t wait to return one day.