|Bab Rouah, along the walls that ring the royal palace in Rabat.|
In Rabat, returning to my old haunts—the neighborhood of Agdal—was surreal. Every cafe, hardware shop, kitchenware store, grocer's, and flower shop dredged up weighty memories from the depths of my subconscious. The sign on a laundromat, the croissants at a neighborhood bakery, the green plastic bag of local wine shop—my eye seized on even the most innocuous details to recall some lost association. But after living there as half of a couple, I welcomed the opportunity to return alone and rediscover the place on my own terms.
Rabat's new tramway was up and running, but daily life in the city seemed otherwise unchanged.
Moroccan wine—which I found to be an acquired taste when I first moved to the country—was so once again. (I nearly spit out my first mouthful this time around.) Thankfully, an old favorite, Domaine de Sahari Reserve, remains genuinely good, reassuring me at least somewhat me that I was not a complete alcoholic during the 15 months I lived here.
* * *
Morocco has undergone far more noteworthy transformations on the political front since I left nearly two years ago. The "Arab Spring" reached the country back in February, sparking massive street demonstrations that called for the monarchy to share more power and for a crackdown on corruption among the country's political elites. In March, the king appointed a committee—answerable only to the king—to revise the country's constitution based on directions from—you guessed it—the king. The monarchy then mobilized all the state's resources to ensure that the constitution passed overwhelmingly in a popular referendum. While the reform process was, therefore, massively flawed and brought little real change, I'm nonetheless encouraged by the fact that a traditionally loyal population is increasingly thinking for itself, and for perhaps the first time in the country's history forced the monarchy to respond to their priorities, rather than the reverse.
One of the central tensions in Moroccan society, the place of the country's Berber "minority" (which I discussed in a post two years ago) arose in a big way during the constitutional revision process. In the end, Morocco finally came to recognize Tamazight—the Berber language—as an official language of the kingdom.
The other changes were minimal, but a start. I'll be following the country closely in my new position, and will be back in November for the country's parliamentary elections.