Berksht Souksou (Making Couscous)
Writing the blog post is kind of a surreal experience; I'm using a new iMac computer in the library of the Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. To better explain why this feels so weird to me, I'll tell you a little about the history of the university. It was built by King Hassan II, the previous king of Morocco, using money given to the country by the king of Saudi Arabia. Hassan II's goal was to build an American-style university in Morocco; that is, to adopt the same credit-based class system, with student organizations/clubs, and a functional library. We toured the university today, and, I have to say, it really felt like we were walking around an American college campus. The university has its own gymnasium, which is gorgeous by U.S. standards; it had an Olympic-sized swimming pool, fully equipped weight and cardio rooms, and a dance salon. Also, all the classes here are taught in English (except the foreign language classes), and, therefore, everyone on campus speaks the language fluently. When you consider all this in light of the fact that, just this morning, we were in a tiny, rural village where absolutely no English was spoken at all, the transition is pretty jarring.
Which isn't to say that we're not enjoying Ifrane! The town is gorgeous; it was modeled on a village in the Swiss alps, and, as far as I can tell, the plan worked pretty effectively. Unlike the square, concrete structures that typify the Moroccan town, Ifrane is all western-looking yellow houses with sloping terra cotta rooves (which come in handy here, because Ifrane receives the largest annual snowfall of any town in Morocco).
Anyway, that "tiny, rural village" I referred to before was El Khoukhate, where we spent the day yesterday. Working with a Peace Corps volunteer in the village and the women's association she's involved with, we learned to make...couscous! The experience was enlightening for me, because I had always pictured couscous growing in the ground, alongside its fellow grains like wheat and barley. I was completely wrong. There is no such thing as a couscous grain--who knew?! The tiny little balls you get on your plate are hand-made from a mixture of flour (or, actually, any grain you can grind into a floury substance) and water. The actual process of making the couscous was time-consuming, but, as we discovered, the finished product was SO worth the effort. It was DELICIOUS. There's nothing like eating a piping-hot dish that you've--literally--made with your own two hands.