Week 2 in Morocco

            Monday I wrote up a summary of our meeting with the domestic expert for the research project and his colleagues. We then contacted the Ministry of Justice to obtain approval of our domestic expert before beginning the work. Finding a candidate agreeable to both parties (the ABA and MOJ) had proved difficult in the past, but as this candidate came referred to us by the MOJ themselves, we look forward to getting the “go ahead” to continue our work. During Monday’s lunch, we met with another ABA international expert to hear a summation of his experience speaking at a conference late last week on anti-corruption and training initiatives. I have to say that working lunches are probably one of my favorite things. Not only was I able to hear about his experiences meeting with various members of the MOJ and ICPC, he also shared stories of his recent camel trek, etc. For the rest of the week, I focused on my two research projects.

            Below I’ve included some interesting things that I came across while researching alternative sentences in juvenile justice:

1)      Did you know that in Palau (small country in South East Asia), if one young man kills another young man, his punishment is to become the other family’s son (replacing the one who died)?  Can I just say, imagine how hard family reunions would be!

2)      Even though boot camps have been found to build self-confidence and discipline in participants, it has not been shown to reduce recidivism when compared to jail time.

3)      If alternative sentencing were used for 80% of non-serious crimes in the US, we could realize a savings of $9.7 billion per year.

4)      China, Yemen, and Pakistan recently outlawed the death penalty for juveniles. The death penalty is still used in the US, leaving us as one of only a few countries in the world to continue to allow this punishment.

5)      According to New York City’s Independent Budget Office, the state of New York spends $120,000 per year on a juvenile offender in detention.  Whereas, it only spends between $5,000 and $28,000 per offender for most alternative sentencing programs.

            Outside of work was fun as per usual. One night, my friends at the American Rabat School hosted a movie night out in their garden. We watched “The Usual Suspect,” which was a first for me, projected onto a wall while we lounged on pillows, enjoying the perfect weather. The next night was a girls’ night out of delicious Lebanese food. There were two interns from the US Embassy, one from the Dutch Embassy, two from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), and a colleague from the US Department of the Interior. Then finally Thursday, I started my first Arabic lessons here in Morocco. I figured: “When in Rome… right?” Might as well take advantage of my opportunity to be in the Arabic world. I have encountered one problem however. When people warned me that Moroccan Arabic had a strong accent, what they left out is that… it is a completely different language! So let’s just say practicing my Modern Standard Arabic isn’t as easy here as I thought it would be (although it is possible).

            After lessons, I went out with my friends from the American Rabat School to see a live band at Le Cotton Club. Interestingly enough, that was the last night that they would be serving alcohol until after Ramadan. Although Muslims aren’t supposed to drink at all, some of those who do make a much stronger commitment to not drinking during Ramadan. As is takes 40 days for alcohol to get out of your blood, many Moroccans will stop drinking 40 days before the start of the holiday. For this reason restaurants and bars stop serving alcohol between 40 days before and the opening day of Ramadan.

            By the time the weekend had arrived, it was definitely time to explore. Friday night, a bunch of us went out for dinner at a Syrian restaurant. It was everything I had ever dreamed of and more. On our way there, we passed a protest, which I've found to be rather commonplace here. The day I arrived, there were protests over the consitutional reform King Mohammed VI pledged to enact. While walking to the train station another day, protesters were sitting on the newly built tram tracks, blocking both the trams and traffick from moving. It seems everywhere you look there is another protest.


After dinner, we rounded up the crew of friends and headed to the Marine House for their Happy Hour. One thing I thought was funny is that their Happy “Hour” lasted from 17h00 to 1h00 the next morning. Call me crazy, but it seems like more than an hour to me. But at least they got the “happy” term right. It was a really great time! It was also a great opportunity to meet other people in the expat community and even some locals involved in governmental affairs. We then headed over to a local restaurant for food (some in our group still hadn’t had dinner yet) and some wine and were fortunate enough to enjoy a live jazz band. From here a few of us headed to a cabaret… which, unlike its Western equivalent, had belly dancers!

            Getting up the next morning was a bit of a chore, but totally worth it. Two of the Moroccan men from the Marine party, whom I met through my two best girl friends in Morocco, drove us all down to Casablanca along the coastal route in a Jaguar and convertible, blasting techno music the whole way. We may have been going too fast, but it was… well, exhilarating. Exploring one of the pit stops along the highway was an experience in itself. It had an amazing restaurant, complete with a live band, and a play ground! Let me just say that if gas stations in the US were this fun, that's where you would find me most Friday nights.

Pit Stop Band Pit Stop

            Along the way we also stopped to look at houses they were planning to rent for an upcoming vacation. The houses were beautiful. I’ve included pictures below.

 Rental House With Blue Shutters House Rental

            By the time we got to Casablanca, it was time for some lunch. Although going out for pizza seemed like a great idea- and it sure was delicious- it was also the first time that I was sick in Morocco. We decided to take the rest of the evening easy and while it was well appreciated, it also led to us missing the free 50 Cent concert that we had been hoping to see. To make up for it, we made sure to rock out to some 50 Cent while getting ready to go out for the night. We started the night with some hors-d’oeuvres and wine up at the Sky Lounge, which is an amazing open air bar on the top of a hotel, overlooking the city. From there we migrated to the dancing area, where my friends met the owner of the club who then invited us to the VIP club downstairs and we danced the night away. I could tell we were getting home pretty darn late when I realized we were walking in to the apartment at the same time that the morning Muslim call to prayer was playing over the speakers throughout the city.

 Casa Skyline

Going Out in Casa


            Needless to say, we slept a bit of the morning away, awaking just in time for brunch at Sqala- a Moroccan restaurant built in an old 18th century fortified bastion (the canons still point towards the sea). The rest of the afternoon we had some real girl time- shopping and manicures, the works- and finished up just in time to go to Rick’s Café for dinner before boarding the train back to Rabat. Getting back Sunday night I realized I had only gotten 6 hours of sleep the entire weekend, but it was worth every second of it. 

Rick's Cafe Sqala Restaurant Rick's Piano