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Business, Borders and Friendship: Travels in Morocco with FLAS fellow Henry Milander

September 14, 2016

Henry Milander, an undergraduate student in Business and International Studies, was awarded Summer 2015 and 2016 Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships in Arabic by the Center for Global Studies.  He spent the summer of 2015 studying Arabic at the Qasid Institute in Amman, Jordan, and the summer of 2016 studying Arabic at the Arabic Language Institute in Fez (ALIF), in Fez, Morocco.  He writes from Morocco:

Henry and friend, a haberdasher, in Tetouan, Morocco“Craftsmanship: Bridging the Continental Divide

Craftsmanship in Morocco is everywhere, and it is integral to the culture and economy. It shows itself in the day-to-day items locals use, all the way up to the extravagant boxes with hidden compartments that tourists endlessly haggle over. In cities such as Marrakesh, Fes, Essaouira, and Tétouan, the industry can involve tens of thousands of skilled craftsman who might work leather, metal, cloth, and many other materials. In Tétouan I was lucky enough to visit a haberdasher and his shop where I was shown just how much Moroccan craftsmanship unites the country with Europe. The owner is the brother-in-law of my host in Tétouan, and had just returned from Tangier where he buys supplies. Not only do the warehouses in Tangier sell to Moroccans, but more and more to Europeans as do shop owners like my friend. As I understood him, this is because of the 2008 financial crisis, after which Europeans adopted the Moroccan spirit of fixing just about anything rather than throwing them away and buying anew. My friend now has clients in France, Spain, and occasionally elsewhere in Europe who buy supplies from him.

dye pits, Morocco

Dye pits, Morocco

It’s given him new opportunities to expand his selection, clientele base, test new ideas for items, and to interact outside of his own country with foreigners and fellow countrymen working abroad.




Third Time’s the Charm

view from train in MoroccoThe air is hot and humid here in Rabat; my shirt is soaked through. It’s been over an hour after my train left the station – without me on it. I read the time wrong, an innocent mistake, but here I am paying for it. As the next train finally pulls in, I realize that someone had stolen my phone charger on my way to the train station. Great. It doesn’t take much for all of the good memories of the Atlantic coast, the new friends, the shared meals, and night-time walks to be pushed aside by the pressures and panic of the moment.  After a sweaty jostle through the train, I have a stroke of luck when I find a seat of sorts in the second class luggage room. Finally seated, I am hungry and thirsty and just about to tear into some biscuits and gulp down some water when several security guards in-training enter and sit with me. Lovely, now I get to observe the Moroccan customs my host family taught me. When eating or drinking in front of others, it is polite to try and share with them, but the first and second time they are obliged to decline. Only after the third time are they allowed to say yes should they choose. It was a long game to play, but the security guards thankfully went through the motions quickly and in the end accepted some biscuits and water. Bingo, snack time! Henry Milander with friends in MoroccoThen came my unexpected reward for participating in their customs: they treated me like an old friend and added their own supplies to what became an oasis of water, juice, fruit, biscuits, and even Bleu d’Chanel cologne. The good memories were back, and more were being made, and since that moment I have continued to enjoy Moroccan hospitality and generosity every step of the way.”

Moroccan countryside

Countryside, Morocco

FLAS Fellowships are funded by the International and Foreign Language Education office of the U.S. Department of Education.  FLAS fellowships support undergraduate, graduate and professional students in acquiring modern foreign languages and area or international studies competencies.   Students from all UW departments and professional schools are encouraged to apply.  Find out more about the FLAS Fellowship here.