NIMEP Morocco: Research Begins in Rabat by Taylor Lewis (A’21)

by heatherbarry
Mar 17

After a good night’s rest, many of us were woken up to the call to prayer at dawn—a reminder that we really are in Morocco and that the last day of travel had not been some elaborate dream. Although some quickly fell back asleep, others began their day, setting out to explore and talk to people.

I found a seat at a cafe next to our hotel, ordered nous nous (coffee with milk), and read my book while watching the streets come alive in front of me. Bicyclists carried fresh fruit and vegetables to the sook (market) down the street, and the server gave me music and film suggestions so I could work on my Arabic.

After being joined by others on our trip, we walked through the old Rabat medina to a breakfast restaurant. Although deciphering the menu proved to be a challenge, parsing together our collective knowledge of French and Arabic, we managed to order fresh-squeezed orange juice, more coffee, bread, omelets and some yogurt.

Returning to the hotel, we all gathered to discuss our research, send emails requesting interviews, and confirm our itinerary for the remainder of the trip.

Members of our group then had the first interview of the trip with Ms. Zineb Benalla. She is the CEO and Founder of Eirene Associates, which is the first international development and security company in Morocco. She is also the co-founder of a think tank working on transnational violence and countering violent extremism (CVE) and a co-founder of a peace building network (civil society network). She was a Consultant as a field researcher to the British Council in Morocco on building community resilience in the North of Morocco and was part of the research team of Mercy Corps which examined lessons from violence prevention programs in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and applied those lessons to violence prevention in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). She was a consultant to USAID/OTI and AECOM International Development in Bamako, Gao, and Timbuktu in peace building reconciliation and CVE, working with civil society, community engagement and policy makers. Prior to that, Ms. Benalla worked with the Arab Center for Scientific Research and Human Studies on promoting freedom, peace and civil society values in the Middle East/North Africa, she founded the Averoes Academy for Freedom and Democracy at the Arab Center which is a Public Policy School and which is still empowering today youth around the MENA region. She has also been involved as a CVE advisor to International Organization on Migration (IOM) in Niger.

After our work, we had some time to explore more of Rabat. We divided into a few groups and set off -- going on a run by the waterfront, walking around the casbah, visiting art museums for our research.

Our first full day in Morocco has been stimulating and eye-opening, and we're excited for the rest of our trip.