Thirty-one years ago last month, a group of sixty-plus Peace Corps trainees arrived in Rabat, following a nearly 24-hour trip from Philadelphia via Paris. It was already night as we drove in from the airport, and it was Ramadan. The streets were packed, but our bus eventually made its way to the Bulima Hotel in the center of Rabat. Unable to sleep, I wandered down Blvd Mohammed V to the medina, and entered a new world of sights, sounds and smells. Thus began my own “beautiful friendship” with Morocco.
After spending two years teaching English at Lycée Laymoune in Berkane (and also visiting the American Legation in 1984), I began a diplomatic career that took me from Guinea-Bissau to Singapore, Madagascar to Tunisia, Cairo to New York City, and finally Niger and New Delhi. Working subsequently for the United Nations also allowed me to work in lovely, lyrical Cape Verde. Now I’ve come full circle and will begin a new adventure as Director of the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies.
The changes at the Legation between 1984 and today are breathtaking. Our Research Library has grown exponentially and is now world class. Our Museum not only is bigger, it is also more coherent, and we offer visitors a journey through U.S.-Moroccan diplomatic history, showing through both art and vintage photographs how history and culture in Tangier are intertwined. In our Moroccan Pavilion, the eclectic literary and musical world of Paul Bowles and his circle of friends – American and Moroccan – comes alive. Finally, we promote literacy for women of the medina and exchanges between Moroccan and American students.
This transformation was only possible thanks to the vision and leadership of former TALIM directors and boards, and with more than a little help from our many friends in Tangier, the United States and Europe.
Now I’ve been selected to follow in the very deep footsteps of the men and women who have led TALIM. Along with continuing their efforts to meet the unending challenge of collecting, preserving, and sharing the American Legation’s unique diplomatic and cultural history, I hope to deepen TALIM activities to broaden outreach efforts to our own circle of friends — residents of Tangier, Moroccan and local government leaders, the Embassy in Rabat, members of civil society, and our neighbors in the medina. In particular, I’d like to expand programming for women’s and girls’ education and to welcome more Moroccan youth to the Legation, in part through creating greater opportunities for U.S.-Moroccan academic research and exchanges.
In the coming days, we’ll introduce our TALIM team on this blog and website. As we begin to prepare to celebrate the Legation’s bicentennial in 2021, please join us in honoring our past and creating our future. Thank you.