Going abroad to study Arabic is one of the best ways to learn the language. With a vibrant culture and a rich intellectual heritage, Morocco is naturally a destination of choice for students from across the globe. What follows below is a guide for those looking to go there to study Arabic and Qur'an. It is based on my experiences there last year.

Language Institutes

There are several schools spread across the country which focus on teaching Arabic to non-Arabs; English-speakers in particular. I went to Fez because of its intellectual history and the numerous opportunities to benefit outside class as well. I studied at ALIF (Arabic Language Institute in Fez). It is one of the oldest Arabic schools in Morocco having been established for some 30 years now.

Bou Inania madrasa in Fez, Morocco

Bou Inania madrasa in Fez, Morocco

ALIF boasts some excellent teachers; some who are graduates from the Qarawiyyen. They have a well developed 7-level program which takes you to an advanced competency in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) i.e. Fusha. The curriculum followed is that of the Al-Kitab series which is taught at most Western universities (the colloquial sections in the book are skipped over). Most students are on exchange programs from American and British institutions. The default language of instruction is Arabic for all-classes; with English being employed at varying degrees depending on the level and teacher. Some teachers are strict about teaching in Arabic only; others are a bit lax.

This program does a very good  job at taking a holistic approach and focuses on your speaking, reading, writing and listening skills– as opposed to just reading. They generally go through the material thoroughly – especially at the beginner levels. Classes are small which is very beneficial; on average about 4-6 students per class. However, this swells up to about 10-12 students during the summer time. In classes with 3 or more students you get 20 hours of instruction per week, 15 hours with in classes with 2 students and 10 hours/week if you are the only one. The material covered and tuition remain the same.

The main pros of the school are that it's quite well organized, has good teachers, and their program builds a strong foundation for further studies. Despite the criticisms of Al-Kitab, I found it to be a very good book and it greatly aided my comprehension and understanding. Plus, ALIF adds complementary exercises to reinforce language skills.

The cons are that the school is rather pricey; although at a similar rate as other Moroccan schools and still cheaper than most options in North America. With multiple instructors rotating through the levels, sometimes you can end up with a teacher who might not be as good as some others, and at times your classmates aren't of the appropriate level. Also, since almost all students are English speakers, you don't get complete immersion and end-up using English outside class.

Like most language schools, the focus is not getting students to read Qur'an – although you are still learning classical Arabic in a modern context. To comprehend Qur'an, you have to complement your studies with resources to familiarize yourself with Quranic vocabulary, expressions and constructs. The teachers are all Muslim and well-versed in the tradition, so they can always answer any specific questions you may have. To understand Qur'an, one needs a good foundation in the basics of the language. This school will provide you with that.

These are all general things you have to work around when studying abroad – it's not specific to this school per se. If possible, I would try to avoid going during the summer months as this is a busy time with a lot of students doing summer exchanges. Nevertheless, you'll still find it beneficial if you're focused and keep on-top of things. Just keep an open mind and you'll be okay.

I've listed below some other schools in Morocco I found on the internet. I can't comment on them; though I know students who went to Subus-Asalam and Qalam and mentioned good reviews about them.

Subus-Asalam CenterQalam wa LawhINLACCLC, Ibn Ghazi

Qur'an Studies

Moroccans have a deep rooted commitment to the preservation of the Qur'an, which makes it one of the best places to memorize and study it. Just by virtue of living there, your attachment to the Book will increase. One of the most unique aspects of Morocco is that a juz  from the Qur'an (i.e. 1/30th ) is read in each mosque everyday – half after Fajr and half after Maghrib. They do this congregationally in a magical rhythm which is a treat for the ears and the hearts – a precious skill to learn in itself.

To this day, most Moroccan madrassahs employ a pen and tablet to help students memorize the Qur'an. If memorizing is your goal, then attending one of these schools is your best option.  I had friends in Fez who were enrolled in these Qur'an schools and also a few in the southern desert villages. The only way to enroll in these schools is to show up and try to get in – there isn't an online process and there might be an entrance exam. It can be hard at times as the administration can a bit suspicious of foreigners; but all the people I know were eventually able to enroll. The tuition is usually either free or there is a small fee associated with it.

If your goal is to improve your recitation and study tajweed on the side, then the Dar-al-Qur'an schools are your best options. These are little institutes set up in every neighborhood for people to drop-in and recite to a teacher. Most people I met there were working class people who had already memorized the Qur'an and were reviewing with the shaykh in the evenings. My teacher there could easily teach Hafs recitation as well, as opposed to the official Warsh. The tuition is quite affordable as well – about 100 Dhs for a semester ($10).

Furthermore, these centers are women-friendly. Some of them are exclusively for women while others have times allocated (usually the mornings) for women and evenings for men. Whatever neighborhood you end up staying in, just ask around for the local Dar-al-Qur'an and you'll be directed to one.

Update: I came across the website of Madrassah Sharif al Wazzani for girls; there's a similar one for boys in Majorca, Spain called Madrassah Muhammad Wazzani. I know some of the Spanish boys go to this school first before going to Morocco as it serves as a good starting point.

Housing and Food

There are a number of housing options in Morocco. Many students who come on exchange programs do a home stay with a local family. This is usually set up by the host institution where you study and they dictate the prices – I've seen this to be between $80-$100/week with meals included. Most students have a positive experience with this living arrangement; although you have to keep an open mind and be accepting of a new family and culture.

Another housing option is the ALIF residence villa which is conveniently located across from the institute . It's equipped with all the amenities one needs and saves you plenty of time and the frustration that can come with a new country. It's relatively affordable too (about $300-$350/month depending on the room) but the prices go up in the summer and it can be hard to find a spot at that time too. Keep in mind the residence is co-ed and the atmosphere depends on the type of students living there at the time. Like with anywhere else, it's your job to find good and wholesome company.

Moroccan tagine

Moroccan tagine

For long term stays, finding your own apartment is usually the best option and the above two are good to get you accustomed to the country. The schools can find you an apartment or you can find other students and try to room with them. I've heard various rates (i.e.$300-$600/month) depending on the number of rooms, location, furniture etc. I think $350/month is a decent approximation for a two bedroom place.

Food is very inexpensive in Morocco and this is where you'll save the most. Bread is 1.25 Dh, a pack of milk is 3 Dh, pack of cheese is 12Dh, coffee is 7Dh. A decent dinner with meat will be 20-25 Dh. Budgeting 50Dh ($6) a day is decent if you eat out all the time – it's much cheaper if you cook. (These are prices locals pay – you have to find the non-tourist areas to get these).

 The Qarawiyyen

The jewel of Fez and the pride of Islam's intellectual heritage, the Qarawiyyen university is located in the heart of the old city;  it continues to operate today after being founded nearly 1200 years ago. Being able to attend the classes here is the most rewarding aspect of studying in Fez. They still follow the traditional format and curriculum, with classes taking place by the pillars of the old mosque. The teacher sits on a throne-like chair and the students sit on the floor encircling him.

I found the administration generally open to letting foreign students sit in and audit the classes. Some of the teachers would even try to include you in the class and were quite open to answering questions. Classes are mostly in Fusha though the local dialect, Darija,  is used in varying degrees depending on the teacher. Attending the lessons is a great way to improve your listening and comprehension skills, as well as learning the traditional Islamic sciences.

Do note that there are no classes during the summer months (June – August). Final exams start around mid-May so that's when they end. All summer the old mosque where the classes take place is closed and opens only for the daily prayers. Also, unfortunately, I was told that some classes will be moved this year to a new campus outside the old city. However, some, I believe the advanced levels, will continue to be taught in the old mosque – so that resource is still there.

20130522_174207

Notice for entrance exams at the Qarawiyyen


If you are a high achiever and want to formally enroll in the Qarawyieen, the admission requirements are shown on the left in a notice about entrance exams. For those that can't read it, the two main conditions for writing it roughly translate to: a) Memorization of the Glorious Qur'an with completeness and mastery b) Memorization of a few basic texts (Mutoons) – I presume this to be introductory texts like Ibn Ashir, Ajroomiyah and imam Nawawwi's 40 hadiths. I've heard Qur'an memorization requirements for foreigners are a bit relaxed, though I can't confirm this. Again, I am not aware of an online process for enrolling in Qarawiyyeen, so you have to just show up and try to get in by writing entrance exams, talking with administration etc. It's assumed you're fluent in Arabic as there isn't an official program, to my knowledge, to teach the language to foreigners.

 

 

44 Responses

  1. A Guide for Studying Arabic and Quran in Morocc...

    […] Going abroad to study Arabic is one of the best ways to learn the language. With a vibrant culture and a rich intellectual heritage, Morocco is naturally a destination of choice for students from across the globe. What follows below is a guide for those looking to go there to study Arabic and Quran. It is based on my experiences there earlier this year.  […]

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  2. Nicole

    Salaam,
    I am currently studying abroad (via my university in Morocco). I have found much difficulty in finding supplemental Quran programs, so your article is very helpful. Do you know of any places in Rabat specifically or contacts willing to give Quran lessons privately a couple of times a week?

    Shukran!

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    • Waleed Ahmed

      Waslaam Nicole. Unfortunately I don’t have any contacts in Rabat for Quran studies. I would advice going to the local mosque and asking for the closest dar-al-Quran….I am sure there are opportunities. Try to take advantage of the group recitals after maghrib..though I am not sure how it works on the women’s side. You at Qalam wal Lawh? What’s it like?

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      • Nicole

        Salaam,
        Thanks for the advice, I will definitely ask at my local mosque. I studied at Qalam wa Lawh over the summer in 2013. Now I am at the Center for Cross Cultural Learning continuing my Arabic studies! :)

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      • misba

        asalaamu alaikum

        I was wondering if you found a Quran teacher in Rabat? I am also looking for one and have asked around at local mosques.

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  3. Armaan

    masha-Allah Waleed, great article — happy to hear that you benefited from Morocco! All the best, insha-Allah.

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    • Waleed Ahmed

      Salam Armaan! It’s funny you stumbled across this. It certainly was a beneficial experience..couldn’t have gone there without your help, jazakillah for all the assistance!

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  4. Khan

    as-Salāmu ʿAlaykum,

    in 2012 I absolved a 1-month Fusha-Arabic-program in Rabat – Qalam wa Lawh school … the athmosphere in the school is really good and the teachers are really helpful. They keep the groups small up to 8 people and it’s quite productive. They also offer nice excursions to discover the country. Going to the Sahara (Merzouga/Desert) was a great experience.

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    • Muslim Brother

      As Salamu Alaykum WW, I am considering going to Morroco as well. I looked up the school, and seems good and fairly priced. I was wondering what class you would recommend for someone like myself who can read Quranic Arabic Fluently

      Jazakallah

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      • Waleed Ahmed

        walaykumasalam. they usually do a test to determine your level before you start and place you appropriately. If you’ve done some arabic, level 2 might be a good place to start.

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  5. Maryam

    Assalamu’alaikum

    Beforehand I would like to apologize if my question has no direct corellation with this post.. I am just commencing studying Arabic language on my own, I find it hard without any teacher around. I am working and barely have no time to study on a schedulled time.What I need is a learning system that can be adjust at my own pace. If any of brothers and sisters know a trusted online Arabic learning with interactive teacher that can give feedback on our progress and difficulty, would you please let me know. I really want to be able to acquire Arabic and thus to be able to comprehend the Holy Qur’an… Thank you very much indeed in advance.

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    • waleed ahmed

      There are a couple of good live Arabic classes being offered online. Some of the onsite schools from Egypt like diwan, cairo institute, fajr etc have them. check seekersguidance and Qibla as well. I use StudioArabiya and have found them to be quite good too.

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      • Maryam

        Thank you very much indeed for the information. I’ll dive into them forthrightly.

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      • dina85

        also this book is helpful
        Easy Arabic Grammar von Jane Wightwick und Mahmoud Gaafar. i think they have more series for studying,
        maybe good to check

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    • The Quran seeker

      Assalaamu alaikum sis,
      I am currently taking this course called Arabic through the Quran with ustadah ola shoubaki,
      We are in our fourth week but you might want to contact her and see if she would let in new students.We are learning Arabic to help us understand the Quran.The website is
      arabicgems.co.uk

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  6. Usamah

    This looks like it could be really helpful. Are there any other writers from Muslim Matters who might be able to write similar articles for other countries?

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  7. M

    Wow. Firstly
    السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
    Secondly, you don’t understand how thankful I am for this post, for the past year I have been thinking so much about going to Fez to memorise the Quran but as you probably know there is a lack of information on the internet about this. I do have a question, you see the madrassahs where you go to memorise the Quran how would one know where they are? I was thinking of just going to a masjid and asking the imam to guide me to one, would you happen to know of any Madrassas that help teach the memorisation of the Quran in Fez?

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    • waleed ahmed

      walaykumasalam. Glad you were able to find this to be useful. As for the madrassahs, you pretty much have to ask around when you get there. depending on where you stay, you can ask at the local mosque, the qarawiyyen,etc. The school I know of, which is also featured in the video I linked, is in an area called ‘Mon-flow-ree’ in Fez (I don’t know the spelling so I just transliterated it). Some of my spanish friends were studying there. There is also one in an area called Wad Fez. There are prolly others as well, you just have to ask around. Go visit them, talk to the administration and see who will take you.

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  8. O H

    Check this blog by an experienced student of arabic who has travelled multiple countries in pursuit of the knowledge of this divine language. There are many tips for those looking to travel overseas or studying online.

    http://deen4me.wordpress.com/

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  9. Aneesa Hussain

    Assalamu Alaykum, MashaAllah really informative article JazakAllah Khair. I’m going to study Arabic in Fez in September inshaAllah but our universty has a partnership with INLAC I have no idea how reputable it is especially in comparison to Alif can anyone help me out?
    Thank you

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    • Waleed Ahmed

      walaykumasalam. I don’t know much about INLAC either..sorry. If you’re going on an exchange then you should be okay; I presume host schools do their research before sending students abroad. Do let us know here how you find it when you get there : )

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  10. aleem

    JAzakallah Khair for the post. Very helpful and timely alhamdulillah. I was wondering whay would be the city to visit to get onto this journey of learning quran for myself and kids. Fez? Is there any fulltime school for kids for the purpose

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    • Waleed Ahmed

      I would certainly recommend Fez; there are schools in other cities too in Morocco but my experience primarily was in Fez. The schools I have mentioned in the comments and article for Quran are open to all..I’ve seen kid and adults both attend them.

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  11. Aneesa Hussain

    Assalamu Alaykum inshaAllah I will be going to study at Alif in September can anyone else who is doing so please get in touch with me JazkaAllah khair

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    • Haithem

      Assalam aleykum aneesa. I’m planning to travel to morocco from mid-august in order to improve my arabic iA. I’m planning on enrolling at Masjid Hafsa for Quran memorisation (in warsh) but i’m not sure about the institute for arabic as of yet. I’m looking at advanced studies as i’ve already studied arabic for a few years and i need to improve slightly in order to go on to study in mauritania iA. Hopefully i can also benefit from classes at al-qaraween.

      I’m also not sure about accomodation although i’d be happy to stay with a host family.

      If i get any more information i’ll let you know iA.

      Best,
      Haithem.

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  12. Abu Hatim

    Did anyone find a problems entering and leaving the country? any questions about where you studied or who you studied under?

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    • Waleed Ahmed

      I didn’t have any problems. I actually did tell them I was there to study arabic and showed a letter from the school (I am not sure if its best to reveal it or be evasive…i didn’t have any issues). the only thing to ensure is you don’t stay past 3 months on any visit (unless you have residence visa). Most people take a train to one of the spanish territories (ceuta or mellilla) in morocco so that they are able to leave the country and re-enter.

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  13. Intan Shafira Binti Abdullah

    assalammualaikum
    jazakallah khayr for this informative article. but i have some question. do you know the fees for learning arabic there ?

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  14. Zaynab

    salam wa3alaykoem, i wish to know a school for learning arabic and quran in fes near bansouda during the summer vacations, i like to go incha’Allah with mi doughter. can anybody help me for information please? BarakAllahoefikoem wa salam wa 3alaykoem.

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    • Waleed Ahmed

      walaykumasalam. There is the zawiya of sh abdullah al haddad in ben souda where they have quran lessons on sundays I’ve heard. In addition to that option, I would suggest finding the local darul quran. the people at the zawiya would have information on this as well.

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  15. safwan

    Salam i am safwan from malaysia. How if i want to study arabic and syariah at morocco.. And how much for the fees per semester. Can you tell me about the visas

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  16. Ahmed

    JazaakAllaahu khayran for the beneficial post, may Allah make it heavy in your scales on the day of judgement. I was wondering if you knew of any salafi (not madkhali) areas within Morocco, or the very least perhaps a salafi memorization madrasah? BaarakAllahu feekum.

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  17. Ahmed

    Also, what are your thoughts on hiring an ustaadh to teach you arabic one on one? What would a good teacher in Morocco typically charge, and what are the pros/cons of this as opposed to joining a institute?

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    • Waleed Ahmed

      wasalam. can’t comment much as I didn’t study privately. Morocoo is expensive if you do private tutoring; it has its benefits thought if you’re at a good level and just have specific texts you want to cover with a teacher.

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  18. sahar

    salam wa alakum.

    I am interested in learning how to read and write arabi and learn quran in Morroco. Can you please recommend a place for a single female traveling from the United States?

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    • Waleed Ahmed

      I’d recommend the same places as above. For quran, I’ve posted the link to madrasah sharif wazzani which is just for girls.

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  19. Jameel

    Assalamu Alaykum

    I would like to know what is the best school(Quality teaching) or city to study Fusa in Morocco? My goal is to learn Arabic for religious text and possibly for conversation. Many reviews I have read regarding Qalam Wa lawn mention that it is over prices and badly organized. Can anyone comment on this.

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