In Morocco, I've come to learn of "soft openings," where, after years of construction or restoration, an institution - hotel, cultural center, university - just quietly opens its doors and starts business.
The University of New England (UNE) softly opened its doors earlier this month on the grounds of the American School of Tangier (AST). Instead of years of construction, it's been more like months (a bare 18 months since the agreement between the two American institutions), and the place is beautiful.
Here's what the UNE website said:
On a breezy Tangier afternoon, 23 undergraduate students made their way onto the grounds of the first American university in Morocco, which was designed by the architect Anouar Amaoui (here in the blue suit, with Anouar Majid).
As the students walked through the thick iron gate, they looked on in awe of the chalky white exteriors juxtaposed against arabesque cobalt blue balconies. Undeterred by more than 20 hours of travel and the bulkiness of luggage, students clustered around tethered palm trees to snap photos outside of their new home for the semester.
This historic project - it is the first time that an American university has built a campus in Morocco - is the brainchild of Dr. Anouar Majid, the peripatetic professor who has brought UNE to his native Tangier. Anouar Majid is also a polymath: he teaches, blogs, and is the author of a number of books on quite a wide range of topics touching on the Maghreb and Islam. He has even written a novel.
We've met the UNE staff on the ground, and they are an impressive bunch with whom we look forward to working on a number of projects - conferences, volunteers from among the students, film showings.
Welcome to UNE Tangier, and may their soft opening set the stage for their big splash inauguration in April.
Gerald Loftus - text; Anouar Majid - photos