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It was the year 2021, when I joined the “RABA” (rambo in Arabic) School in Dubai. The acronym stands for “Rabat Arab Emirates Islamic boarding and lesson institutes”. At that time, I thought it would be a good school, but I was quite wrong. A quick search of their curriculum on the web turns up a mixed bag of negative feedback from past students, mostly centred around lack of quality tuition and learning resources. Despite this, they remain to be one of the most popular charter boarding schools in the region.

At first I didn’t like the location at which I signed up: the basement of a squat building in an industrial area. My initial training was supposed to last only a week, but surprisingly I wound up spending two years there. By the end of that time, I had more training than I needed, including a new language, a great teaching method, and a slew of exciting activities. I decided to come home and share what I learned with my family so they could reap the benefits as well.

In 2021 I was a trainee at the Dubai Masjid. Once there, I discovered that it was built in a typical oriental style with minarets and tiled floors. The inside had carpeting and a dining table, but there was hardly anything I could call traditional or contemporary. The main goal of the school was to teach me the basics of Islamic law, as well as to experience the lives of ordinary citizens. It took me eight months to complete my training and start attending Masjid al-Fitr, but the positive experiences I had made me eager to return.

During my second trip to the Middle East, I decided to take the train from Amman to Rabat. On this long journey, I picked up a few lessons here and there from the locals and tourists, and from time to time I got lucky to have a rousing conversation with an old friend from school. I also spent some time between trains making plans to eventually become a practicing Muslim. When I returned from my trip, I was eager to start practicing my sharia and looking forward to learning the basics of Arabic grammar and vocabulary. As it happened, while I was in Rabat I had a chance to meet a girl from Sweden, whom I would eventually marry. It was that trip that turned my plan into a reality.

I managed to attend the masjid every Friday night for the next three years. During this time I also managed to get several special requests to the holy places from fellow trainee Arabs, and to participate in the Friday Prayer from time to time. Inevitably, it was these activities which led to my becoming a regular rabbit, or mosque member.

When I was ready to return to Rabat, I had to find a teaching job in order to support myself while I waited for my visa to leave the country. The Moroccan teaching system is much like the UGK, so it wasn’t difficult to find a job, but it was more difficult to find a teaching job. My luck was therefore on the side of the long and windy road, and I landed a position in a university in Rijeka. From there I travelled to Jbel Toubkal, where I graduated in chemistry. While I was in Jbel I visited Sharm el Sheikh many times, as part of my routine of visiting all of the holy places. This trip was a turning point for me, as it helped me to understand and appreciate how much religion means to people around the world.

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