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Diaspo #153 : Rachid Zrykou, «you reached China ? Welcome to the future !»

After studying sociology in Morocco, Rachid Zrykou worked in the tourism industry before heading to China to become a journalist and present news broadcasts on a Chinese channel. Discover his journey from Moqrisset to Beijing.

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Rachid Zrykou, a Moroccan journalist and reporter in China. / DR

Moroccan journalist Rachid Zrykou was born in 1990 near Moqrisset, in the region of Ouezzane. It is there that he attended school and eventually graduated with a baccalaureate. After finishing high school, Zrykou moved to the city of Kenitra to pursue his sociology studies at the Ibn Toufail University. Despite financial difficulties, the then-young student managed to complete his course after three years of dedication.

Speaking to Yabiladi, Rachid recalled that era : «after I completed my studies, I began to feel anxious about finding a job. I considered going for another field of study to get myself a job quickly, which is why I decided to get into the tourism field». That life-changing decision was not easy however. Indeed, Rachid explained that the main problem he was faced with was his «lack of mastery of the French language». The young student still did not give up and benefited from sound guidance : «the head of the institute where I studied in Tetouan encouraged me to pursue training in the field of management.»

After two more years and a certificate in hand, Rachid Zrykou felt ready for the job market and headed to a hotel in Tetouan in search of work. Again, however, finding a job was no easy task: «the hotel management told me that there were no vacancies despite my insistence. After a week they called me, and proposed a gig as a luggage carrier during the summer of 2016. My friends at the institute were put off by these kind of jobs, but my only concern was being able to afford a living».

His life took a turn eventually:

«After three months, doors started to open before me. I went to Chefchaouen and worked in a hotel, and I started to meet tourists, including Chinese tourists. It is at that moment that my relationship with China started.»

Rachid Zrykou

At that time, Zrykou began reading about China, which is a big tourist market, and began learning the Chinese language, which Chinese tourists encouraged. «I eventually asked myself ‘why not go to China?’ (…) The point of visiting China, to me, was to learn the language and return to Morocco for work, because I was seeing my future in tourism.»

A Far East adventure

In February 2018, Rachid arrived in the Chinese capital, Beijing. The young Moroccan man described his first moments as follow : «I arrived in China with great surprise and amazement. I kept questioning my decision, especially as I did not know anyone, and I stood still while people passed by».

«When I was still in Morocco I looked for a Chinese language school in Beijing, I contacted them and they helped me apply for a visa that was valid for six months. My goal was to master the language quickly, I used to devote 12 hours a day to studying Chinese.»

Rachid Zrykou

After that, he explained that he «got a certificate of proficiency in the language». «They were asking for 300 points, I got 395 points, the professor who taught me told me ‘when I learned that you came from North Africa I thought you would not be able to master the language’».

Rachid remembers peculiar situations when he first arrived in China to study: «they used to ask me about my origins and when I would tell them that I am an African from the north of the continent, from Morocco, they would be surprised and ask me: ‘Why is your skin color white?’ Of course, they would not mean anything wrong or racist, it was just that they knew very little about Africa and Morocco».

According to him, «the key to China is Chinese. No diploma will help you if you do not master the language». Having learned the language, he was offered a training at the China Arab channel (CATV), while he «simultaneously registered for a training with distinguished broadcaster Al-Jazeera’s institute via the internet, as it was free».

Upon completing his the training, the channel offered him a full-time job, which he signed up for in August 2018. Hence, Rachid started presenting a program in Chinese about Chinese cooking.

«I came up with the idea of the program because of the widespread misconceptions about Chinese food», he said. «Chinese cuisine is rich and has great variety. Their cooking customs are very ancient, eating insects and exotic animals is not a daily thing».

Rachid Zrykou

Regarding the country, the Moroccan journalist explained that «there is a lot of diversity, and we do not know much about China».

After a while he moved to new tasks such as reporting : «when the pandemic started, I was in charge of following up the situation in Wuhan, I interviewed Arab students as well as the Moroccan ambassador.» In addition to his work for the Chinese channel, the young Moroccan journalist has been working as a reporter for Radio Medi1 in China since March. During the pandemic, Rachid was also one of the primary sources of news for a number of Arab channels, as a correspondent, who were contacting him to enquire about the situation in China.

Zrykou regrets that «the Moroccan presence in China compared to other Arab communities is very weak. I do not know whether this is because of the distance or the preconceived ideas about China? My message to Moroccans: whoever reaches China has reached the future».

As for Morocco, Rachid Zrykou explained that he did not visit the Kingdom since October, as, following his return to China, the coronavirus began to spread and the borders started to close. He explained however that he is currently happy to stay in China and that «in the near future, I am not thinking about settling in Morocco».

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