WanderinG in the Field

Upon my momentous return to Morocco, I have decided to blog in the semi-academic sense. When you are a graduate student, if you haven’t written papers, blogs, or anything in a long time, getting back to writing can be scary. To counter the “ONLY fieldnotes”-genre of writing, I’ve decided to share stories from the field and my tips and tricks, ups and downs, of conducting fieldwork abroad. I actually love writing, so this is a motivating way to supplement my fieldnotes, think about my fieldwork/research process, and help others learn from my mistakes and triumphs (hopefully more of the latter instead of the former).

I want this also to be a forum where I read about writing and fieldnotes, review books on writing and the research process. If you have any suggestions, comments, and questions, I would love to hear them. This is meant to be part fieldnotes, part ethnography, part research process, and part FUN!


Welcome to WanderinGwyneth’s website.

G&CameraThis is the homepage for Gwyneth Talley, Fulbright Alumni, National Geographic Young Explorer graduate student in anthropology, horse-crazy researcher, animal enthusiast, photographer, and all around jane-of-all trades. Look around to see photos, learn more about my research and get some insights into my fieldwork. Thanks for stopping by!

From Arabic Student to Anthropologist: Fulbright Full Circle

GT-300x200This story was originally featured on the Fulbright Program’s official blog. https://blog.fulbrightonline.org/from-arabic-student-to-anthropologist-fulbright-full-circle/ 

My Fulbright journey began with one distinct moment: My first Arabic class in 2009 where Tunisian Fulbrighter Beligh Ben Taleb, a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA),taught me my Alif–Baa–Taas (or my Arabic ABCs) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. It was Beligh’s first trip to the United States, first Ramadan in a non-Muslim country, and first American teaching experience. He would set a high bar for all the other Fulbright FLTAs to follow at the University.

I remember the class vividly, full of heritage speakers, curious students who wanted to work in government, and a few looking for a challenging language. Beligh took teaching Arabic in stride and encouraged us to participate in cultural activities by cooking traditional Arab meals, helping us translate songs, and dressing us up in Tunisian clothes. Aside from learning how to introduce ourselves, the most memorable phrase I remember Beligh teaching me was: “I ride horses.”

In the summer of 2010, I took my first trip to Morocco to study Arabic and French. I stayed with a horse training family, which would lead me to my graduate research in anthropology. While learning Modern Standard Arabic, my host family immersed me in Moroccan dialect and culture–specifically their horse culture. I also met the incoming Fulbright FLTA assigned to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Othmane Zakaria. He was born and raised in the city of Meknes where I was staying for the summer. We shared tidbits about our cultures, and I warned him to buy his winter coat in the States because Nebraska winters were not like winters in Morocco.

I returned to Morocco again in 2012 to continue my Arabic study, and the cycle continued. This time, Beligh was visiting Morocco and we met with Othmane and Hassan, another Moroccan Fulbright FLTA who taught Arabic at Missouri State University. Everyone talked about their futures: Beligh was continuing his graduate studies in Nebraska, Othmane and Hassan were both going to become English teachers. I felt like an i

mposter with my brief two to three month stints in Morocco. I dreamt of applying for my own Fulbright to go to Morocco for a year and conduct research.

Fast forward three years and three application attempts; in April 2015, I was notified that I had received a Fulbright award to conduct my graduate research in anthropology on women in Morocco’s traditional equestrian display. My experience learning Arabic and spending time in Morocco was coming full circle. My Moroccan Arabic phrases went from saying, “I ride horses,” to asking; “Do you ride horses?” “When is the next festival?” “How did you learn to ride?” I then used my Arabic while volunteering at the American Fondouk in Fes, an equine charity hospital, learning phrases like “Does your donkey have a cough?” “How long has your horse been limping?” I fumbled with some phrases and accents and pushed myself to exhaustion trying to understand the nuances of my research in Arabic, but that is what a Fulbright experience is: a challenge, a reward, and the people that lead you to and through these events.

Today, I am A.B.D. (that’s academic lingo for “all but dissertation”) in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California–Los Angeles. My Fulbright award jumpstarted my dissertation fieldwork, and this fall I am returning to Morocco to finish my fieldwork and write my dissertation. In between teaching at the university and studying, I love spend

ing my time as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador spreading the “Fulbright gospel” to my students or anyone who will listen. My Fulbright experience also gave me an incredible network of friends internationally and throughout the United States. In fact, during my Alumni Ambassador training in Washington, DC, I had a mini-reunion with four people I lived and worked with in Morocco. At our training, I connected with dozens of incredible and inspiring Fulbrighters who are also Alumni Ambassadors. My network and friendships keep growing thanks to Fulbright. I left that training with future trips planned to Azerbaijan, South Africa, and Russia with my fellow Fulbrighters serving as my tour guides. Fulbright became the great uniter across the world for me, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it.

Have questions for Gwyneth about her Fulbright experiences in the Morocco and as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador? You can reach her at G.Talley.alumniambassador@fulbrightmail.org.

Gunpowder Girls Exhibit Online!


Artist’s Statement:

If you can feel the sun, smell the gunpowder, and feel the rush of the horses’ charge, I have done my job as a photographer. My mission with “Gunpowder Girls” was to capture the effort and time that the women put into participating in the gunpowder games (also known as the tbourida or the fantasia). I wanted to capture them through candid moments with little or no posing in the hopes that the viewer feels like they were in the middle of the moments.

The Gunpowder Games or also known as “tbourida” or “fantasia” is a performance and competition with roots deep in a centuries-old traditional cavalry maneuver historically unique to the Maghreb. The games consist of multiple groups of six or more horse riders, in traditional loose white pants, white shirts, and capes, armed with gunpowder rifles, standing in their stirrups and charging their horses across a field before firing their rifles in the air. The beauty and difficulty of the games is the synchronization­­–the charge of all the horses together and the simultaneous firing of the rifles. After the discharge of the gunpowder, the riders rein in their horses together, and dramatically stop at the finish line- inches away from the spectators in front of them.

For my debut exhibition, presenting my photos with people I care about and respect makes this experience all the more fulfilling. Each photograph was selected for the purpose of focusing on one aspect of the games in each shot; the sun, the flare of the gunpowder, or the horse.

All the photos in this collection are influenced and inspired by research for my PhD in anthropology and my time in Morocco as a U.S. Fulbright Student Researcher.


A Palace Fit for a Fulbrighter

Every morning the coo and flutter of pigeon wings stir me, I pull back the red velvet curtains that separate my suite from the grand and airy salon in an apartment of the Palace El Mokri in the Ziat neighborhood of the old city of Fes in Morocco. My friends back home believe I am finally living out my Disney princess fantasy. Add a Tiger named Raja, call me Jasmine, and it is a whole new world; I am living in a palace that housed the Grand Vizier of Morocco Mohammed El Mokri and his extended family. I just stumbled into living in the jaw-dropping Fesi fantasy.


The courtyard fountains and the outside view of the apartment in Palace El Mokri built in 1906.

Looking for housing in Fes is typically AirB&B or by word of mouth. A fellow Fulbrighter and I had looked at seven different houses and apartments but nothing quite struck our fancy or our budget. Eventually we triedAvito, the Moroccan Craigslist. After finding a nice looking apartment that seemed to have potential, we agreed to meet the landlord. On first meeting, this young landlord named Youssef, said the apartment posted online was not available, but he had something else to show us that was available.
My first impressions while walking through the long hall covered in mosaics was “oh no, not another dilapidated house.” Moroccan architecture is notorious for being sneaky and not revealing its secrets until you enter the house. Upon walking into the courtyard that holds three fountains and two slender pools, my doubt about the house turned into doubt about being able to afford the place.
One of the empty halls that is rented out for weddings. All the mosaics are handcrafted and made in Fes.

One of the empty halls that is rented out for weddings. All the mosaics are handcrafted and made in Fes.

Ever single piece of this is individually constructed.

Ever single piece of this is individually constructed.

We climbed the stairs into the far apartment and were welcomed into the living quarters in which my first apartment in Los Angeles could fit into without the kitchen and the bathroom. The long windows decorated with red stained glass reach over 20 feet high complemented with arches with floral plaster framing them until the carved wall touches the hand painted ceiling. Some might consider the mosaics a bit loud for their taste, but it compliments the entire room with the spectrum of colors.
The grand salon and bedroom.

The grand salon and bedroom.

Sunlight on the stained glass in the mornings

Sunlight on the stained glass in the mornings

The view from the balcony.

The view from the balcony.

I quickly said “I’ll take it!” And moved in with great vigor. I agreed to lease the apartment in the palace until the end of January. Now after living here for a little over a month, the palace’s history and famous residents are revealing themselves:
  • Grand Vizier El Mokri lived in this palace with his four wives and four concubines.
  • El Mokri is in the Guinness Book of World Records for one of the longest living men that held a government office.
  • The musicians Sting and Bob Seger are rumored to have stayed in the apartment that I’m renting.
  • There is a bullet hole in a panel of one of the windows when the brother of King Hassan II was attempting to shoot pigeons and he did not realize the windows were shut.
El Mokri was heavily involved in the Moroccan government under French colonialism. After Morocco gained its Independence, the family was shut out from government life. Their Camelot fell into a state of majestic decline. Here and there you see some hasty repairs to the mosaics, or cementing over the wholes in the marble floors. If it wasn’t on the market for $14 million, I would give up my PhD ambitions and spent the rest of my 20s restoring this place a la Under the Tuscan Sun. Even the old chandelier that fluctuates with power at night even makes me feel like Lady Mary in Downton Abbey ready to devote my life to the upkeep of this relic.
A tourist admires the view

A tourist admires the view

In the meantime, I’m teaching the pigeons to sing to me and dress me in the morning instead of coo me awake with their quarrels and flapping of their wings. Maybe I’ll extend my stay in Fes a bit longer…

About Me


My name is Gwyneth Talley and I am a National Geographic Young Explorer and currently a U.S. Fulbright Student Researcher in Morocco. As a native Nebraskan, I grew up riding horses from a very young age, trail riding and camping in the Black Hills and participating in the National Pony Express Re-ride.  As a undergraduate a rode with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Western equestrian team and I started to re-realize my horsey obsession. As a graduate student my focus is on equestrian cultures, especially the Moroccan tradition of fantasia. While girls and horses are quite a common phenomenon in the United States, women and horses in Morocco are more rare, so I focus on the women participating in this predominately male sport. For more information about women participating check out my Gunpowder Girls page.

To contact me about my work please feel free to fill out my Contact Form: