Day 1 & 2 in Morocco, Africa
“You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be” -Marianne Williamson
What did I expect when I left February 18th at 8:00am for Morocco? My assumptions of Africa consisted of topics involving scorching hot weather, camels roaming the desert, poverty, and a more primitive culture. In reality, I was not sure what to expect because I knew very little about Morocco and Africa, in general, before leaving Spain. With my lack of knowledge in mind, I brushed up on some reading about Morocco as I crossed the border from Spain via an enormous ferry.
Here are some fun facts that stood out to me that Morocco Exchange, the program I went with, typed up in a 60 page small booklet.
- Don’t touch someone from the opposite sex (proven to be FALSE)
- Always have a second cup of tea (Have no tea, one glass, six glasses, whatever, but you do not need to ALWAYS have a second cup of tea)
- Do not dance in public (TRUE)
- Use your right hand when eating (TRUE)
- Be modest– cover your shoulders and no plunging necklines (TRUE)
- Speak quietly (depends on where you are, just like any place in America)
- Do not enter mosques or cemeteries if you are not Muslim (TRUE)
- Do not take pictures of government related objects. i.e. police officers, flags, certain buildings (TRUE- however, flags are usually okay)
- Bouncing off of #8… Unless you feel like spending who knows how long in a Moroccan jail, do not take pictures of police officers. Once you’re in a Moroccan jail, you are property of Morocco. A girl on my bus had her phone out when we were on the bus and the officer suspected she was taking a picture. He made the bus stop and questioned the driver for 5 minutes. Don’t worry, none of us are custody in Morocco! On a pervious trip, one kid took a picture of a building and an officer threw his phone to the ground and smashed it.
- Do not speak negatively about the King- currently Mohammad VI
- All I’m saying about this is if you’re a famous rapper living in Morocco, do not rap negatively about the King in your music for all of the public to hear… we may never hear another song by you.
- Kissing and “dating” in public is not socially acceptable (TRUE)
- You do not bring home your new boyfriend/girlfriend to introduce to your parents unless you are marrying them.
After spending my first day in Morocco, I learned that not everything you read is true. Also, not everything you hear is true either. These are simple facts, however, it can be confusing to read one thing that hear another because of different perspectives.
My first encounter with different perspectives was when I arrived in Tangier, a city in Morocco, after a morning of traveling. Me and 17 other girls from CIEE met with three women students between the ages of 22-26. One was studying engineering and the other two were studying translation. All three spoke perfect English. It amazed me.
We got to converse and have lunch with these students after they showed us around the Women’s Shelter in Tangier. This shelter helps women struggling financially get back on their feet and work. The women knit, sew, and weave blankets, baskets, and carpets. They learn to master these skills by taking a class at the shelter that is usually 10 dirhams, which is equivalent to 1 euro. This shelter is an example of how Morocco is developing.
During lunch we asked the women questions such as…
- Do you think women and men equal in Morocco?
- For the most part women agreed that women are catching up to men. Many women hold respected positions their jobs and many Moroccans are breaking away from traditional roles of women. When I say “traditional roles” I am talking about the woman’s sole job being a stay-at-home-mom. In the developing roles of men and women in Morocco, more and more fathers are helping cook meals and help with housework daily. Women continue to have children, but many juggle being a mother and having a job. More and more women every day are receiving an education in Morocco and I got the opportunity to talk to a few extremely educated and engaging students.
- However, one of the women told me a story of how one afternoon she was waiting in the street for a friend and it was just her and a man she didn’t know, about 10 feet from her. A police officer came by and accused her of flirting or acting in sexual ways. They weren’t even talking and she was a young girl! The officer began to call her nasty names and verbally abused her until he got bored and left. He never uttered a nasty word to the male.
- Also, when it gets late, around 10pm, you will most likely not see a woman outside or walking down the streets. There is just men, it is not safe for women to be out alone at night.
Family Law: In regards to women in Moroccan society, in 2004, Mohammed VI made progressive changes the Family Law. He granted new or modern rights to women in the areas of divorce, marriage, and custody of children.
2. Did you choose to wear your headscarf (hijab)?
- “Yes, it is a choice”, said every woman I spoke with. One woman told me she put it on less than 2 years ago and today she is 23. It is common to start wearing the headscarf when you get your period, so some girls are as young as 10 0r 11 years old when they decide to wear their headscarf for the rest of their life.
- However, I am not 100% sure if it is 100% a choice. The reason I say this is because Morocco has strict “rules” on how women are supposed to dress and present themselves. For example, if a woman is wearing shorts and not covering her shoulders, they will likely be called nasty names. If a man takes advantage of the woman when she is walking around dressed in non-culturally accepted clothing, the assault is usually blamed on her. In Morocco, you are more respected if you cover yourself and the headscarf gives the impression of respectability even more.
- Where does the idea of Hijab come from?
- The Qur’an (24:31):“And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings (khimars) over their bosoms (jaybs), and not display their ornaments except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex . . . “
- In Moroccan culture, modesty in the way a woman dresses is still very prevalent.
- 3. What is your favorite and least favorite thing about Morocco?
- For this Q we got many different answers. One that stood out to me was when a man in his 20’sand a girl around 25 shared with us how they love the people of Morocco. They explained how in Rebat (where my homestay was) they see little to no discrimination. Everyone is the same. You can be white, black, green, fat, a slow talker, very short, etc., but that doesn’t change the way anyone looks at each other. That may sound very simplest and non realistic, but I can assure you that is how Rebat Moroccan people act. It is incredible. Everyone was so welcoming and tolerant of new people visiting their city. They are extremely generous and accepting people.
- For things that the Moroccan students did not like very much were things such as government corruption and the lack of aid given to Shanty Towns. Over my four days spent in Morocco, I heard little to no complaints coming out of the Moroccans mouths. They are happy with what they have because many people around them have less. If you always look at someone with more than you it may bring your spirits down, but if you look at someone with less than you, your attitude is different.
Shanty Towns of Morocco: Began in the 20th century when poor families left the urban life because it was too expensive and resided in the countryside instead. Some families live in the shanty towns just to save money. The doors (if they have a front door) is made of a block of wood or an old door from someone else’s old house. The roofs consist of tarps and some bricks, but there are a lot of holes and when it rains it is a disaster. As I drove through one of the shanty towns in a town outside of Rebat, I saw many women hanging up clothes to hang to dry outside and a few donkeys and stray cats roaming the streets. There is a big problem with theft from people that live in the shanty towns and it is completely poverty stricken.
*We sat and talked with Moroccan students for 2 days and there were so many questions and answers. If you ever want to talk about anything please ask and I will give you more information!*
My Moroccan Host Family
Absolutely incredible people. I wish I could write well enough for you to understand how great this family was, but I’d have to be J.K Rowling to accomplish that. I got the opportunity to live with Mamma Fatima, Kawtcha– we named her Strawberry for her American name because she loves strawberries, Hamza– we named him Archer after my little brother and because it reminds him of Lord of the Rings, and the grandfather who I did not get to speak with much. Hamza is fluent in English and he is the same age as me, 21. He was a jokester and loved being sarcastic with me. Kawtcha is 14 and she is working on her English, but her favorite subject is math. I never saw her wear any color expect pink. She let me wear her little pink sandals for when I showered in the Hammam. Sukran (thank you in Arabic)!!
<Read my next post to get more info on what a Hammam is, or in English, a public bath>
“Mamma Fatima, Mamma Fatima, Mamma Fatima!”
I only speak English and some Spanish, therefore trying to understand my family in Arabic was close to impossible. However, Singing and dancing to “Mamma Fatima, Mamma Fatima, Mamma Fatima!” in the home, made conversation a lot easier! It is interesting to me how a group of people do not need to speak the same language or speak at all to enjoy the company of each other. I did learn a few Arabic words here and there, but they all had to do with food because Mamma Fatima insisted we all “cooli!”,which means eat.
I came back to Seville with a silver bracelet with my birthstone, Amethyst, and a Hand of Fatima charm to remember my Moroccan host mom in Rebat for 2 days!
PS: On a finishing note, there are camels in Morocco and I did get to ride one and I didn’t fall off! They poop a lot.
أكل–>eat in arabic.
Being able to spend 4 days in Morocco allowed me to acquire new perspectives on topics I knew little about. I enjoyed speaking with Moroccan students that I share similarities with even though our cultures are so different.
“Understanding the power of the differences among cultures creates advantages for you as a thinker and increases effectiveness of your work”- Quote from my International Marketing class in Spain
CIEE does an excellent job of not making the trip to Morocco touristy, but instead a cultural immersion experience. This post is just about a few experiences I had in Morocco. Check out my next blog post coming soon for the other half of my trip!