Morocco. What comes to mind when you hear this country? When I heard that I would be going to Morocco during the first weekend of November, I tried not to think about the media portrayal about how dangerous Moslems are. Last month an American ambassador was assassinated in Lybia and some countries had become off limits to Americans, but Morocco was not one of them. I didn’t know what to expect about the trip. Even though I was terrified, I was excited because I knew that I would be experiencing something like never before. I have never been to a country where the Islamic religion is the most dominant and where the government and king have so much power. It’s amazing to me how close Morocco and Spain are. They are literally neighbors. Spain is only a couple of miles away.
The moment I arrived in Morocco I could feel the amazing weather. It was much warmer than Madrid. The people by the ferry stared at my group a lot, because a group of loud Americans isn’t something that they are used to seeing. Everything was so different. The ferry had dropped us off in Tangier. Tangier was such a beautiful place to start our journey in Morocco. We walked through the city and looked at all the markets. Everything was so cheap. For every euro you receive 11dh. After our small walk around the city, we visited a center for women. This center was amazing. It was the perfect introduction because it removed one of the biggest prejudices I had about Morocco. I had always believed that Morocco was a place where the men dominated and the women were very weak which lead to them succumbing to their husband’s desires, but I was wrong.
Three young women my age came to the center to talk to my group. They were all dressed beautifully. One was wearing traditional Moroccan clothing with the “hijab”. The other two young women were sisters. They were dressed exactly like we were. If they would’ve passed by me in the streets of New York I would have never known where they were from. They spoke to us about how the role of women is changing everyday in Morocco. The center educates women in reading, writing, sewing, computer skills, and resume skills. The women are able to become stronger to help support their families. I was so surprised to hear them talk about how they feel about the way their country is ruled. They don’t agree with the king on many topics and they want change. They believe that by educating each other and making other women stronger things will change in the future. They also spoke to us about dating. They said that there are many arranged marriages happening but for the most part the young people choose who they want to be with. They don’t show too much displays of affection in public. The most they could do is hold hands. If a boy takes you out McDonalds it’s considered to be classy. The girls were so insightful when they spoke to us. I saw how much women are changing in Morocco and how similar they are to the women in my Dominican American culture.
Later that day we ended up in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. There were areas where the streets looked dirty and there wasn’t any pavement and others looked like the streets of New York City. There were a variety of classy and average restaurants. There were also many markets. Some were only in the street and others were in very expensive stores. I spent two days in Rabat. This is where I learned the most during the entire trip. I stayed with a host family for two nights. During these two nights I ate Moroccan food, played dress up with Moroccan clothes, went out to a Moroccan club, and got to know Moroccan people my age. It was very difficult to communicate at times because no one in the family knew English. The only person who knew a little was the twenty-four year old daughter, Hajin. In Morocco they speak Arabic and French in most parts. I was able to communicate with the family because of the high school French that I remembered. The house where we stayed was very beautiful and big. I would love to live in a house like the one I stayed in. Inside the house there was a balcony that oversaw the dining and living room. Inside the house lived Hajins’s parents, her two brothers and her grandmother. Her sister was also visiting for the weekend. Hajin showed me and the other girls pictures of the big religious celebration that they just had where they killed a lamb on their own living room floor. Every day that I was there they served lamb for dinner. They did this because they have to eat it until it finishes. Many stores and schools were closed throughout the city because of the religious holiday. Everything is closed until everyone eats all of the lamb.
One evening the other girls and I went out with Hajin’s brother to a nearby club. This had to be one of the most interesting experiences of my life. The women were covered for the most past but a few were wearing very short and tight dresses. The women only danced together and they most moved their hand when they danced and their hips side to side. The men and women who were dancing together were dancing in front of each other and were barely touching each other. Others, who were on top of one another, were obviously couples. They danced much closer together and hugged a lot. The music was absolutely amazing! They played music in Arabic, French, and English. I love that Morocco is not Americanized. When I am in Spain I feel that it is very Americanized at times and that they music is always the same. This was a great change. Many people were drinking and this is something that is illegal but you could see how they broke many laws and hid everything well. On my last day with the family I thanked them for allowing me to stay in their home. I said “shucran” (thank you in Arabic). Hajin told me that I will always be a part of her family and that I could come back whenever I wanted. I have never met more hospitable people. Her grandmother kissed me on both cheeks and said something in Arabic that I didn’t understand but I knew that it was good. Her smile was so genuine; she reminded me of my grandma. I said my goodbyes and moved onto Chefchaouen.
We visited a village before we reached Chefchaouen. We stayed in the village with a family and had lunch with them. The women were in support of all their children, regardless of their sex going to school. They wanted their children to be educated so that they could make their way out of the village. Meeting the people of the village definitely made me value the small things in life. Chefchaouen was amazing. The city had the Rift Mountains and the scenery was so much greener than the other cities. We had a lot of free time to shop. The euro goes a long way and you also have to bargain to get the right price. I was able to see so much on this trip and I hope that I one day come back with my family. Every time I hear the country Morocco or Islam I now relate words like hospitality, laughter, religion, compassion, and love. This experience has completely changed the way I view the world and my life. I am so rich in many ways and it’s so important that I value that everyday.
– Lucitania Hernandez ’14