Hello all. That’s right, in a matter of days it will be my 6 MONTH ANNIVERSARY in Morocco! I know people always say that they can’t believe how quickly time flies, but seeing how quickly these past months have gone by, I can’t help but believe the old adage to be true. And so I thought that it was finally time for me to share some of my observations about Morocco thus far. Note: these are only my personal observations and feelings and they are most certain to change over the next 20 months. I wanted to share them with all of you with the intention of shedding light on what my experience has been like over the past 6 months as well as to stir in you a curiosity about Moroccan culture.
1. Moroccans may be some of the most hospitable people I have ever met—almost too hospitable if you ask me. Whenever I am invited over to share a meal with a Moroccan family the family seems instantly disheartened if I even try to leave and haven’t been there for at least 2 hours. When I go over to my host family’s house I’m convinced they’re all playing a secret game of “let’s see how long we can get Martha to stay here.” An invitation for lunch turns into an invitation to nap after lunch (wouldn’t want to go out in the sun now would we!) which of course turns into an invitation to stay for kaskroot (Moroccan tea time—more on this later), followed by the invitation for 10pm dinner. Before you know it, you’ve been deceived into staying for an entire day!
2. Moroccan food, while extremely delectable, is terribly unhealthy for you. Vegetables are cooked in so much oil to the point of non-recognition (did I just eat an eggplant? Or was that a chicken heart?). And let’s not forget the essential xobs (that’s bread in Darija, pronounced houbs), used as an alternative to a fork and knife in this part of the world. And don’t even get me started on Moroccan mint tea! Frankly, there’s nothing more Moroccan than steaming mint tea, but once you’ve witnessed how much sugar they put it in (did they really just put 6 GIANT SUGAR CUBES in that small teapot?? Yikes!) you may never want to drink it again for fear of contracting what I like to call SD, Spontaneous Diabetes. Ok, so scientists haven’t exactly discovered SD yet, but I’m quite certain that if they come to Morocco they would.
3. Continuing with the food theme, Moroccans love them some couscous! And so do I. Without fail, Moroccan women will spend hours preparing couscous every Friday. That’s right; we only eat it on Fridays. In Islam, Friday is the holy day and after returning from the mosque Moroccan families enjoy a humongous plate of couscous. (For more on Moroccan food traditions check out this website: http://fescooking.com/come-cook-with-us/the-art-of-moroccan-cuisine.
4. When flipping through the channels on a Moroccan television I have discovered that the vast majority of shows are Egyptian, Lebanese, or Turkish. Sadly, the Moroccan film industry isn’t quite on the map yet. Every Moroccan I’ve ever met is obsessed with a Turkish TV show called Hulud which takes place in 1940s Turkey. They’re also big fans of Diablo, a Mexican soap opera based in New York City. Oh yeah, and Moroccans, for some inexplicable reason, love WWE. You should have seen the look on my host father and brother’s faces when I told them it wasn’t real. I might as well have said that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.
5. Another TV observation: many channels here are devoted to the reading of the Quran and simply show the verses of the Quran on the television screen while the audio plays them being sung. Paradoxically, there are also channels showing Egyptian women belly dancing. I know it’s a centuries old tradition, but all I’m saying is that it seems a little strange to me that this channel exists right next to the Quran channel . . .
6. While Morocco is quite developed in terms of its transportation (we have a national train line and will soon be getting our first high-speed train!), its transportation safety seems to have been left somewhere in the sixth century. One of the most common forms of transportation here from city to city is the grand taxi. A grand taxi is essentially a 4-door (old, really old) Mercedes in which 7 people, including the driver, are crammed. You heard me, 7 PEOPLE. Two in the front next to the driver and four in the back. Sound uncomfortable? You bet it is! And just imagine it being 110 degrees outside and you’re crammed in between two large Berber women. And did I mention there’s no air conditioning? And no seatbelts. Oh and the speedometer very rarely works. Lucky for all of you planning to come visit me in El Borouj—you get the special opportunity to voyage in one of these relics! You can thank me later . . .
7. Moroccans wear their pajamas EVERYWHERE. And I’m not kidding you, I mean EVERYWHERE. Never before have I seen so many Hello Kitty pajama combos. Makes me wonder why I wasted so much space in my suitcase bringing normal clothes . . .
8. Here in Morocco it’s all about the family. Family always comes first, with everything else falling at a distant second. And families here are huge. When I lived with my first host family, I swear I was meeting new host cousins every week. It seemed like every other person who walked in the door was related to me.
9. Future? What future? Moroccans live very much in the present to say the least. Let’s say Mohamed has a doctor’s appointment at 3pm. It is now 2:30 and he is getting ready to leave when his friend Ayoub drops by. Now in America, we would politely tell Ayoub that we had somewhere to be and ask him to come back another day (or to call first before dropping by—I mean who does that???) But not here in Morocco. Asking him to come back later would be incredibly rude. Instead, Mohamed will invite Ayoub in and fix him tea and snacks as a sign of courtesy, and as a result he will not go to his doctor’s appointment. Sound crazy? I know, I think it’s totally nuts too, but that’s the way things go around here.
10. So I left this one for last because I find this to be one of the most interesting things I’ve discovered here: Moroccans are afraid of the sun. I know you’re thinking I must have mistyped something there but I assure you, that’s exactly what I meant to say. Now you must be thinking, “how can Moroccans be afraid of the sun, when there is always sun there?” Excellent question! I DON’T KNOW! They’ve totally befuddled me on this one—touché Moroccans, touché (Moroccans 1 Martha 0). Watching a Moroccan stay out of the sun is like watching a vampire avoid the daylight (yes I’ve seen this happen before), they cower immediately when the sun touches them and yell, “Shms!!” (that’s sun in Darija) and then stagger away as quickly as they can. Or they just don’t come outside between the hours of 2pm and 5pm. It’s really the strangest thing . . .
Alright I think that’s enough observations for now. I hope you’ve found these enlightening and that you now have a better idea of my everyday life here in Morocco. I’ve learned and experienced so much in my first 6 months here and I’m anxiously waiting to see what I’ll discover in my next 6 months. And just because I love them so much, we’ll finish with a quote:
“And the walls became the world all around.” –Where the Wild Things Are