A brief consideration of cultural differences

I was curious about what results Google would pull up when I searched for “Morocco” and “Earth Day.” According to The Independent, a British news source, Morocco is the first “African, Muslim, and Arab state” to participate in the US-led Earth Day initiative. However, this initiative only began in 2010, and Morocco still has a lot of work to do to ensure that their portion of the Earth stays clean. There are countless things I love about Morocco, but one thing I am less enthusiastic about is the dirt and smells that abound in the major cities, like Rabat. While my travelling experience is limited and I imagine that many other countries struggle with the cleanliness of their cities, my time in Morocco has helped me to appreciate the general emphasis on the cleanliness of cities in the States.
                I suppose this aspect may simply be a reflection of Morocco’s different infrastructural priorities. Morocco is busy updating other public services – for example, the glamorous new city tram in Rabat was completed only a couple years ago. The tram is a handy and inexpensive way to travel through the city, passing by the medina (old city) and through the new parts of Rabat as well. It’s fascinating to me to see the tram pass by the medina walls, some of which are several centuries old – it’s a clear example of the intricate relationship between modern and traditional. This dichotomy manifests itself in numerous ways, not the least of which is socially.

Bab al-Had tram stop in Rabat

                While Morocco is, if anything, a country with a culture nearly impossible to accurately describe, it’s safe to say that some of the biggest differences can be found between the rural and the urban. One obvious difference is the lack of modern amenities in the countryside and the abundance of sprawling villas hidden by walls that are ornately decorated and covered with lush vines and bushes, effectively protecting against prying eyes. However, the differences extend more deeply than this. While I find Moroccans, on the whole, to be very welcoming, one thing the cities seem to lack, or at least have noticeably less of, is the classic Moroccan hospitality which has earned a well-deserved reputation all over the world. People in the country side may have less in the way of material goods, but they will be quicker to invite you to share their meal and offer you a place to sleep.
                Another obvious difference is the styles of dress. While traditional dress (jellebah) is still common in the major cities, even highly-westernized Rabat, traditional dress is worn almost exclusively in rural areas. Even within the city, however, you find an interesting blend of the old and new: women wearing jeans and a head dress. This style is by no means new but can still be rather contentious as conservative Muslims might suggest that the fittedness of pants is inappropriate. Still yet there are countless others who wear exclusively western clothes: shorts, skinny jeans, low-cut shirts, and t-shirts with all manner of logos and advertisements.
                Again, these aspects are just two small fish in the sea of diversity that is Morocco. (I hope to expand on the concept of diversity and the relationship between traditionalism and modernization at a later time.)  I may miss one minor aspect of home, but I am enthralled by the beauty of Moroccan society.

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Filed under Area & Arabic Language Studies, Douglas Tatz, Morocco, Rabat

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