Reflections on Morocco

As my mom drove me to the airport to see me on my way to London for my next semester, we discussed my experience in Morocco and how my time in London will contrast. She mentioned that in fact, Morocco doesn’t seem like such a foreign place any more. Even living vicariously through me, she has developed a sense of familiarity with the country. This sentiment is all the deeper in me-I feel that I established a second home in Morocco. This feeling by no means came immediately. Just like a relationship with any person, it took effort to develop and to overcome a variety of challenges. However, these minor obstacles were easily overcome with not only the support of the friends I made during my time, but also with the general warmth of Moroccan culture as a whole. In every nook and cranny of Morocco’s endless diversity can be found an equally endless amount of hospitality.
When I’m asked questions about American culture, it can be tricky to give an accurate answer. As an American, I of course understand that there are many nuances and therefore try to communicate the complexity of American culture. It took me some time to realize that this same concept applies at least as much to the relatively small country of Morocco. I suppose in order to give even a remotely accurate answer in response to what Morocco is like, you must preface it by saying it’s nearly impossible to sum up the country. It’s a fascinating mix of Arab and Berber culture, heavily mixed in some places with French or Spanish influence from the colonial period. Languages and the education system reflect this cultural fusion: French is common in the capitol of Rabat, whereas Spanish can often be heard in the northern cities; the language spoken at home is usually either colloquial Moroccan Arabic or one of the three Berber dialects, while modern standard Arabic is the working language of the schools, unless you go to a private French school, in which case the main language of instruction is, unsurprisingly, French.  The way of life changes radically from region to region and especially from urban areas to rural; while in the major cities most wear “western” clothes, traditional styles are much more common in the countryside.  Even the geography participates in the diversity-when I summited Mount Toubkal with my friends, trudging through at least a foot of snow, we could see the Sahara Desert. Books are written about Morocco, and yet, there is always more to be said.
One of my favorite forms of cultural exchange was meeting someone new, which seemed to happen nearly every day. Moroccan warmth and sincerity greatly facilitate making new acquaintances and conversing with them, whether it’s in Arabic, English, French, Spanifriends! post 10 - Douglas Tatzsh, or a mix of them all.  I quickly noticed how enthusiastic my new friends were that I spoke even just a little Arabic and that I was studying the language. I was also intrigued by how amiable everyone was to us as Americans, and by how eager they were to practice their English. My friends and I struck up a conversation with a stranger on a train, learned that he was a paratrooper in the army, and proceeded to play cards and eat dates together. Although our friendship lasted for only a few hours, he kept repeating to us how happy he felt.
The four and a half months I spent in Morocco flew by more quickly than I ever could have imagined. I made deep friendships and have lasting memories. I am sure that my brief semester is just the beginning, as I intend to return to Morocco as soon as I can.

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

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