The Portrait of a Moroccan by Isabel Spence

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my over two months here, it’s that Moroccans are a breed of their own. I want to describe how Moroccans are hugely community conscious while also having some beautiful familial and friend-based relationships. I wanted to focus this discussion around just one Moroccan that I know but soon realized how challenging this would be as really there are examples everywhere of the beautiful friendliness that all Moroccans seem to share. Instead I’d like to portray Moroccans through some shining examples of individuals I’ve come across in my time here.

Poet: On my trip to Essaouira, I met a young Moroccan poet! He wrote romantic poems in classical Arabic. Meeting him was a delight as his openness and struggles with his art was something that is a rare find in an artist. He was a true talent and so ready to share his writing right away, I appreciate how he must be constantly trying to get his work out there by just constantly sharing- sharing is one of the ultimate Moroccan values, I think.

Doha, a wonderful Moroccan woman with one of the program participants, Umar! She is from Agadir in the south and has become like a mother to everyone on the program. Thanks Bri for the picture!

Doha, a wonderful Moroccan woman with one of the program participants, Umar! She is from Agadir in the south and has become like a mother to everyone on the program. Thanks Bri for the picture!

Driver: Some of the very best conversations I’ve had during my time here have been while a taxi driver was bringing me from one side of Rabat to another. They are always quite pleasantly surprised that I can have a decent conversation in Arabic. One man was so impressed he gave me his daughter’s number (she studies English) so that we could practice our English/Arabic together! Another driver brought me home from Church one day and we launched into a really amazing conversation about how religion works and how the monotheistic religions are connected. I also have fond memories of the first Moroccan I had an extensive conversation with, the man who drove me from Casablanca to Rabat the very first day I arrived in Morocco! When asked if I had any friends in Morocco and I replied no he informed me that I had a friend in him! Ah, Moroccans.

Leader: Everyone on my program loves our program director, Doha. She is super helpful and will literally assist any of us on the program with anything. Not only all this, she constantly imparts helpful information and tips! When we had a belly dancing class she brought along her dancing skirt and joined us! Her warmth and love fill a room as soon as she enters it and when I was hit by a case of allergies she was the only person I wanted to talk to about which hospital I should go to. Another young woman who works at AMIDEAST, Ishrak, is another amazing Moroccan leader. She’s shown me just where to go to get some task accomplished in Rabat and is always glowing with friendly air each time I see her.

Teacher: My teachers at AMIDEAST are all really special people. As I’ve been teaching English this semester, I’m starting to understand just what a challenge being a teacher really is. I am particularly lucky to be studying under Raja Rhouni, a brilliant Moroccan mind, who teaches my Gender and Islam course. She understands what each student in our class is trying to get from the course and will specifically lead discussions so that they mold to our interests. The other day we talked for about an hour after class on every topic from help on my term paper to what our families are like.  A true Moroccan, she is imbued with warm and a good humor.

One of the Darija teachers, Achraf, and I. He travels with us on our group excursions and is awesome!

One of the Darija teachers, Achraf, and I. He travels with us on our group excursions and is awesome!

Friend: Moroccan friendship is in a class of its own. Especially friendships between people of the same gender have a completely different way of manifesting itself here versus in the states. One thing I really like about friendships here is the tendency for Moroccans to have many good friends and then to have some close friends with which they will walk around holding hands with. In America, there’s a big idea that “Individuality” is one of our undeniably important concepts. In Morocco, friendship seems equally as important and it warms my heart to see Moroccans affectionately clasping hands with their cronies as they walk down the street or are out and about.

Maid: I have trouble explaining how wonderful my relationship with our family’s live in maid/nanny, Fatima, is. I feel so closely tied to her though we were raised in such vastly different countries and speaking two completely different languages. Fatima understands Darija, the form of Arabic that I’ve only just started to learn, but she mainly speaks Tazamzigh, the “native” dialect of Morocco. Though our conversations are a daily struggle on both ends, we hugely enjoy each other’s company and gossip happily and sigh over handsome men that appear on the television. Recently, she’s started calling me “sister” and it touches my heart in a way I had never expected.

Travelers: Finally, I have met some of my favorite Moroccans just by the coincidence of sitting in the same train compartment as them when I travel between cities. Often conversation will strike up after I pull out my Arabic flashcards or say a brief phrase in Arabic. “Oh, you speak Arabic?” They inquire which I respond to with, “A little.” Often they want to know why I study Arabic, what I hope to do with it and how I like Morocco. One kind man even helped me with my Arabic homework and another gave me a book with which I can practice my reading skills. Can you imagine something like that happening on a train ride in the states?

The more Moroccans I meet, the more I understand that kindness and warmth can be fostered into a community and not just into individual people. When a society is wealthy with such kindness, one sees how a good reputation can be formed. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule everywhere, but I have been blessed to meet so many amazing Moroccans that they are who will always appear in my mind (and heart) first.


1 Comment

Filed under Area & Arabic Language Studies, Isabel Spence, Morocco, Rabat

One response to “The Portrait of a Moroccan by Isabel Spence

  1. I really enjoyed your story: it is clear and without fuss. As a Moroccan living in Europe, it strikes me time after time that a hidden element of competition and wariness colors the most contact I have had with Europeans. I can’t remember feeling something like that with contacts with my countrymen, in Morocco or in Europe. In Morocco a nice talk is mostly more important than “Who is right” as in Europe. Information they give is often unchecked, but is all about a pleasant contact. Not the content but the relationship is the keyword in Moroccan society, which I enjoy very much.

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