Morocco continues to be a fascinating land of contradictions and evolutions. As I grow to understand and see this country as a unique place on earth, I’ve started to form more cohesive comparisons to the other country I know well, The United States of America. In some ways, one would think America and Morocco are quite similar. Both are composed of people from various places, have a culture that is more a mingling of other societies than one cohesive central point. However, both of these societies also have uniting identities that the people within them cling to. In some regards, comparing the environmental and social conditions between these two nations can be hugely reflective on their respective differences.
To begin, both America and Morocco are, geographically, composed of variant landscapes. Both sport deserts, mountains, plain ranges and massive expanses of beaches. Additionally, both nations touch two large bodies of water: America the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and Morocco the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. Clearly, both nations’ features are lovely yet how they are treated is remarkably different. National parks can be found in both countries, yet from what I’ve observed, Morocco has a marked problem when it comes to pollution. To an extent, America does, as well, but in Morocco piles of trash can be found everywhere from my neighborhood in Rabat, to country yards, to just along the coast. Trash in the streets is one topic many Americans here speak about: how appalling it is, particularly compared to the standard we are used to in the States.
A short anecdote on this: when I was talking to one of the AMIDEAST professors, Muhammed, about what he thought of America and specifically my city of Boston, he was fast in informing me that he loved Boston specifically for the reason that, “It is the cleanest city I have ever visited.” Now, I love Boston a lot but I would have never thought to make such a claim. However, by dare I say, “Moroccan standards” then yes, Boston is an incredibly clean town.
This said; there are environmental things I love about Morocco that are hard to find in America. The number one thing is produce. All the food in Morocco is so fresh and local and you can note the difference. Carrots here are so succulent and colorful and huge, they are so unlike the greenhouse grown faire that can be purchased in your local Market Basket stateside. Eggs in Morocco? Delicious in a way that is rare to find in America, most likely because many of the chickens here are free-range. I don’t consume meat, but even this I have heard is good compared to American standards, most likely due to the fact that all the meat here is Halal. In general, I think food and eating has greater respect in this society and therefore the work put into it is more sincere.
There’s also not a frozen food culture that we find in the states, making everything fresh and delicious. I think this has a positive impact on the Moroccan’s relationship with their environment.
Now to the harder comparison to draw between the two main countries of my heart: societal differences. These are numerous and would be more fitting for the work of an extensive study than my brief blog post but please bear with me. Moroccan society is very different than American. On a basic level, our governments are vastly different: one a democratic republic, one a monarchy. And even how we talk about and view our government systems is different, freedom of speech and press is toted in America and even though there is tons of work done to increase transparency in the government and large corporations in Morocco, it is illegal to speak out against the king. For the most part, I have found that Moroccans adore their leader and are quick to discuss all his quirks and charms and his “beautiful” family.
There are also sights and occasions that are super commonplace in Morocco that are either much more rare or have different connotations in America. For example, I’ve definitely come to see and understand the intense individualism that is instilled in the American mind from a young age. We are raised to become independent and grow away from strong ties that can develop from family or work or friendship or tradition. These things do exist in America, but not to the extent they do in Morocco. For example, friendship is a value highly treasured in Islam, as you are doing your religious right as a good Muslim if you have a close friend and express this. In America, friendship is much more casual. But in Morocco, you can meet a complete stranger in the morning and be calling him your dear friend by the afternoon and introducing him to other friends by the evening. (I’ve seen it happen!) On top of this: handholding is seen everywhere. Being physically comfortable with a friend is an important way to show your companionship and I’ve seen all varieties of same-sex friends holding hands while walking down in street. In America, this is viewed as a romantic gesture but to Moroccan society it’s a sign of trust and closeness with a dear friend.
Family in Morocco is also very different. There’s not a big mentality that one has to move out and start their own life once they reach a certain age. Many people in their 20s and beyond still live with their families. These are often quite large with more than five children. It’s easy to spot the difference here: in America, children are expected to make it on their own once they graduate from college. I think I have seen that over all, as a society, Moroccan family ties are much stronger than those found in the US.
As I discussed in my post on the hammam, body image here is vastly different. In America, women in particular and men too fret over having the “perfect” body. We work out, watch what we eat and endlessly compare ourselves to the images we are flooded with day in and day out by the media. In Morocco, it is actually better to be a little shapely than to be too thin, as I learned this past week in my culture class. There are certain erotic dancers who often perform at weddings and other large events that are seen as particularly lovely because of the fact that they are overweight. I’ve also come to realize Americans have quite the obsession with having perfect teeth and teeth whitening. This is less of a concern in Morocco and indeed (maybe because of all the sweetened tea?) it is rare to find a Moroccan with perfect teeth. And that’s all right! It’s a different society but it’s fun to note the difference.
Being in Morocco has been such an adventure and learning experience. These observations are just a brief window into what Moroccan society truly is. When comparing the environmental and societal differences, we only get a piece of the truth of what these two countries are. For further knowledge, I encourage reading my past posts (and Julie’s!) or even better, finding a nice book on Morocco or hoping on a plane and learning for yourself!