My two month anniversary in Morocco has officially passed. That, and the fact that I have traveled for three days straight across the Moroccan countryside during my spring break, has given me plenty of time to reflect on everything that I have experienced in the country thus far. However, I am happily aware of the fact that two months is not enough for me to fully understand what is going on around me. That may take two years. Or twenty. Or a lifetime.
Talking with Moroccans and learning more about the history and culture of the country has helped me most in understanding my perceptions of the country and having these perceptions evolve. It has confirmed something I have suspected for a long time: that within even smaller countries, regions, and cities, there is always a diversity of people, of ways to live, and of ways to be “modern”, whatever that means.
When I first told people about my plans to come to Morocco, I found that most people, understandably, had mostly basic knowledge about the country and had many over-generalizations. They thought that Morocco was filled with women wearing veils, donkeys carrying goods around the medina, and they often worried about the safety of the country. And in some ways they’re not wrong. Some women do choose to wear veils here. I do see donkeys carrying goods through the medina. Safety is a concern here. But, that is not THE Morocco. Manly women don’t veil here, and some of the ones that do are also the fiercest feminists. Donkeys walk alongside a tram nicer and more reliable than the DC metro. I feel safer waking home in Rabat than I do on my college campus. The story of Morocco cannot be shown by one picture.
The past three days, I have traveled through snow, mountains, deserts, and lush valleys all within the confines of the country. And Moroccans are as diverse as the scenery that surrounds them. The young women working long hours at a hospital and taking English by night so that one day she can work in the US, the man who grew up as a nomad in the Sahara desert, the people who may never leave the area they were born, and others who jet set across the globe regularly are all equally Moroccan and all equally modern.
We often give diversity the benefit of the doubt when it comes to differences in our own culture, but have trouble acknowledging it as it exists in other parts of the world. I hope to never make that mistake again.