Morocco: Pourquoi Pas?Nantes, Spring 2011

Visiting Morocco was such a cultural experience that I can’t even express how much it impacted me. Without my ability to speak French, I can’t imagine haggling in the shops (which isn’t optional) or getting from one city to another. I’m not saying it’s impossible if one only speaks English, but French definitely made my experience much easier. I also traveled with a group of students from Nantes, and we had a lot of help from a friend studying in Meknes. Without someone telling us how to get around, I would have been lost. Transportation in Morocco isn’t exactly reliable. For example, the bus that we took from Chefchaouen to Tangier left an hour earlier than it was scheduled to. The drivers just leave when they feel like doing so. The driver also arbitrarily stopped to pick up people, and one man who got on was selling water..out of old soda bottles. I have a lot of stories like that.

Morocco taught me to “go with the flow” (not that studying abroad hasn’t been doing that.) I visited a hammam, or public bath house, where I bathed in a henna/soap combination and a woman scrubbed my body until it was red. I accepted that the taxi drivers literally drive however they feel like it, including honking their way through an intersection at a stand-still. I haggled, had tea with a shopowner, ate couscous and a camel burger.

I also ignored the enormous amount of catcalls. Even though Morocco is much more liberal and progressive than other Islamic countries, the role of women is still so different from that of the Western world. I had to laugh when I was walking with my friends, and someone yelled to the one male in our group: “Sir, you have three. Give me one.” And, even with the inferior position many women face in Morocco, Moroccans were some of the most hospitable people I can imagine. I wasn’t there long enough to make an assessment of the culture, and I don’t know how women feel about their place there, but I did love my experience. When visiting a country with a culture so different from my own, I had to accept things and try not to question it so much. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have had such a rewarding time.

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