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Africa » Morocco » Fès-Boulemane » Fes
December 8th 2004
Published: December 8th 2004
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Class is officialy finished as of 10:00 am today. We had our big test, then we all went to the cafe to have tea and chocolate croissants to celebrate. This week has been both happy and sad: happy because its been the best week yet for dinner parties, discotheques and dining out; sad because most of my Asdeequa (friends m.) and Sadequaat (friends f.) are leaving and not coming back next semester. I can see already that I'm bound to meet some of the most interesting, intelligent and eccentric people in the world here, but that I'm also going to have to get used to seeing them come and go more often than I would otherwise wish.
I've been an utter shopaholic lately. My attempts to buy christmas presents, furnish my room and buy a wardrobe for myself have been quite a boon to the local economy which sometimes seems to relay almost entirely on deep-pocketed ex-pats and tourists such as myself.
Speaking of tourists, the December wave has begun. It seems half of Spain and a good bit of France has come to Fez in the past week to escape the modern world and buy inexpensive folk art for their loved-ones.
The more time I spend here the more accutely aware I become of the enormous differences in culture between those who live here and those who come to visit. At first its the externalities that strike the visitor the most. The traditional clothing, the invitations to lunch that inevitabely consume an entire day, the people praying in the street etc. At second glace, its the poverty that appears set us apart the most. Here the McDonalds, at $4.50 for lunch, is a luxury meal that most people are rarely able to afford. Our housekeeper (7 months pregnant with her 7th child) and her unemployed kif-smoking husband were so overjoyed with my gift to them last week of a kilo and a half of minced turkey that I thought she was going to have her baby on our living-room floor. Here you're never supposed to throw away even a scrap of bread. Bread is considered the staple of life hence any casual discarding of even a crumb makes juicy bits of gossip for the whole neighborhood. There's no hiding it either since the boys pick through or trash if only to count the wine bottles (forbidden in Islam) and make rough calculations about our average weekly expeditures concerning perishables and other household items. No, there's no privacy here. Every eyeball is watching us - the strangers among les indigenes. The boys who spend the afternoon sitting on our doorstep keep careful notes of our daily arrivals and departures and relay them to the their cousins in the markets who keep tabs on what we eat and what we've bought that day.
Contrasting this are the secrets of their own lives. While I've been priviledged enough to have a few brief glimpses of Moroccan home life, I have not even begun to to learn what happens at the local mosque. Islam is still an enormous mystery to me. Its basic tenets are simple enough: indeed they are much more simple that those of Christianity (which is in part why its spreading so much faster). How it affects peoples lives, shapes their attitudes and slants their view of us is far more complicated, however, than I was originaly lead to believe. The relationship between foreigners and Moroccans is one of enormous misunderstandings on both sides. I never cease to be amazed at the rash generalizations, misobservations and miscommunications that everyone; Moroccans, Europeans and Americans, including myself; constantly fall prey too. Just a few examples:
"Without the 100 years of French rule here, their schools would be farther behind than they already are"
"Will you ask your American friend if she'll have sex with me when she breaks up with her boyfriend?"
"Islam is a very homosexual religion, most of them have sex with their cousins and brothers before they get married"
"They just want to get rich and be like us"
"Better scientific education will lead to a less Islamic country within the next century."
"Bush is a Jew and his war is not against terrorism, but Islam itself."
"Life is easy for the men here, they just sit in the cafes all day and let the women do the work."
These are the most extreme examples of course, but even the minor facets of daily life such as economics and family life are generaly misunderstood.
Anyway, many are the mysteries here and premature are my early attempts to explain them so say I'll leave it at that for now. Life is good here Al-Hamdulilah, come visit.
B'Salaama,
Brad

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