Things I Wish more Moroccans Knew about Morocco

A while ago, I wrote a list of things I wish more Americans knew about Morocco.  Here’s the complementary post; what I wish more Moroccans knew about their own country.

  1. There are a lot of foreigners.  There are not just French expats, but Americans, Africans, Asians, and other Europeans.  And not all of them are rich, contrary to popular opinion.
  2. It is incredibly difficult for those foreigners to get visas.  My explanations of what I have to go through to renew my residency are met by surprised looks from Moroccans, and knowing nods from other foreigners.  I heard that the majority of French expats in Morocco just don’t bother getting visas, and leave every few months in order to continue living on a tourist visa.
  3. There is a big Christian presence in Morocco.  There are churches in every major city, and there are several different denominations represented.

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    Seats for the wedding guests at our church

  4. It is much easier and much more useful to learn French than to learn Arabic.  I came to Morocco with the intention of learning more Arabic, but ended up learning French out of necessity.  Speaking French has allowed me to make friends, communicate with others, and be a better English teacher.
  5. It is not dangerous to walk by yourself in Casablanca.  I walk to work every day, and have never felt unsafe (although I do often get annoyed by the traffic and by men).  I am occasionally told that I should not walk, but I think it’s actually safer than putting my life in the hands of an impatient taxi driver.

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    This Meknes taximan was ready to pick us up, but we wanted to walk.

  6. There are a lot of wonderful things that Morocco has that the United States does NOT have.  For example, vacation homes for big companies, maternity leave and generous vacation day policies,  cheap organic produce, and cleaning ladies who will clean your apartment once a week for a small price.  Which explains my first point, that there are a lot of foreigners.

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    Also, beautiful weather

Empty or Full

The other day, I was reading a travel blog written by one of my coworkers.  She had visited both Sacre Coeur and the Hassan II Mosque in one day, and was commenting on how grand they both are.

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The blog entry detailed how beautiful the two structures are, although the cathedral is no longer used and is falling apart.  It ended by saying that it is a shame that the mosque is more elaborate and impressive despite being for an “empty religion.”  After many Islamic studies courses in college, I find this statement surprising and ignorant, especially coming from someone who chose to work and live in a Muslim country with students and coworkers of different faiths. Although I doubt she reads my blog, I am going to tell you, my dear readers, some fascinating things about the Islamic tradition.

Poetry and music – You’ve probably heard of Rumi, the Persian poet.  If you haven’t, look him up!  His poems remind me of the book of psalms; a lot of them sound like love songs, but are about God instead of a man or woman.

Language – The Quran is written in classical Arabic, which is a beautiful and complex language. Even native Arabic speakers have to study it for many years to grasp its many rules and structures, but those who can truly speak or write it can produce wonderful songs, stories, and poetry.

Islamic law – Many scholars have worked together to produce Islamic law and the correct sayings of the prophet.  I think it is amazing that one can read exactly what the prophet said, along with who reported what he said, when it happened, and where, and that we can trust that this information was researched for years.

Science and math – The schedule of daily prayers is very complex.  It involves finding the exact times the sun rises, sets, and is at it’s highest every day.  I also find it interesting that there are set periods of time in which to pray. Many Christians set aside a certain time of the day for prayer and reflection so as to make sure to stay on track, which is much the same idea, though less rigid.

Some Islamic art on display in Londo

Some Islamic art on display in London

I firmly believe that one can appreciate the gifts given to us by other religions while still being steadfast in our own beliefs.  And you never know; you might just learn something new about your own traditions and values by learning about those of others!

The Life of the Mind Continues

As a former UChicago student, I am in possession of quite a bit of fairly useless knowledge.  Last night I was reminded of this, so here I am sharing it with my dear readers.

IMG_2591Some serious learning happened here.

As I was falling asleep, I was listening to a Sufi ceremony happening in a street nearby.  I could hear the chanting and drums that are typical of Sufi music, and I could make out the words as part of the attestation of faith: la illaha ila Allah, or, there is no God but God.  I know this because I went to a Sufi ceremony several times in Chicago, plus I wrote a lot of papers about Sufi philosophers and traditions when I was in college.  I also studied Arabic, and as my sister knows, I can convincingly pretend to be Muslim if I go to a mosque, in terms of knowing what to do, and also because I know both the first chapter of the Quran and the Shahada by heart.  This knowledge is not relevant to my life on a regular basis, so I’m pretty excited when it comes in handy.
BabaJerrahiThe Jerrahi Sufi order of Wicker Park, Chicago
My friend and I were listening attentively to the wisdom of the sheikh, familiarly known as “Baba”
This morning, after hearing the beautiful chants of our local Sufis, I was excitedly telling my roommate about how there are a lot of Sufis in Morocco.  I’m not so sure whether she really cared,  but you should care!  Here is why.
Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism that is known for its artistic traditions.  Perhaps you’ve read the love poetry of the Persian Jalal-alDin Rumi, or seen a video of Turkish whirling dervishes.  If you’ve ever had a crisis of faith, you’ve probably read alGhazali in hopes of finding your path in a corrupt world (okay, maybe that one’s not so likely).  Sufis are known also for their music and dance because they use the enjoyment of music to experience the love of God.  I think this is fascinating, because singing to feel joyful reminds me of going to a church service (especially if the church has a drummer instead of an organ…that’s much more fun), so that is a nice reminder of what different religions have in common.  Because Sufis are so interested in experiencing rather than fearing God, they are open to discussion with people from other faiths.  The Sufis I met in Morocco last year were buddies with the local monks in the French monastery, and sometimes they met up with each other for some mint tea and deep discussion.  I think that’s pretty cool, so I hope you do too.

Why I Like Living in Morocco

Yesterday we had a tea for just the ladies, and the seasoned expats told us about their experiences.  Some experiences were quite negative (catcalls, etc.), so at the end, they each explained what they do like about Morocco.  I’ve only lived in Morocco for a total of about six months and two weeks cumulatively, but I definitely also have an answer to that question.  After all, I did choose to come back here…just six months wasn’t enough!  So here is my own list.

  • Friendliness: for the most part, Moroccans are willing to help.  If you are lost, you can ask for directions and someone will walk with you to your destination.  Or if your gas tank runs out, your concierge will bring you a new one so you don’t have to carry it up two flights of stairs.

Image I bet this camel would help me out.

  • Religion: Morocco is a Muslim country, but it is very accepting of other faiths and other cultures.  Most Moroccans seem to have an interest in learning more about religion (whether it is their own or another), and consider it to be an important part of life.  This often brings people together in discussions or allows people to share their culture in a positive way.
  • Language: Arabic is a beautiful language, even if you might say that Moroccans don’t really speak it!  Moroccan Arabic is pretty fun to speak anyway, because it’s basically all consonants.  I also really love French, but cannot understand the French accent.  Morocco is the perfect place to practice speaking and listening without being ridiculed.  I originally came to Morocco with the intention of learning Arabic and came out with more French, but I’m always happy to be learning languages.

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 The tram is a good place to learn how to say things like “the following stop is…” in Arabic and French.

  • Diversity: Morocco is diverse in culture, geography, and traditions.  There are Berbers, Arabs, Africans, and Westerners living just in the city of Casablanca.  There are Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and several sects within each of those that are strongly represented.  There are beaches, deserts, mountains, and ski resorts.  There is always more to see and more to learn.

ImageSnow covering the beautiful town of Ifrane

  • And last but not least, I had a great experience here last time.  I met wonderful people, traveled a lot, and learned more than I could have imagined.  And like I said, there is always more to learn.

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