November 17-19, 2010
We just arrived in Morocco. I noticed the stares of the sea of Arab men from the airplane. I also was annoyed at the man who was treating the plane like his living room and blasting music at 3:30 am in the morning just in the seat in front of me. I abused my power as a foreigner from a country that believes in equality of the sexes and gave him that “look”: a stare that says, “Hello….yes, other people are on the plane too. Your tehno-rap will have to wait.” Mostly, men travel to and from Morocco. And it seems mostly men drink tea in cafes, all day long as well, and men only exercise at the track in the morning. I’ve never been more aware of my gender, and the fact that my hair is showing. I even tied a scarf over my head to be less distracting, but my R.E.I. pants are a dead-give-away.
Besides the overflow of males and the strange feeling that I’m never quite sure as a woman if it’s appropriate that I do certain things, or participate in certain spaces, I love Casablanca. Well, what I mean to say is I love the food: fresh crepes, warm pastries, creamy butter, shawarmas, hummus, olives, and couscous.
They just celebrated Tabaski (or so called in West Africa), a Muslim holiday equivalent to the magnitude of Christians’ Christmas. Almost every household slaughters one sheep or ram which symbolizes the story of Abraham and how his son Isaac was saved by the sacrifice of a ram. The city actually smells because of the number of sheep that are killed for the family feasts. Unfortunately, we did not have family close enough to participate in the festivities…we were all very sad to miss out on some great local food.
Africa, what a place of diversity, west, then east, and now north. Morocco is a funny blend of Arab, French, and African, but they don’t call themselves Africans. They say, “I would love to visit Africa someday” or “This is my African friend.” There is a strange form of separatism and elitism. I kinda want to pull out a map to clarify the continent, and they often make the same mistake that I used to which was to use the word “Africa” like it is a country instead of a continent. No, Morocco is not like Senegal, and they are both vastly different from Kenya.
But, we all make mistakes and our assumptions of people and places always need re-educating. I’m learning the immense value of exposure and how little I understood about countries throughout Africa. As I understand more of their ways here I hope they will be forgiving of a fierce American woman.
We’ll be traveling to Meknes tomorrow by train where we will start a dance workshop on Monday. More to come!