It is hard to believe that this is our final day in Morocco, but after a full week I feel that I have learned so much about this country’s culture. Although our group has learned a lot about Morocco generally, I have been able to research my own topic. My research is centered around the film industry and how it has affected Morocco’s economy on a global, regional, and country scale. Coming to Morocco, I was not expecting to hear a lot about movies while touring and I imagined that I would be researching most of my topic back in the U.S.; however, I found almost the opposite to be true. In the first hour of our tour in Tangier, we saw the church in Inception and heard our guide talk about the area where some of Game of Thrones had been filmed. Once we entered the main square in Tangier, there was the first movie theater that I had seen in Morocco right in the middle. One half of the movies advertised were all national films, but on the other side there were American movies (The LEGO Movie 2 and The Mule) recorded in French. We then went to St. Andrew’s Episcopal church, which the priest said was in the movie Great Escape. Aside from the Tangier movie theater, the only one that I saw was in the new part of Fez. For this entire week, with the exception of this afternoon, we have spent our time in the old parts of each city, where I saw little reference to cinema. Despite the lack of theaters, film is still a part of Moroccan culture. For example, when we were in the caves in Tangier, our tour guide said that they play movies there and host other events like concerts by the ocean. Finally, at the U.S. embassy we had the opportunity to ask questions to some of the workers at USAID They (unsurprisingly) did not have too much information about the film industry, but I did find out that Morocco is more relaxed with what they film compared to other MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries. I cannot wait to continue my research on this topic and it has been a great trip!
Friday, March 15, 2019
Today was a good research day for me. We stopped by a university and I talked to our guide about Moroccan education. He said that it is pretty similar to education in the United States since it covers all the fundamental subjects throughout primary and secondary school. However, college (or “university” as they call it) is a bit different. Student usually choose a specific career path and either attend vocational school or travel elsewhere to attend university. I thought it was pretty interesting how much Morocco has improved their technology and how students now have access to better education. When we get back to the states I’d like to research more about the quality of education in Morocco compared to the US.
My favorite thing about today was walking through the markets and seeing all of the cool foods that they sell. Today we are making our own dinner so we had to get all the ingredients fresh from the market. Once we got to the restaurant, I soon realized that I have absolutely no chance of becoming a chef when I get older. First, I accidentally cut the vegetables when I was supposed to grate them, so not only did I waste a bunch of food but I also got shamed in Arabic. I’m pretty sure the cooking staff thought I was incompetent at performing any task. Even when I attempted to grate the vegetables, one of the ladies kept shaking her head and taking the food away from me so she could do it herself. I just stood there and watched, feeling very useless. It’s okay because Ms. Ducharme felt the same way so we just sat there laughing at ourselves. On the bright side, I now know that I should NOT, under any circumstances, become a chef. Anyways, the food that everyone else made was so delicious and it was one of the best meals I’ve had to far. We all were sitting together, laughing and cracking jokes, which made tonight so awesome. I’m definitely bummed that our trip is coming to a close, but it was nice to enjoy the last few days here. I’m excited about returning to Rabat, not only for my research purposes but also because I’m sure our last full day will be a great one.
Today was our second day in Fez. We walked around and learned about the local artisans ranging from carpentry to leathered goods and even naturopathic remedies.
As a big group navigating through Fez, we struggled with pacing of our tour around the city, making most of us tired as we enter our last day in Morocco.
One of the most interesting aspects of this trip has been the conversation around what we need vs. want. We have walked many streets of Morocco noticing people’s health care and what is evident in their ailments. For instance, dental care: it is one of the most important aspects of healthcare in America and as children grow up, we were told to brush our teeth twice a day, floss, and–around our struggling teen years–we were faced with the challenge of braces (whether we followed those rules or not is a different conversation). In Morocco, crooked teeth is a commonality rather than a difference. The pearly white tint is nonexistent, and the likely hood of a dead tooth is more often than not. Furthermore, cross eyes and blindness have also been more apparent in this country than the United States. I don’t necessarily know why or how this occurs more often seen here than at home, but it is something I have noticed throughout our time here. But, again, being cross eyed is not necessary to live a productive life, just like having nice teeth and going to the dentist is not, for the most part, “necessary” for our overall health.
We also have been noticing the lack of allergies here and food restrictions. In the U.S., allergies are completely normalized. In Morocco, however, allergies are hard to navigate because most people in Morocco are not sensitive to gluten, dairy, or any type of nut. In the U.S., being gluten-free, lactose intolerant, and allergic to nuts is commonplace, and even trendy. But, the downside to the U.S. is that menus do not have any other languages to help those who need translation. Morocco caters to it’s audience, where as the United States says, “This is who we are.”
In recent news, we had a cooking class and watched and heard the beheading of two chickens.... as one might have guessed, I am now a recent convert to complete vegetarianism.
One more day in Rabat and then we will be able to hug our families and tell them about our adventures. It’s been an exciting trip to say the least.
Today was a day filled with culture in the heart of the second most populated city in Morocco, Fez. As my project is focused on Berber culture, the original natives of Morocco, I learned of many cultural aspects and practices that have lasted for over 700 years mastered by the Berber people. It was a great way to pull together the Berber influence on Moroccan culture. Throughout the trip I have been learning different aspects of the Berber lifestyle. What strikes me is how resourceful the Berbers are. They use every aspect of the animals–whether it’s to eat or make clothing–and haven’t changed their methods for hundreds of years. We walked through the market saw how you could basically buy an entire cow including the hoofs. The selection at the market was also a testament to their resourcefulness as you could buy dozens of kinds of fruits and spices. Many were grown right in Morocco. Also, they see camels as friends and never use them for any reason besides transportation and farm work. In the Berber community the importance of religion is fading especially among the youth. Mostly practice in childhood, a large population is lightening their practices or even stopping their practice in Islam all together by their twenties. Some are also switching to Judaism or Christianity. The craftsmanship of their art and production of good such as clothes and leather is perfection as the people commit their whole life to their craft. We went to a place where mosaics were made and were told the artists start in their early teens. As I continue my research I want to dive deeper into the religious aspect of Berbers and discover if that has caused any separation with the Berbers and the Arabs of Morocco. As our trip is nearing its end I have been inspired by the Berbers and their way of life. It makes me think about all the waste and misuse of natural resources in the United States. I have learned many lessons to carry with me back to the States on Saturday.
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Today we traveled from Chefchaouen to see the ancient Roman ruins of the city Volubilis, which was built centuries ago when Morocco was colonized by the Roman empire. The ruins were recovered by archeologists and reconstructed to their original form. The ruins were scattered over a massive landscape with a beautiful view of the mountains in the distance. It was amazing to walk around and see structures from hundreds of years ago still standing today, and I thought it was interesting to learn that this city that existed centuries ago shares similarities with American cities such as New York City and Chicago, as they were all constructed in a grid format. After seeing the Roman ruins, we all got back into the bus and drove to Fez where we will be staying for the next two nights. We had the opportunity to take a a calligraphy class here in Fez, and got to both learn about the practice of calligraphy in Morocco and try it out for ourselves.
During my time here in Morocco I have been able to dive deeper into my research project and learn more information about my topic from speaking with Mbarek, our guide. The topic that I am currently researching for Global Studies is the younger generation in Morocco, specifically focusing on young people’s engagement in politics. Something that our guide Mbarek told me that was very relevant to my topic was that many young people choose to participate in politics through protests and other public ways of expressing their voices, rather than through political parties. He said the reason for this is because it is often unclear exactly what the political parties are supporting and trying to get people to vote for. He also mentioned was that young people are getting more involved in politics now than previous generations ever have before, as young people are more educated now in Morocco. As the lack of opportunity for education is still an issue here in Morocco, I want to learn more about how education is changing the perspectives of young people and the impact that is having on the government and the monarchy itself. Mbarek also mentioned how the leader of these protests, a man named Nasser Zafzafi, was imprisoned by the authorities for his actions against the government. I am curious to learn more about this situation and if Zafzafi’s imprisonment has fueled the fire even more for these protests, or has caused the protests to lose momentum without him at the head of the movement.
On the morning of Wednesday, March 13, our group was gathered in the hotel lobby in Chefchaouen as we prepared for our long drive to Fez. Right before we left, Ms. Ducharme let us know that we would be traveling to the Roman ruins at Volubilis on our way to Fez. While the drive to the ruins was long, we were able to see the beautiful view that the Moroccan country side had to offer. The narrow and windy roads were lined with massive fields, farming towns, and Tangerine stands selling fresh fruit. This drive was great for the research of many of our groups members. We were able to see why agriculture is the #1 business in Morocco, the complex irrigation systems, and the lack of water they has access too. This drive also showed us how much of a presence Islam had in the country, as almost all of these small farming towns has at least one mosque, if not more. During our car ride, we drove past 66 mosques (Peyton and I counted).
Finally we arrived at the Roman ruins. We traveled back in time as our guide showed us around the ruins, making the remains come alive. We were able to see what was left of massive villas, a temple in honor of the god Jupiter, and the state house in the middle of it all. Along our walk we were able to see many of the tiles that were still preserved, and it was absolutely beautiful. As a former Latin student and a kid who grew up on ancient myths, this was probably one of my highlights of the trip so far.
After the ruins, we completed our drive to Fez. We headed to a quick calligraphy class where we all gained a new appreciation for the art of writing Arabic. We then had dinner and checked into the hotel for the night. Tomorrow we will he spending the day in Fez, visiting the tannery, potters, and markets.
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Today, we left Tangier and embarked on another journey to Chefchaouen. This city felt much different compared to what we have seen already in Rabat and Tangier. The women seemed more outgoing and contemporary, the colors of dyes were brighter, and there were more trash cans and fewer beggars. The project that I am currently working on for Global Studies is researching expatriate writers who have found solace in the country of Morocco; these writers range from Edith Wharton to Jack Kerouac. While the research that I was doing was mainly based in Tangier, if I were a writer looking for inspiration in Morocco, I would find Chefchaouen.
This trip has not been the easiest adjustment for me. It has pushed me past my limits of comfort by completely immersing me in a culture that I felt I had an understanding of, but I really do not. In all the complexities of this culture, it can be seen as dirty, disrespectful towards others of different nationalities, and lacking ambition among its people. However, this would only be scratching the surface of a rich and rather poetic culture. The music, the food, the way that people find meaning in religion and natural beauty surrounding Morocco is unlike any other. Paul Bowles once said something along the lines of, “If any country has been westernized that has once had a rich and fulfilling culture, it is now a wasteland.” Morocco is not a wasteland. While, yes, people can say that Morocco has been Westernized to some degree, it is not by any means found a root in Western living, which is not something I have ever experienced in my travels before.
Do I wish I could have a break from vegetarian tagines and have less bread? Absolutely. Do I wish I didn’t need to see beggars or smell anything in the streets that wasn’t pleasant? Yes. Do I wish I didn't see trash on the ground and have to step through mysterious liquids as they crawl down the streets? Definitely. But, would I change this experience in for sitting on my couch, eating a fresh salad while watching the Bachelor? It is tempting, but no. It is in our comfort that we stay the same as we always have been. I will return from Morocco with a curiosity for what else I have not seen before, and if nothing else, I will be grateful to have had this type of experience.
So, as you guessed it, I will rise another morning, excited for another excuse to eat fried bread and jam with some Moroccan coffee, feeling the only comfort of my day, until I go outside and grab life by the bootstraps and head to Fez.