A Letter to Morocco

Tighmert, Morocco, oasis

Dear Maroc,

I hope it’s okay to call you that. I know it’s only been 2 months, but I feel like we’ve shared enough to be on a more personal basis.

May I just start by saying how much you confuse and amaze me?  I’m pretty adept at picking up on cultures and things, and well, every time I think I’ve got you nailed down you laugh a little and surprise me.  Good for you!

One thing has really struck me about you, though. I used to think that islanders owned the title for most laid back people, but I gotta hand it to you, Maroc: Your people kick ass at it.  Case in point when our bus tried to break down. We got out for the scheduled 25-minute bus stop, even though that was supposed to happen back in Tiznit.  I was curious, though, when 40 minutes later we were still there.  I was on a schedule you know. I had someone waiting for me at the house who I needed to relieve, so after an hour I was getting. . . shall we say slightly perturbed.

But were your countrymen? Oh no. They sat there drinking tea and chatting as if this had all been planned. Finally after 1-1/2 hours I found the driver and asked when we were leaving. Then and only then was it announced that the bus had broken down and we were waiting for a part.

What? Why didn’t you tell the whole bus? And more over, why didn’t some of these other people ask before me? Because they aren’t slightly more tightly wound Westerners I’m guessing.  “We’ll just sit here drinking tea until they tell us it’s time to go. Whenver that is.”  I’m getting there. You’re teaching me.

Guelmim, Morocco, camel souk

I already had a pretty open mind, but you’ve opened it further. We humans tend to see things as they appear rather than as they are. I’m so grateful for the people who have been willing to open up and share with me so I can see things from a different angle.

I love hearing the multi-phrase greetings that seem to take 5 minutes between people.  When someone gets into a taxi, they don’t just greet one person they know, they greet the entire taxi.  And everyone joins in the string of words that is meant to check in with people as well as give glory to Allah.  You and I aren’t on the same wavelength on that last bit, but I still don’t hesitate to say hamdullah or insh’allah at the appropriate times.

You have absolutely no sense of personal space between the same genders.  This is. . . interesting for us Westerners because, you see, we believe we are all surrounded by an invisible bubble. Even though you can’t see it, you still avoid crossing the unseen boundaries. If I sit near someone on a bus, I should bring my leg in a bit if we accidentally touch. Not in Morocco, though! Oh, no sir. There’s always more room to add someone else, no? Even if part of my ample posterior is almost on top of my neighbor’s leg.

And when I get Tigger to move onto my lap to create more space for someone, your people are quite clear that there is plenty of room for us all to be squished together. Oh no, don’t inconvenience yourself by putting the kid on your lap, monsieur! And why make him stand just so a woman can sit in the only remaining seat?  He’s a child, therefore it doesn’t matter that he’s male. He can just sit right down on her lap. No problem, papa, don’t you mind. We’re all good friends here.

oasis, tighmert, morocco

When two people chat, even if they’re strangers, they have to be touching so that the other person knows they’re being heard and are important. At least that’s what I get out of it. I find it reassuring even though it still surprises me when someone I don’t know puts their hand on my shoulder or arm while speaking to me.

You are so kind to ignore my rather crap French, too.  When it takes a few minutes, several rounds of circumlocution, pantomiming, sign language, etc., to get something across, and the light finally turns on for me you join me in a hearty laugh about it.

You aren’t pressured for me to hurry up and get out of the damn line so the next person can be served. In fact, a couple of times someone has left the line to go retrieve someone they knew spoke a few more words in English or Spanish so that by combining all 4 spoken languages we finally get to where we need to go. You guys never lose patience with me.

Moroccans are so kind to my child. Even the poulterer with whom I rarely share more than the customary greeting and a request for juj kilo, asks about my cute little tag-along when he isn’t by my side.  He has, to me, one of the most awful jobs in the world, yet every time I see him, his brown vinyl apron covered with feathers and. . . accoutrements from his activities, he has a huge grin for me.

Your country and your people are so alive.

Maroc, you humble me. You truly do.  And, I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but, well, I’m in love with you.

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  1. Morocco is one of my favourite places as well; I recently spent 3 months there…I like that its culture embraces ‘ antiquity to modernity ‘ all in one …the ancient history is still evident and yet all the satelite dishes high above the medina rooftops are a sign of the times.

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  2. This was great! I just got back from Morocco. I found it to be a charming place and wish I could have stayed longer than a week.

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    • It is probably my most favorite destination so far (although Paris is still my favorite city). Such an amazing place with absolutely wonderful people.

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  3. Talon, I’m so glad to hear that you are impressed – I follow your blog because I value your opinion as a seasoned traveller, and I love your voice (great writing!). Your experiences in Morroco are like mine when I’m in Algeria. I think that part of what you are describing – the patience, the reverence for children, the laid back vibe – are all found with Muslims wherever you go in north Africa. I’m a non Muslim, Canadian who has very limited French (probably like yours), and a son, much like yours by the posts I’ve read, and I’ve had the exact same feelings as you about that wonderful part of the world. Although I travel regularly to Algeria, I really want to see and feel and know Morroco. Thank you so much for writing about what truly matters when traveling the world – the people:)

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    • Thank you, Shelly! Your comment made my day. 🙂 I look forward to one day getting to know Algeria as well.

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  4. Lovely. Funny in parts but overall a wonderfully lovely sentiment. So glad you shared!

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    • Thanks, Diane. I tried to make it entertaining as well as give insight into what it’s like here.

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  5. Oh Talon, I really shouldn’t be reading such articles about the beautiful and tempting morocco when flights are so cheap from madrid 😉 Love hearing that the place still mystifies you, and I’d be lying if I said that even with my many visits and time spent there, if it’s shown any more of it’s mysteries to me 🙂

    wonderful post, talon- just love it! 🙂

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    • Oh, just do it! Come on down and visit us. 🙂 It is a fascinating place indeed. I’m glad to hear even you remain mystified by it!

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  6. Nice work, Talon. Morocco has been a dream of mine ever since the Indiana Jones days, and became even more well defined after I listened to the Master Musicians of Jajouka and Bachir Attar, read the work of Paul Bowles, and tried Moroccan food for the first time back in the ’90s. It ranks right up there with Kenya and North India among my favorite cultures, and I appreciate the inside info on what to expect if/when we finally make it there.

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    • Have you started talking with any tourism agencies? I believe they’re trying to make more of an effort. I know the country is throwing more money into places like Guelmim to make them more of a draw for tourists, too. So now might be the time to make that dream reality. 🙂 It’s an amazing place. It truly is.

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    • LOL! Yes, I think we’re in a good place right now, although it will be hard to leave in January.

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