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11/11/09 "So What Do You *Dislike* about Morocco?"

In my recent travels, I struck up a conversation with a young Moroccan who lives in Germany, where he works as a nurse, and where he recently married a young German woman. His family lives near Merzouga, in southeastern Morocco, and our travel paths overlapped briefly.

We talked about all kinds of things, from Secretary Clinton's imminent visit to the weather similarities between Hamburg and the High Atlas Mountains. Oh, and we met when he startled me into spilling my soda all over myself and my lap. After a "meet cute" like that, we were destined by all the laws of cheezy movies to become friends. :)

At one point, he asked me, "So what do you dislike about Morocco?"

I mis-heard him (or maybe misunderstood him - his Tam is somewhat different from mine), and thought he'd asked what I *like* about Morocco, and answered, "The people."

His eyebrows went up. "The people!?"

Nodding, I repeated, "Definitely the people. And the mountains - I love the landscape here." He looked puzzled. "Yeah, the people are so friendly, the mountains are great--"

He cut me off. "No, I asked what you *dislike* about Morocco."

I laughingly apologized, "Definitely not the people! Sorry!" He laughed, too, while I searched for an answer that could be honest without hurting his pride in his mother country.

After a minute, I said, "Well, I like tagine, but having it day after day, meal after's too much."

He agreed. "I love tagine, I love couscous," he began, "but there are other foods out there, people! That are better for you!"

We swapped food stories for a bit, and then I turned it around on him. "What do *you* dislike about our country?"

He promptly answered, "Relationships between men and women. I hate it that men and women can't be *friends* in Morocco."

I chimed in so enthusiastically, I might have actually shouted. "I know! Exactly! It makes me crazy! I have so many friends-who-are-men (amdukal), but even to use the word is to make people assume that they're my boyfriends!"

We riffed on this for quite a while.

I shared this story, which I don't think I put on my blog before:

While I was in homestay, a male friend came to visit me. I spent the week before his visit explaining to my host mom, host sister, host cousin, and all female friends that he was a ***friend***, not a boyfriend. I even insisted on using the Arabic word sadiq, in hopes that it had a more platonic connotation than the Tamazight asmun or amdakul.

I don't think they believed me, but they agreed to refer to him as my sadiq.

And then he arrived, my host mom locked me in for the night.

See, in homestay, I lived in a semi-detached part of my host family's house. The guest house, more or less. But ain't no way I could stay semi-detached from my family with a man under the same roof. So my sadiq stayed in another house they own, on the far side of town. And for the first time since I stayed with them, my host mom locked the door to my part of the house.

She literally locked me in.

(But she forgot about the back door to the "guesthouse", which leads out to an enclosed courtyard with its own easily-unlatched door. So I slipped out to join my buddy for breakfast.)

Additionally, Moroccans aren't fans of cross-gendered public displays of affection. Contact between men or between women is always fine, but men and women shouldn't even hold hands when walking down a street, let alone hug in public. So I may well travel 14 hours to visit a guy friend, and when I get there, I run up to him and ... shake his hand.

Unless I'm in a big enough city that I can assume some cosmopolitan westernism, in which case I go ahead and hug my buddy. :)

...So with these and other stories to share, I cheerfully passed a several-hour conversation with my new friend. My new male Moroccan friend. Guess it's time to dust sadiq off and bring it back into my daily conversation...

1 comment:

  1. Actually, in my site, husbands and wives will walk down the street holding hands. I see boyfriends and girlfriends doing it in Marrakech too.

    Fascinating thing about Morocco, the variety between different regions!


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