Morocco is good for the soul
Morocco was good for my soul; it could be good for yours, too.
Home sweet Home-stay: For those of you considering to study abroad in Morocco, I can’t stress the importance of home-stay. You will learn their language, customs, beliefs, as well as many things about yourself. You will taste couscous that is prepared every Friday, hear the call to prayer 5 times a day, and see many women wearing the hijab on the street. You will be immersed into the culture entirely. Sometimes it is uneasy being completely out of your element, but you will get to ask questions that you never would have imagined back home. The beauty is that you may not understand the culture, but you will learn from your observations and the relationships that you build. You will not only see your differences, but more importantly your commonalities.
Living in an Islamic society with a Muslim family in Meknes, Morocco, I was able to raise some questions I had with my host mother, Fouzia. At dinner, we would discuss common oppositions in Islamic societies, the rule of government, the hijab, Islam, and fundamentalists that use religion for a political agenda. We would also talk about Sex and the City, Bob Dylan, her trips to the United States, my boyfriend, and how much she loves english. Commonalities. I began learning guitar a week before coming to Morocco, and once in Morocco, I came to find out my host brother plays as well. I knew one song when I got there, and left with 10 more.
In Morocco, I witnessed a sense of community and spirit that I really admire. I was fortunate enough to attend two Moroccan weddings that were not only rich with tradition, but rich with celebration and happiness.
Moroccan Weddings: Everyone is invited. When I say everyone, I mean even Jessica and I, the strange American girls that happen to be camping at a farm with our host brothers. When we arrived at the first wedding, we were brought to the room full of women doing many traditional dances and singing songs in preparation for the marriage. At first, I was shocked because we were separated from the men, but the second they started tying a scarf around my waist encouraging me to shake my hips, I understood why. It wasn’t about the separation between the men and the woman, but the bond that the women share dancing and singing all together. Music, laughter, and henna was in the air. Afterwards, we joined our friends to witness the bride and groom elevated on platforms waving at the crowd, cheering traditional Moroccan chants and welcoming a new marriage to the village.
At my second wedding experience, I met five or six young Moroccan girls that were between the ages of 12 and 15. It was incredible communicating with them without using any English at all. All of them were fluent in French, Arabic, and their native language Berber. Within minutes, they warmed up to me with questions about America, my Habibi (boyfriend), and every little detail about my life. We danced with the Moroccan chants and traditional music sang in unison by everyone around. These special girls made me feel so loved and included in this entire celebration, even though it wasn’t my day to feel so. I was a random foreign girl that happened to be at the right place at the right time. Their hospitality radiated like the sun. They circled around me with questions and sang my favorite Arabic song, Zina. I kept thanking them for being so nice to me. They were confused because I was more than welcome and being nice wasn’t something unordinary. It was who they are. Their character. Two of the girls Amiilà, and Dimna begged me to stay the night, but we settled on keeping in touch through Facebook and my next visit to the Guigou Village. These girls warmed my heart with their love and excitement to learn about my world and more importantly for me to learn about theirs.
Islamic Peace: When discussing questions about Islam with my host family, they said if they could describe Islam in one word, it would be “peace.” There are many teachings in the Quran similar to the teachings of Buddha, Rumi, Jesus, and Ghandi. Beautiful principles of compassion, peace, and love. The people I’d met, friends I’d made, love I’d felt, were all a part of this inner peace I felt in Morocco.
As International students, we share so many different customs, languages, and ideas, and we can learn a lot from one another. Being thrust into the very heart of a new dynamic culture may seem a scary thing to do, but it instead it taught me a million lessons that I’ve learned to love and I could never understand from afar. Morocco really is good for my soul.