This blog will be based on my class trip to Morocco. I can easily say that it was one of the most life-changing experiences of my life.
I had no expectations going into this trip, although I know a lot of people do about Arab and Muslim countries. I learned a lot from traveling to Oman with Arcadia, but I certainly didn’t want to come in with preconceptions from that trip either. Luckily, one of the very first things that we did in Morocco was talk to students our age about our lives, our differences, and our similarities. I felt really fortunate to be able to get out all my burning questions and have wonderful girls and guys there to answer them! We all learned about the non-oppressive, voluntary nature of the hijab; the difference in the way young women and men are treated; and, most importantly, how everyone there is different. It was honestly so relatable to hear them debate major concepts like societal judgement, male privilege, and how the LGBTQ+ community is treated in Tangier. Not to mention, we did all of this in a local women’s shelter. We got to learn about the resources that they provided for women from rural communities coming to this bigger city and shop at a wonderful store with hand-crafted gifts made by the women there (all proceeds going to them, of course). Finally, one of the most impactful experiences I’ve ever had was speaking to undocumented immigrants one night. We’ve been studying migration all semester, but meeting and hearing their stories made them so much more than the statistics that they’re so frequently represented as. They were from the Ivory Coast, Mali, and Equatorial Guinea, and they had all traveled through multiple incredibly dangerous borders just to come to Morocco. One young woman was just 17 and she had two children—one born just a week before she spoke to us. Two of the three young people we talked two had no more family, no support, and Morocco was their only option. I wish so many people in the US could have met them to get a better sense what exactly immigrants can go through and hopefully be a lot less quick to judge.
As it is the capital of Morocco, we got to see some interesting stuff in Rabat! We passed the very hidden palace in which the king normally resides and the beautiful mausoleum for the last few generations of Moroccan kings. Did you know that Morocco is the United States’ oldest, uninterrupted ally? They’ve basically been supporting us since the start of our country, and I never knew that! On to the homestay. Ah, the homestay! This was my fourth (Germany, England, and Spain before), and my second with a super restrictive language barrier. One of the daughters spoke English, but that really didn’t stop us from building a very sweet connection. From the second we arrived, we were greeted with warm smiles, hugs, and cakes with DELICIOUS Moroccan tea. We also got to watch the coolest Moroccan game show with the family at night. Although we understood absolutely none of it, it kind of felt like being home with my own family for a minute. To wrap up our trip in Rabat, we went to a type of bath called a hammam. Definitely an out-of-the-ordinary experience for Americans, but such a normal, relaxing activity for Moroccan women! It’s basically a type of super steamy sauna-like room where everyone is either naked or only in underwear and helps each other to vigorously scrub and detoxify the skin. If you aren’t sweating like a pig, you aren’t doing it right. As soon as we got in, all the women greeted us with big smiles and laughter. I got surprisingly comfortable, surprisingly fast. All the Arcadia girls and myself agreed that we felt so wonderfully human and feminine and empowered. That has to the be the definition of getting out of one’s comfort zone.
Stay tuned for Morocco 2!