Warm Welcomes in Morocco

Rachel Thompson
April 1, 2014

This past weekend, I left Spain and hopped on a plane to Marrakech, Morocco. In just two hours, I was on a new continent, about to be immersed in a fascinating culture completely different from my own.

Wanting to learn more about the country, I decided to travel with Morocco Exchange, a program that encourages discussion and exchange of ideas between Moroccan students and students studying in Europe.

After landing in Marrakech, we had lunch at Café Clock, a delicious restaurant tucked inside an artsy space. Over lentils, hummus and falafel, we met local university students, who told us all about growing up in Morocco. The women explained the significance of the hijab and how each woman decides when the time is right to wear it. They also told us that women go back to their homes early most days to avoid harassment from men after dark.

We went to Marrakech’s main square and walked around the medina. Malika, one of the Moroccan students, took our arms through hers and showed us around the market. Another student told us about her village and said we could come and visit any time we liked. All of the students were proud of their country and eager to share it with us, telling us we had to come back and spend more time in Marrakech.

We took a walking tour of the city in the morning and saw the beautiful Bahia palace, the Saadian Tombs and the outside of the city’s largest mosque. After a camel ride, we departed for Amizmiz, where met Latifah, a local host who told us her home was ours and we could come there any time.

Our host sister, Wafae, showed us our room upstairs and brought us in for lunch. Her mother only spoke Arabic and French, but Wafae helped us communicate. We all ate out of a big, rounded pan and enjoyed a traditional chicken and potato dish with bread. Wafae’s mother motioned for us to eat more and more, and we obliged, even though we were full. Moroccan food did not disappoint.

We went to the hammam, a traditional village bath house. In the evening, our host siblings sang songs with instruments and danced with us.

We hiked through the Atlas mountains in the morning to a Quaranic school, where boys are taught to memorize the Quaran, the holy book of Islam. We couldn’t go into the classroom because one of the men said he didn’t want to see any women uncovered, so instead, we sat on straw mats in the lobby. We walked along further and saw a small primary school. Our guide told us that a lack of running water at many of the schools inhibits girls’ education, because families don’t want to send their daughters.

The weekend opened my eyes to so many things. I realized how much I take for granted, like running water and my education. Our interactions with the students put to rest some of the false notions I’d had about Islam. All weekend long, I was touched by the kindness we received.

We drove back to Marrakech as the sun set over the desert, a bit sad to leave, but knowing that more warm welcomes will await us when we decide to return.

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Rachel Thompson

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hi there! I&#39;m a California native studying journalism in one of the coolest cities in the world, at The University of Texas at Austin. I&#39;m a fan of chocolate, watching sports (go Giants), nice people, anything vintage and pretty much all music. I write as much as I can, whether it&#39;s a news article, a blog, or just a journal entry. When I&#39;m not writing, I love to run, try new recipes in my little kitchen, take dance classes and catch up with friends. My goal is to see every continent someday. I&#39;m getting there!</span></p>

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