Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A bit more about Morocco...

The funny thing about travelling in a country that people - in my case, my dad, grand mother, uncles and aunts - have been talking to you so much about, is that you do expect a lot. And I did expect a lot from Morocco. The people that had to be nice, the scenery that had to be strikingly colourful and impressive, and a little bit of magic from these family relatives when they where 10 years old scouting for adventure in Agadir and Marrakech.
I have to say that, from expecting so much, I had to be a bit disappointed. Not in the scenery, walking the Dades gorges, or camelling through the dunes while the sun was getting up kept its promises. No, I have to say I was a tad disappointed with meeting people over there. But what was I expecting! I was a tourist just like anyone else, big white tourist with euros by the dozen and a big camera!
Actually, a lot of average encounters made the few interesting ones really worth it. Both happened while I was on the train, travelling on my own from Casablanca to Marrakech. I had made my way into the compartment quite easily the first time, being in a French-speaking country and an experienced traveller paid off. So I had to find a seat without too many staring at me - after 2 days of Morocco I was already getting tired of the stares. So I sat in front of a nice young couple, with the guy being too engrossed into his girlfriend to notice anything else, and next to a old veiled woman. At first glance she looked like an old and nice countryside woman.
We left and did not chat at the beginning. The old lady spoke a bit with the young couple; at some point she dropped something and I tried to catch it for her - we actually both went for it and hit our heads. She was curious of where I was from, and that's how we started to chat. I was really surprised when she explained that she used to be a social worker, and that she had helped young women for all her life, helping them deal with pregnancies, hard family relationships and forced weddings. She would also teach them how to make a living on their own, should they would be raising a child on their own.
Shaman's story was amazing - Shaman is her name; she had been raised in Marrakech in the 60s by open-minded parents, went to school at the Sisters' school, from which she said they never forced their own catholic faith on top of her muslim beliefs. She recalled these Sisters with foundness, and I guessed she had behaved with the women she helped, in the same way as the Sisters had taught her school.
Surprisingly for the times, her father did not force her to marry someone she did not like. Her husband she met where she was working in her twenties, and she felt like she could trust him. After they got married, they waited for two years before getting pregnant, while all her family was wondering why she wasn't expecting. As Shaman said, she wanted to be sure he was the right man to be with.
In her life she behaved with respect for others and thoughtfulness, while in Morocco it's the use of welcoming anyone in the family that comes to visit, she actually refused those visits and kept Sundays as an untouchable day for family, but her close family: husband and children. Once a week the children would be invited for a family gathering and asked to discuss if anything was wrong, they were also in charge of their own pocket money as soon as they asked for it. The pocket money increased to be their monthly allowance for canteen food, clothes and entertainement as they grew older. In summer time they wouldn't visit family but would take a month off to visit different cities and areas in Morocco, camping all 6 of them in the countryside.
Now that her children are all grown up, with only the youngest daughter to finish her studies, some are married and others not. If I remember well she is the grandmother of 2, and has now stopped working to study religion and look after her husband, children and grandchildren.
Her trip from Rabat to Marrakech was made to visit a friend whose daughter, living in Rabat, had just miscarried the day before. Rather than announcing this over the phone, she would take the train to Marrakech and back on that day, to make that difficult announcement to the woman's family.

Writing and reading what I've just accounted, seems a bit surreal... I get the impression that I'm depicting someone perfect, which I know is not the truth. No one's perfect, and I'm sure this lady has some weak points as we all do. But it was all so interesting to discuss for 4 hours on the train and get this deep insight of a woman's life, Moroccan family life, unfolding just for me to remember. If there was one encounter I'd have to remember in Morocco, it'd be that one.