First Impressions of Morocco
I go to bed tonight, after my first day in Morocco, full of excitement. For there is a whole world that I have not yet explored The Muslim countries stretch to the east and all of Africa is to the south Whatever fatigue of the wandering spirit that three and a half years of Asia inflicted upon me has been washed away in one day of walking through Casablanca’s winding and turning medina. And I know that this city does not even begin to represent the rest of the country
One of the most startling things that I have experienced in Casablanca is that I am left alone. That is right: I can walk through the streets without being hassled, called to, or stared at. I am not use to this. Asia and South America has taught me that, while travelling, I am on exhibition; that I am something different and should be observed, yelled at, followed, and hustled. I do not really mind this approach towards me, I even sometimes welcome it- there is no better ‘go-ahead’ to stare at someone than them staring at you. I also like the attention. But in Casablanca nobody seems to show the least bit of interest in me and, I must say, it is a welcomed relief. One of my roommates in the Youth Hostel thought that I was Arabic. I laughed about this but later while out walking I stopped to look at my reflection in a parked car’s window. I have a long black beard, dark features, and I was wearing a button up plaid shirt that I purchased in India and ambiguous cotton pants. The men here also have black beards, dark features, and wear button up plaid shirts and cotton pants. If I kept the tattoos covered I may be able to blend in here to a certain extent. Well, until I open my mouth and try to speak. But Casablanca is Morocco’s commercial city, and I expect that I will be received much differently in the countryside, where people are not as use to the presence of foreigners.
Casablanca also surprised me in another way: the degree of communication between people on the streets is unsurpassed anywhere that I have ever travelled. People are sitting and standing around everywhere in large groups just talking and laughing the day away. I tried so hard to find some people eating in a café where I could just point to their food and indicate that I wanted to order it. But I could only find the cafes packed with people who were not eating, or even drinking, but only talking Just sitting around talking to each other. Hundreds of people talking in large groups on the street and nothing more. It was enjoyable to observe. There are still large cities in this world where the inhabitants I communicate with each other, there are still cities that have community. I vicariously enjoyed this as I went about my walks. I am still smiling about it.
I was told a story the other day about how Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States’ independence from England. In appreciation of this the government of the newly formed USA presented the leader of Morocco with a pet lion. The Moroccan appreciated the gift but did not have enough food to feed it properly. So after some trials and tribulations he realized that he was going to have to share his own personal food supply with the hungry beast. So that is what the leader of Morocco did- he shared his meals with the lion.