Morocco is a large, unique, and fascinating country. Amongst the 103 Peace Corps Trainees I travelled here with, and the 150 or so already residing here, no two will encounter the country in the same way. This is my piece.
My piece of Morocco is a bustling suburb on the outskirts of a major city. More than 100,000 people, goats, horses, sheep, and stray cats traverse its paved, litter-strewn streets daily. My piece is marked by a lone industrial factory which employs the majority of hired men in my town, leaving the select few to work in small shops and even more without work.
My piece of Morocco is diverse, home to Moroccans from all over the country who sought this town for its inexpensive standard of living. Berber and Arab, north and south, east and west, all living side by side. My Morocco speaks more than five languages daily (with even more regional dialects) leaving me wide-eyed, stumbling to translate and gesticulating wildly in order to communicate.
My piece of Morocco is loud. The soundtrack of my days are filled with never-ending voices. Greetings of all types, complete with kisses upon each cheek, blessing me, my Moroccan family, and my American family. Catcalls and shouts in French from men on the street curious as to why a supposedly French woman is walking their streets. The piercing voice of the muezzin through the loudspeaker at each of the various mosques, reminding Muslims to pray five times per day. The singing and clicking of women during celebrations, which warrants its own, unique verb. The vendors at the souq just outside the mosque, shouting prices and varieties of fruits and vegetables. Language, so much language, filling my ears, filtering through my brain, some reaching the ever-elusive sense of understanding, most left hanging in the air – just noise.
The pouring of tea, the bleating of sheep, the pressure cooker rattling on the stove. The honk of a car horn, the scuff of slippers across the tile, a Turkish soap opera playing on the television that seems to lack an “off” button. Noise. Noises that have now become familiar that did not exist in my life one month ago.
My piece of Morocco is brown. Everything is caked in a thin layer of dust that rubs onto the bottom of my skirt and gets into my eyes. But the brown is interrupted by a vibrant array of djellabas worn by men, women, and children alike, an ankle-length overcoat of sorts with long sleeves and a long, pointed hood. The colors I have learned to associate with members of my family. My host father is a rich, burnt orange, always with his hood up. My older sister a pale pink and the other a mustard yellow. My aunt is a green bordered in yellow, and my favorite neighbor is a beautiful teal. Color, vibrant color, with a coordinating headscarf.
My piece of Morocco is cold. But not the snowy, winter wonderland cold. It’s the down to your bones, three thick blankets at night and long underwear during the day cold. The I can see my breath inside my house at night, inside my Arabic classroom in the morning cold. Shta, the Arabic word for winter. It’s also the same word for rain. Rain that floods the alley I live on and fills the many potholes in the road. Rain that my family is convinced will make me sick once I step out the door. The sun shines in my Morocco too. A piercing sun whose rays immediately translate to a smile on my face. A piercing sun whose rays my family is convinced will make me sick once I step out the door. A sun that warms my aching bones.
My piece of Morocco is marked by proximity to other women. Enormous rooms filled with women of all ages, young children, and pots of tea – but no men. Linking arms and holding hands with my sisters as we walk through the streets. Meeting the seemingly endless number of women in my extended family, but almost never the men. Attending the one cafe in my town where my presence is socially acceptable, and avoiding the others that my male friend frequents daily. Standing in a room full of both genders, and realizing that we have become segregated. I have access to a Morocco that my male colleagues will never know, and vice versa. My access to Morocco is shaped by my sheer woman-ness.
My piece of Morocco is full of love. Kisses every time I return back to my home, excited shouts of my Moroccan name Abir, and bellyaching laughter. Love that is not bound by speaking the same language. Stroking of my cheek every morning when I wake up, offers to wash my back, and washing of my clothes without my request. (Okay, maybe too much love sometimes.) Love that is not bound by living in the same city or country. My Morocco has easy access to wifi, which means FaceTiming to Texas, WhatsApping to Vegas, and SnapChatting to Lesotho. My Morocco has unlimited calls to my Peace Corps friends. My Morocco never feels lonely.
My Morocco has brought me to the verge of tears, and to the highest peaks of happiness I have known. My piece of Morocco challenges me every day.
This is not Morocco. And yet, this is my Morocco.