Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Morocco Journal - Part 14: Tangier Trip

So. My last weekend was spent in Tangier and Spain. Here are the details--but I'll talk about only Tangier in this post, k? Talking about Spain, too, will take a looong time and will make this too long a read for y'all.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Morocco Journals - Part 13: Women Denied Access to Al-Qarawiyyin, the oldest university in the world

Have you ever tried to enter a university and were told, "No, that's for men only; women are forbidden here"? I have. At a university I've been wanting to visit ever since I learned about its history. The university is called al-Qarawiyyin (also sometimes called "al-Karaouine"), is located in Fez, Morocco, and was founded by a woman named Fatima al-Fihri in 859 C.E. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Morocco Journals - Part 12: Good Moments in Morocco

Okay, so my previous blog entry upset a lot of people, and many think I'm miserable in Morocco and have nowhere good to stay and stuff. Laaaa, folks, laaa! (Means "No" in Arabic.)

I decided to go ahead and stay in the Riad after all; it's not the ideal place for someone who wants to have opportunities to speak Arabic 24'7 (because our cook and guard don't seem interested at all in speaking with us #BIGsadface), but it's so close to the center, it's pretty clean around, there's fast internet (EVEN ON MY PHONE!!!), and it's pretty comfortable. There's no big reason not to stay here. The food issue, it turns out we can ask the cook to cook whatever we want him to cook, provided we ask him several hours before iftar time or when we're scheduled to eat. Like today, I asked him for shi'riyya, which is like vermicelli but cooked in a really awesome way that's so delicious and is one of my favorite foods here, but he said we're eating hareer today (it's traditional Moroccan soup. NOT my thing at all) and we'll just eat shi'riyya tomorrow. Sure, that works, too.

 But anyway, so let's just talk about Morocco and lemme assure you all that I'm not miserable here, hah. I mean, sure, I have my moments, and I think the program I'm studying at is terrible, but that doesn't mean I'm overall not appreciating my experience here. Despite the negative things, it was definitely worth spending a summer here. I'd always wanted to go to Morocco, and I intend to return next year as well. Next year, though, inshaAllah, I'll go to either Merakesh or Rabat ... or Tanga. Not sure yet, but we'll see when the time nears.

So something good that happened yesterday amidst our leaving the host family and all: I told our cook that I'll be fasting and we designated a time I'd eat suhoor at. Come that time, I'm about to eat, and I'm like, "What about you? Aren't you gonna eat?" He goes, "No, no, I already ate." I go, "But ... eat with me. There's more blessings if we eat together. It's Ramadhan!" I swear, man, his face lit up and I saw eyes in his light! He got SO happy! He was like, "Alllaaaahhh!!! Marhaba, marhaba" and shook my hand again and again and placed his hand on his chest, and said, "Okay, from tomorrow, we eat together, ok?" And THEN--keep in mind he doesn't know my name all this time and isn't all interested in anyone who lives here or what we do or what our names are--he goes "What's your name?" And I tell him. He later then showed me a pic of his family, too. It was sweet. :)

A couple of my hotel mates and I decided he just gets frustrated with us due to the language barrier, although he's fully fluent in fus'ha (formal Arabic, which only educated Arabs know and has little in common with colloquial Arabic) so it won't be a problem to talk with him... well, most times, anyway.  I also think he must miss his family, since they're not here with him and I've no idea where they are and how often he visits them, and probably just wants to feel at home here and have someone to interact with him. Then again, some of the hotel mates tell me he doesn't seem interested in interacting with anyone at all.

Also, yesterday, after I'd been transferred to the riad and I wanted to go back to the center, I got totally lost. WHAT! All the streets in this neighborhood look alike, I swear, and I had no idea where the heck I was going, so I took a left where I should've taken a right and eventually ended up in a sooq (open bazaar) and I kept telling myself I was gonna find my way eventually. Well, I finally decided to ask for help. Asked these completely random guys (most often, all you see is men in some places just hanging out; the women are usually, but not necessarily always, there for "a specific purpose." This is Meknes, a relatively conservative city, very different from Rabat and the rest of Morocco.). So this guy be like, "Okay, you're a bit too far off from where you want to be, so I'll just go ahead and walk you there." That's not usually unsafe to do, and there's a lot of people around in that neighborhood so I wasn't uncomfortable with the suggestion. I wouldn't have been able to keep up with the directions, so I was like all right, let's do this. 

On our way, which turned out to be so much longer than I'd realized, he starts talking, half the time speaking English (rarely do you come across someone who knows English in Meknes; I now appreciate this, since that pushes you to speak more Arabic, and I had to ask this guy to please talk to me in Arabic instead). Our conversations, dominated by him because I disagreed with too much of what he was saying, and there was no way in hell I was going to tell this guy that I'm totally supportive of, for example, homosexual marriages, practicing a religion you feel comfortable practicing without having it shoved down your throat, democracy, and so on. He asked where I was from, and I'm tired of telling people I'm from America (plus, that also apparently means I'm filthy rich and have a tonnn of money to spare on anything anytime anywhere, so avoid when possible!), so I just said Pakistan. 

He got all excited and welcomed me a ton of times again and again (appreciated), and then he goes, "But you know, there's too much violence in Pakistan right now. I don't understand why people can't practice Islam properly and peacefully." He went on to tell me about how Islam is all about beauty, love, and peace, which I personally agree with, and then he goes, "I lived in England for a couple of years and America for some 5 years, and I hated it there. Sure, I enjoyed my life, and I had no values back then, since I was young, but I realized how much I love Morocco. This is my home. I can't find peace anywhere else and pretend somewhere else is my home, you know? THIS is peace for me, THIS is love for me. THIS is who I am." I said, "Yes, indeed" (pretty much the only thing I said the entire time). Then he goes, "I mean, look at America - it wants to spread its own mistaken ideas of democracy across the world" (this part, I agree with but not what's coming next) "demanding that men marry men, women marry women, people get drunk in public and stuff" (I'm like DUDE, that's not what America wants at all and it's definitely not what it demands; heck, in its own country, homosexual marriages are illegal in most of the states! But, of course, qrratugai was NOT going to tell him this #smile). I just nodded my head and, again, said, "Yes, indeed, for shame." He asked me what I think about his ideas, and I said, "Oh, yes, I totally agree with you. You're right about it all." Eventually--and I don't remember how--I mentioned I was living in America, and he goes, "Ohhhh, so think about it. You miss Pakistan, right? Of course you miss Pakistan. That's where you heart belongs." I'm thinking, oh hell no, my heart really does not belong in Pakistan, but I simply said, "Well, I prefer America, and I'm actually very happy there. My parents, however, miss Pakistan and prefer Pakistan to America for the most part." He was so shocked that *I* preferred America :D

Anyway, that was a fun convo. He was a very nice guy, I don't know him and I don't know his name and I don't know who he is, but I pray God grant him a beautiful, long, and healthy life. It was very kind of him to help me when I needed it. It's okay if our ideas differ - he was still a good person and he still wants peace in this world. Anyone working towards peace is a good person in my world. His way of working towards peace was describing Islam to me in peaceful ways, dismissing the violent practices of militant and other extremist Muslims as not the real face of Islam, and being helpful to another fellow human being.

Peace be on this world!

Previous Morocco Journals

Monday, July 15, 2013

Morocco Journals - Part 11: Sad Moments in Morocco

So ... there've been some awkward but terribly sad and painful moments lately. I won't reveal all of them, but basically, due to some circumstances, my roommate and I had to be removed from our host family house (well, we basically chose to leave due to certain stuff), and now we're at a location that, for me, is almost worse than before, but for roommie, it's still better. This place is called a riad, which refers to a traditional Moroccan house/living space that has a courtyard (the word literally means "courtyard," actually). Read more about it here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Intro to Ramadhan - Ramadhan Mubarak!

So it's finally Ramadhan--and I'm going to be spending half of it in Morocco, inshaAllah. 

Ramadhan here started today (Wednesday, July 10th); in some places, it started on Tuesday. For those who might not know, lemme just give some basics of Ramadhan.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Morocco Journal - Part 10: The Food!

So, Moroccan foodzz ...  I don't know the names of most of the food below; I forget them the moment I'm told. Except for the common ones and those shared with South Asians, like paraata (which Moroccans call "milwi"), pakorrey ("ma'qooda" in Arabic... but I don't think I've a pic of that here. Or maybe I do. Let's see.)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Morocco Journal - Part 9: Transportation in Morocco - the buses

I promised some while ago that I'll talk about how the bus system works works in Morocco--and what a typical bus-ride consists of. Well, here I go.
The first few weeks, I used a bus daily, but I've lately started taking the taxi. A taxi ride from home to the center is about 10 dirham, which is a little more than a U.S. dollar. Buses are 3 dirhams (or 3.5 on the bigger ones) per person no matter where you go, which is less than half a U.S. dollar.  There are two types of taxis here: the small taxis and the large ones. The small ones can carry 3 passengers max very comfortably, the larger ones 6 max (2 people sit in the passenger's seat)--very uncomfortably. It's not uncommon for taxi drivers, if you're a female sitting in the front seat, to deliberately touch you inappropriately as much as they'd like making it seem like an accident because cars here are manual, not automatic.

A bus ride is typically quite adventurous: the driver doesn't always close the doors, people can stand right in the doorway all they want, a passenger may freely sit (close to) in front of the driver by the dashboard (is that what that area is called?), there doesn't seem to be a limit of how many passengers can ride, making it a painful experience to have to leave a crowded bus. There's no room on the bus usually, except during certain times (like before 8:15am), and you stand up and you've to touch those cords that are full of everyone's germs... and the seats are usually torn and stuff, so you sit on one and you fall into the ground. And there are holes on the bus, so.
There are positive things about it, of course, including the fact that the buses are almost always on time (I think a new one comes every 15 mins or so) and the bus system is very organized. That they're very cheap (I feel like it's cheap for Moroccans generally, too, but I'm possibly wrong) is another good thing about them. Lemme talk a little more about my observations and then show you the pics.

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