Tag Archives: Islam

NO, IT ISN’T!!!

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Yesterday, in a quick cab from the Hassan II Mosque to the Casablanca train station to catch a train home, the driver pointed this out to us as we drove by:

…Let me blow that up a bit for you.

You muusssst remember thiiiiis, a kiss is still a kiiiisssssss,

A SIGH IS JUST A SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH!!!!!

“It’s the original Rick’s,” he said earnestly, “the original. Vous avez vu le film?”

Beezy, pleasy, I thought. DUH HAVE I SEEN THE FILM PSHAW BUT I ALSO KNOW THAT THE entire film was shot in the studio in L.A. I’ll believe you, though, snap a photo out the window, and say I’ve been to (driven by) Rick’s!

Or,

I rather dumbly sprayed chocolate milk all over myself with a straw this morning, but it was worth it because MOSQUE.

WeeeEEEeee (by we I mean a few girls in our cohort and our Moroccan pal Qaiss) went to Casablanca today! Sadly, I must inform you all that Casablanca is neither romantic nor well-liked among Moroccans; it’s not a cultural hotspot, it’s all business and is considered just a big, stinky city. Still, it’s Casa-friggin-blanca, which I insist is awesome no matter what you say. We went to a book fair (trilingual book fair, cool! I got a free Islamic sex-ed book, and bought a cookbook), and visited the largest mosque in Africa, the third largest mosque in the world: the breathtaking Hassan II mosque. It’s…big. And art. It’s big art.

This is what it looks like on the outside:

Look at how small the people are. This place is HUGE!

After a strange pizza and questionable Maghribian ketchup that tasted like a cross between Cholula and Sriracha, we ran to catch a tour of the mosque that we quickly abandoned and that nobody listened to anyway.

We were encouraged to take photos, but were also called Japanese tourists once or twice, so I’m not sure what their deal was with cameras. After an attempt or two at photographing the cavernous, beautiful interior…

And many jaws dropped that day.

…I concluded that the wings upon wings, the pillars, the alcoves, the carpets, the floors, the doors, the chandeliers, the ceilings, such an overwhelming amount of beauty all in one huge place—was all too much to attempt to capture in a photo, or twelve, or thirty-six.  Relaxing the pressure to prove I was here and felt emotions while here made the experience much less stressful, and I found myself instead wandering around the enormous mosque, clutching the plastic bag containing my shoes, mouth open and eyes cast upward.

I thenceforth relegated myself to preserving bits and pieces of the intricate details and patterns inlaid everywhere throughout the mosque, which I hope you enjoy!

Slightly blurry, enormous hammam in basement of mosque. Yes, that’s a giant bathtub.

Whoa.

After a lot of staring at things, we finally stepped back into the bright Moroccan sun, and the overload of art-beauty-awesome-big caused some kind of blip in my excitable system. I proceeded to skip around, yelling stuff like “PRETTY THINGSSSSS!!!!” and “THIS IS BIIIIIIIIIIG!!!” and taking pictures with wild abandon.

…And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Gender Talk, Part I

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Gender is a pretty touchy issue in Morocco, even today, which is why I’m starting a series entitled Gender Talk. Welcome to Gender Talk! Today, we’re going to talk about the Moudawana, and learn a little bit about sexual harassment. Stay tuned!

Let’s hop in, then. CANNONBAAALLLLLL!!!!!

Until 2004, women did not enjoy the same marital rights or citizenship privileges as men. Since the enactment (2000) and enforcement (so, really 2004) of the Moroccan Family Code, or Moudawana, the lot of Moroccan women has improved a great deal. However, they don’t enjoy those legal privileges free of the traditional and societal stigmas still surrounding women and women’s issues in Morocco, and sometimes that makes all the difference.

From Independence in 1956 until the enforcement of the moudawana, women were legally considered minors in Morocco, always subordinate to a father, brother, or husband. The moudawana made significant changes to women’s rights, though it’s difficult to bridge the many culturally ingrained views about femininity with these new laws.

Here are a few significant changes that have been effected during the past eight years:

  • legal age for marriage is 18 for both men and women; originally, it was 18 for men and 15 for women. This was met with dismay and anger by many Moroccans living in the country, where covert arranged marriages still occur with younger women.
  • a woman may now initiate a marriage of her own free will, without the consent of a male relation; many women still choose to have a male relative sign the marriage papers, though. A Moroccan woman may not marry a non-muslim man, though a man can marry a non-muslim woman.
  • Polygamy is legal but rarely practiced; under the moudawana, the husband must obtain his first wife’s permission before entering into a second (or, very rarely, up to 4) marriage. Furthermore, the husband is required to specify how many wives he plans on having on his first marriage license, though he’s not required to fulfill it.
  • both the man and the woman can initiate divorce, for equal reasons.
  • citizenship is passed both paternally and maternally (originally it was only passed paternally, which made paternity tests a nightmare for an unmarried, divorced, or widowed woman. 12 witnesses are no longer required to prove the paternity of a child, either.)
  • overall, Morocco is a pretty good country for women’s rights, out of North Africa and the Middle East. Women enjoy equal status as men, and most of their rights are protected by law.

If you’re interested in reading the full, unofficial English translation of the Moudawana, you can find it here: Moudawana – English. More installments of Moroccan Gender Issues to follow in future posts. And now, for something nearly completely different!

The main issue I face here: sexual harassment.

Despite a culture that preaches conservatism when it comes to relations between men and women, there is a prevalent tendency to catcall both Moroccan and foreign women alike. On my first day in Morocco, a man called out to me, “fifty camels for you!” It was pretty hilarious, but I can also attest that I have been catcalled every day since coming here. “Oh, easily,” says Alexandra, when I said that aloud just now. At the very least, catcalled every day. As a matter of course, catcalled every day. We were briefed by a representative from the American Embassy upon our arrival, and that was a large part of the talk.

Sometimes it’s harmless whoops, sometimes it makes me laugh, and sometimes it makes me want to flip them off, march over to them and kick their faces in. Sometimes they follow me, saying I’m beautiful in French, asking for my number in broken English. Sometimes it’s impossible to ignore. It doesn’t always bother me, but sometimes I wish I could walk down a street without parrying a come-on, without fearing eye contact. I wish I could figure out their intentions (do they just want to hang out? my pants? marriage? WHAT DO YOU WANT?!), or at least discern a sort of middle ground between blatantly ignoring it (that feels rude) and reacting (that only encourages it).

Part of it, I think, is a function of where we live: our commute is a walk from school to the tram or bus, and then a much longer walk through the bustling medina, through the kasbah, and finally home. There aren’t too many tourists around this time of year, or maybe they don’t hang out in the souk (they hang out in the baazar, which is also cool); either way, we stand out as foreigners in the liveliest part of town, and foreigners are (I guess) attractive. Lighter-skinned, I guess. New looking. Different.

Moroccan women ignore it, sometimes see it as an ego boost. I’ve been doing my best to emulate them, and I’m getting great at looking everywhere but into someone’s eyes.

Thus far, though, I’ve only been followed and catcalled. Sometimes the catcalling can get nasty and the following can get creepy, but nothing really awful has happened; no kids throwing rocks (apparently that happens), no grabbing or slapping or attempted kidnapping or anything. I’ve reached the two-week mark, and only been proposed to once!

However, I’m used to the safety of anonymity often granted by life in the city in the U.S., and that just doesn’t carry over here. I’m getting used to the staring, I’m no longer jumpy at car horns, to the whiffs of the sewers and piles (and piles and piles and piles and piles) of garbage (oh but it’s not all bad smells, just wait till I tell you about street food), I’m slowly learning which buses to take, where the tram goes, how to be a woman in Morocco. Schwiya, schwiya.

Coming up next…

Secret boyfriends in Spain?

Virginity: turning a blind eye?

Sex: double standards?

Dating: taboo?

To be continued.

Enlightenment

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or,

The Heather Post

This is probably a crime against poetry:

My Bodhi tree has garbage leaves, and I’m in love with soup;

Siddhartha is my nose, and I’ve been meditating as I poop.

Also,

The I’m No Good at Spirituality but I’d Sure Like to Figure it Out Sometime Post

HEATHER DAY TODAY. YOU SHOULD READ ABOUT HER AND OTHER GREAT PEOPLE DOING GREAT THINGS HERE.

This is sort of stupid, but whatever. It’s my Heather post. It all got started when, in our intensive Darija class, we were instructed to write a paragraph about a friend. Heather! I thought, I’ll write a beautiful, eloquent paragraph about Heather’s awesomeness in Malawi and stuff!

This is great. If you don’t speak Darija, this looks really cool. If you do, you’re lolling because it’s kindergarten talk:

Roughly translated, it says: “My friend’s name is Heather. She is working in Malawi, where she is helping women. She is good and kind. She lives in Seattle with me, and I LOVE HER!”

Then, I remembered how Heather and I eat pho all the time in Seattle and started really craving pho, which I don’t think they have here.

So, Heather, I thought of you today. You are in Malawi. You are great. Let’s get pho.

Also, spirituality. This is an idea that sparks in my brain every so often, as it did today. Late-night brain sparkler:

I remember writing somewhere that I hoped this trip would help me to restore a little faith in the world. Whose, though? Mine? Other people?  Who needs faith right now? In what? Do I?

I can tell a lot of funny and weird stories from growing up Catholic, like this one. I think they’d call me a baggaged Catholic; I’d call me (I dunno) an atheist? A humanist? A whateverist? I like that. I’m a whateverist. Still, though, as I passed one of my host mothers praying as we left for school this morning, my thoughts turned to the dry and silent riverbed of my own faith journey.

No matter how cornered the once-Catholic or how cynical the once-pious, I don’t think that faith is quite useless; but I’m not sure what to do with it, either. It would just curl in the palms of the unbeliever, to be dropped unnoticed on a sidewalk or (more likely) slipped into a pocket to be never quite forgotten. So here I go, clutching bits of pocket-lint faith, heading toward the sound of running water. Faith? Spirituality? YOU GOT ME JESUITS. I’M POKING IT WITH A STICK CALLED STUDY ABROAD IN A VERY RELIGIOUS COUNTRY.

There’s just something about people that have figured out their spirituality ishs that invites calm and confidence. I have a lot of ish where stuff like that is concerned, and generally steer clear; that’s probably a sign that I should explore the ish a bit more. Just a thought.

Also, last night we had the most AMAZING SOUP EVER. I WILL BRING BACK RECIPE AND MAKE ALL THE TIME. HOLY CRAP IT WAS GOOD!!!! HEATHER! I WILL MAKE SOOOUUUUUP!!!

Oh, yeah. I was going to talk about enlightenment. Derp. Whatever. WOO!

Tomi the Drooly Kitty, and Other Stories

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Or, Morning Edition

Tomi the Drooly Kitty and Rime the Pregnant Kitty sleep on my bed every night and growl when I move. Really growl. Growl.

Here in Morocco, everyone lives with their family until they’re married, or something else happens and they move out.  Though there’s really not a status quo with cultural stuff in the US, many Moroccans find it bizarre that we moved out of our parents’ houses at 17 or 18 to make our own way in the world, and find it even more bizarre that we don’t plan on coming back; that we might not get married at all.

Including Alexandra and I, there are around 10 people living in a house behind the blue walls, tucked away in a corner of the labyrinthine Kasbah: five middle-aged siblings, 3 kids, and the two of us. THEY ARE AWESOME. You’d never guess that the house was small; from the rooftop terrace, it feels as though you have all of Rabat and Salé and the Ocean to wander to; you’d never guess that money’s scarce, because laughter isn’t.

Oh. So we get up before the sun rises, and this is what we watch out the tiny kitchen window as we eat breakfast. Like, whatever.

The family is very traditionally Moroccan, but not at all religious (that means something very different here than it does in the States; I mean only that they don’t pray each time we hear the calls to prayer rise from the mosques surrounding the Kasbah. Maybe they pray in their heads, who knows? I’ll have plenty of time to tell you about religion, religious language, etc…anyway); they sleep, as I mentioned, on the couches bordering every wall, and share one big closet. They all speak Darija, Fous7a, and French, they eat in the traditional Moroccan fashion, they watch ridiculously fantastic Arabic soaps. The house is always occupied, always lively, always loud, never lonely. Neither of us really have any problem communicating, this family are experts at bouncing between languages, encouraging us to speak and explain things to each other. Abir and Wided are our wonderful, 12-year-old fraternal twin host sisters that we can ask about anything, Jalel is their 14-year-old brother upon whom we are planning a good practical joke to get him back for spraying us with water from the roof yesterday.

That’s another one watching the sun rise. The BOATS. AAAAAH.

Jamila, Farid, Boushra, Abdnmabid, and Huria are the siblings living here. I’m not sure what all their stories are; some widowed, some divorced, but it’s not unusual here for siblings to just keep living in the family house after their parents die. This family has been in l’Oudaya forever, I’m pretty sure.

People are starting to get to know Alexandra and I, which is nice; maybe soon they won’t try to rip us off at the hanout because we’re foreign, which requires us to overcome our paralyzing fear of haggling with a local shopkeeper (yeah, that is exactly what we came here for. Cultural whatnot. I suppose we’ll get there).

Also, people stare. ALL THE TIME. I’ve never been so conscious of being so white. SO WHITE! SOOOOO WHIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTE ALL THE TIME. SO WHITE AND PRIVILEGED. I think about it all the time. Every time I go out and catch 8 people staring. I wonder if I’ll get used to that.

Also, you think Seattle is well-dressed? Come to Rabat. One Thing I did Not Expect from This Experience: Learning about fashion. Moroccans dress SO WELL, it’s a fashion show every time we step in the street! On the other hand, they immediately change into all-sweats inside the house. It’s two completely different realms, the street and the house. The divides between private and public, female and male, h’shuma and proper—all these I promise to enumerate in more detail over the course of my stay here. There’s a lot to talk about.

MOAR PICS NOOOWWWW WOOOOO