A couple of Sundays ago in Rabat, our riad of 8 woke early to head to Barcelona. I hopped in the shower at 4am. I had gotten used to finicky hot water, but was not in the mood for the cold shower I was given. I wrapped myself in a towel and walked into my room buzzing with flies. I had gotten used to them as well, but on this morning I was definitely ready to pack up and head for 1st world luxuries.
Rabat was not bad. There was plenty about it I did love, but I was ready to leave.
Landing in Morocco one month earlier there was a bit of culture shock. Morocco is about as far away from Portland as you can get. For example: the sun shines bright 95% of the time, it is difficult to find places to buy alcohol, prayer calls are chanted over a PA system multiple times a day, and the muslim country's view of women were all quite foreign to me. The sun was lovely, the prayer calls I got used to, I learned the spots to buy wine, but what it felt like to be a woman in that country is something I never got used to.
My experience as a woman in Rabat was that you were left alone if you kept your head down and covered yourself in baggy clothes. Neither of these things are like me and after a week or so I decided that wearing what I wanted and walking head up with confidence was actually less uncomfortable than the attention/harassment given to me by the local men.
What I found most astounding about this was that I realized I might be feeling a taste of what it's like to be a traditional Muslim in the US. Common are the stories of bullying and harassment of Muslim's wearing hijabs and ethnic garb. One difference being that in Morocco I never felt unsafe, but in the US sometimes things are different...
But not all was bad. The country is absolutely gorgeous. I was able to take the train and then drive, about 15 hours in total, from the coastal city of Rabat to the southern border with Algeria in the south and see much along the way.
The medina (or market) was an absolute pleasure to walk through. You could buy fish caught hours earlier, fresh eggs, or even a live chicken. Detailed hand made textiles - rugs, scarves, and yards of fabric. Stands selling fresh squeezed orange juice, buckets of olives and mountains of strawberries. Bread, donuts, and lots of sticky treats. Leather goods, silver, and ceramics. It was all too much and so cheap by American standards. On my final day there I took out about $200 US and felt like I bought the entire medina.
The people there were generally also extremely nice (minus the harassment on the street). The locals we met were eager to show us their city, to cook for us, or make us mint tea. The office space, 7AY (pronounced 'hay'), was gorgeous and the people that ran it were true gems pushing for social reform.
It took me a while to write this because I had conflicted views of my month in Morocco. I can't say it was entirely easy or comfortable, but looking back maybe that's what I appreciate about it the most. This travel experience for me is partially about making myself uncomfortable and pushing my comfort zone. Through discomfort one finds growth. And after Morocco I can truly say I feel perspectives have changed and comfort zones have expanded.