First Days

I’ve learned a lot so far about French Colonial influence on Morocco so far in class and through experience. Most people understand French here in Rabat, which I did not expect. Many of my fellow students know how to speak French which I think is cheating, in contrast to using strictly Arabic, but of course French is also a big part of the culture. To be honest, if we were in northern or southern Morocco where residents primarily speak Spanish and Arabic, I would totally be taking advantage of that. So as for now, I consider my situation advantageous, seeing as how I must try to use the best Arabic I know and therefore struggle in communicating.

I will say that the combination of a long flight and cultural immersion germinates in me slight irritation. I do appreciate the hospitality I have recieved thus far from different people, such as shop-owners and my host family, I presumed, before coming to Morocco, that most people found Americans foolish and full of generalizations and stereotypes (Read Edward Saiid’s “Orientalism”). Thus I braced myself. Of course, thinking one will arrive in a new environment with an open mind is almost more dangerous and ignorant as if you came arrogantly and presumptious. Thus, an Orientalist, which generally typifies all westerners, finds no closure, and can never proceed in relationships (whether business or leisure) in a foreign country without any degree of presumption. I think that this notion needed to be addressed one way or another, and I think I may have overcome concern for my appearance (with an inherent understanding of tact, of course), in wearing a big, stupid Australian hat, which I actually think is kind of cool.

So far, any writing I have devoted myself to lacks much in the way of visual imagery or things of that sort. Thus, if you find it overly lacking I suggest you go take a bike ride or come visit Morocco yourself. I will continue to pursue writing which concerns more in the way of introspection and meaning.

Most Moroccan Arabs remind me of very energetic Milwaukee college students (I contrast Milwaukee students to Moroccan students because it seems that at a certain point in their college years, Milwaukee students tend to binge drink and over-eat at the same age that the Arab students are leaping over one another’s heads and running around the city.) This I noticed mostly at Muhawazin, the giant music festival Ribat hosts, featuring popular artists such as Justin Timberlake, Rhianna, Ne-Yo. The mass amount of youth seemed incalculable and overwhelming. Such events cause me to really question what really leads people on and why. Considering I saw not just Arabs but also white and black people (which I think are sometimes also considered Arab? I don’t know), I thought the festival more greatly represented the global demographic. Certainly I found somewhat surprising the number of non-arab people in Morocco. Maybe not so much because of the country’s French-colonial influence but at least somewhat because of my perception of Arab Muslims, Muslims as very powerful, Muslim law and Islam as an authority in the world.

Overall, my main concern revolves around this. Certainly we, as in the global we, the human we, can disregard religion by strictly considering it personal, private and subjective and continue on with our daily lives while on the same token also diregarding religion (and not just religion but its influence on and through man,) and the current status of nations and authorities because of religion. So far I see Morocco’s heavy French colonial secularism and consumerism coinciding with Islam but not mingling with it. For clear distinctions exist: either one practices the sacred religion, or one practices modern consumerism. If a person holds himself to one of the standards, a breaching into the other practice has certain consequences associated with it (this I have not observed but assume logically.) When one resorts to interpretation to apply sacred principles to relatively new technologies or cultural distinctions, he or she implies that through interpretation one can reach the more pure understanding or religion, similar to the concept of the truer Islam. I hope to learn more about the spirit of Islam while here, especially in regards to its influence in and among people in Morocco.

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