When travelling, I always find the small differences to be the most jarring in the long run. While adjusting to the traffic rules (or lack thereof) in Rabat was doable in a day, I still find myself jolted back to the reality that I’m on a different continent every time I go to the bathroom. In Canada, we take for granted our access to decently clean, Western style toilets with toilet paper and the ability to properly wash our hands. In Morocco, there were some differences to get used to.
In terms of the bathrooms themselves, the layout is very different. In a Canadian public restroom, you can expect to see a row of toilet stalls, and generally opposite those is a row of sinks with some hand dryers or paper nearby. In Rabat, the bathroom tends to be a 2 room experience: the first room you enter does not lock and contains the sink and hand dryers, while a second room has the toilet itself with a locking door. At AMIDEAST, where we have all our classes, there are generally four of these restrooms per floor, which sometimes leads to queues or trips to other floors’ facilities. The hand dryers here are also significantly less powerful, and paper towel is completely absent, so be prepared to wipe your hands on your pants.
Toilet paper here is also quite different. In most places, the toilet paper is not meant to be flushed and goes into a little waste bin beside the toilet. Thankfully, the plumbing system in Rabat is strong enough to support flushing paper, and no one has had an issue with this. The bathrooms at our home-stay are equipped with a hand-held bidet, which was pretty foreign to me. In the name of science however, I had to try it. While not an exceedingly pleasant experience (the water was very cold), I can see why this is the preferred method in countries with less plumbing infrastructure.
The toilet paper itself seems to vary from place to place – at AMIDEAST, the toilet paper is significantly longer than in Canada, and is single-ply, while the toilet paper at our home-stay is about the same length as Canadian toilet paper and two-ply. Why the difference? Ana ma.3raft.sh (“I don’t know”). I was also able to grab some toilet paper from the Canadian Embassy, and that one turned out to be the same length as the AMIDEAST toilet paper but much thicker and better quality.
1: Toilet paper from Canada; 2: Home-stay toilet paper; 3: AMIDEAST toilet paper; 4: Canadian Embassy toilet paper. Canadian 1$ and 2$ coins for size comparison
Thankfully, we have yet to encounter the dreaded “hole in the floor” squat toilet, but there is still plenty of time and lots of places to visit. Keep an eye out for an update!