Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Africa

I've been to Africa! And yet, I don't really feel like it, since once I was on the ground, Morocco had a very Arabian, middle-eastern feel. The architecture seemed a mix of Spanish and Arab, the language was Arabic (it sounds almost like music, very cool language, good choice Katy!), and people were a range of skin colors from white to dark brown for the most part, instead of the dark chocolate color people think of when they think of Africans. From the airplane, it did look like Africa, noticeably different than any other place I'd been before, somehow very wide open, dusty...different from out West somehow...more crops, different ones maybe. But once safely landed, thoughts of Africa mostly left until I was again airborne.

I noticed random things the entire weekend. On the drive in from the airport, I saw a large number of men, boys, just people everywhere. Mostly just sitting in cafes, on the ground under a tree, against a building...everywhere. Walking along aimlessly...people everywhere. It turns out it was lunch/break hour, between 12 and 3, but even in other times there were always people everywhere.

They have orange trees everywhere...of an almost inedible variety. Why? So that people don't eat them? Decorative but very sour. The American center was smaller than I had imagined, but beautiful with a lovely courtyard and flora everywhere. And I got to meet Katy's Moroccan family, also beautiful, very nice people. Everyone, individually, within 5 minutes of seeing Katy, asked her about her exam, about her day, etc., and there was joking and laughing, good tea and cake, and fun. You can tell they love each other I think, and some of that generously already spills on the stranger they've known for only 3 weeks so far living in their house.

The medina, old town market, in Fez, is an experience. Katy's right, I certainly got a lot of attention from random men/boys, which got tiresome after a while. If you respond in any way, they persist, trying out their english or flirting, or trying to sell you something or be a 'guide' for you. I learned how to say 'no' in arabic and used it. (which is apparently insulting to them when they were trying to speak english to me, which made me feel slightly vindicated from time to time). Some of their english was funny though, things like, "You have nice socks," making one think that perhaps their english is not as good as they think. :) And I think that much of the heckling is just part of the shop/medina culture, its an overextension of hospitality perhaps, in Western eyes, but much was not intended to be rude. I think it could be gotten used to with time.

We went on a day-trip to Meknes, another of the imperial cities about an hour away from Fez, and we saw some Roman ruins called Volubilis. They were amazing...methinks Katy is going to speak of them..., so it'll suffice to say that I felt a sense of awe at their age, imagining the people that lived there and built that, and its still standing even today. Wow.

As I left, boarding the plane from the tarmac as we had descended earlier, my thoughts again turned to the new continent, for me, and that I was leaving it. But if Morocco could be such a new experience, so different from anything else, and its not even very African!...this will definitely not be the last time I set foot on the continent!

1 comment:

KEP said...

Yeah, Morocco is geographically but not culturally or ethnically African, but no one here would tell you that they are African - the country thinks of itself as part of the Middle East, of course...they are mostly Arab and Muslim, which sets them apart from most of the sub-Saharan continent.