Another Culture

12 Dec

I couldn’t resist going to Morocco while I was in Spain; the concept of immersing myself in another culture completely different from whatever I had experienced before was a tempting one that was impossible to ignore. I thought of Morocco first and foremost because it is so close to the Andalusia region of Spain, and secondly because I thought it appropriate to visit clear across the other side of the ocean where I had visited Tarifa earlier between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

As part of our program, however, we managed to do an activity that, in retrospect, I fully appreciate now that my trip is over. Our leader asked us to think carefully and write down whatever image of Morocco (misconceptions now) we might have. When I came back, and looked at what I had written, I was both surprised and grateful at what I had written, both because I was completely wrong in certain assumptions, but also because my image had been replaced with a far more correct version.

Then I realized that this was one of the best things about traveling, in my book. I feel the most satisfied and happy about certain traveling experiences when I manage to use that experience to break whatever stereotype I originally had.

What I found was a truly interesting place, with different concepts about religion, fashion, women, and even food. Too much to post, here are some quick aspects that might surprise you;

-Certain places do not change or buy new clothes, but rather, dye them a different color according to the seasons and appropriate festivals. As such, dyes are sold more frequently than clothes.

-Most stop whatever they are doing at the moment and plan around praying 5 times a day at specific intervals, all at the same time.

-In certain touristy spots, you will encounter sometimes up to 8 languages from the same shopkeeper who knows that the key to good sales is to speak the native tongue.

– It is not only the norm, but a necessary tool to haggle as this is the primary way of buying many things, from food and trinkets, to clothes and even certain medicines.

– No one gets any food in bulk; in fact, it is common to buy once a day rather than once every so often. As such, most food is always fresh.

– A woman told me that she feels sorry for American women who are expected to show as much skin as possible. (This one made my eyes go wide.)

I went back to Spain, stomach full of spices, with that much more of an open mind.

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