and why it really is different.
People share: Stories, water, food, money, everything. Within the immediate family there are no boundaries of sharing. Everyone works and everyone contributes. Balances, checks, paybacks and any penny pinching stays in the family. Sharing is expected, and if one has it, it's shared, including meals with strangers*.
People listen: When they meet women often all talk at once, which is an amazing thing to experience. No one feels left out or ignored. On the other hand, when someone tells a story, no one interrupts, no one comments, until the story is finished. Oral tradition is alive and well. 1000 year old stories are still told today in the Jemaa El Fna square in Marrakech. Communication demands respect, patience, consideration, time... which brings us to the next item.
Time isn’t important: When was the last time you met someone who didn’t know their birth day? Didn’t know their age? And didn’t care? Who will wait an hour for a bus to do a task, and take all day to do it? Go to the bank, the post office, pay a bill, but if they meet a friend along the way, take time to chat, have a tea, and hear their news and tell a few good stories? In Morocco there is always another day tomorrow and another after that. The word dead-line doesn't exist.
Sunday is a real day off: Although Friday is prayer day, Sunday is for family and friends. Almost everybody takes the day to go to the park for a picnic under the olive trees, a little drumming, singing, dancing, laughing, make a tagine, have a sleep. Most people don’t work Sundays unless they have a foreign boss.
Lots of holidays: The Prince’s birthday, a full month in Ramadan, a full month in August, Fete Mouton 2-3 weeks, numerous days here and there. None of the Long Weekend crush where everyone tries to squeeze a good time into frantic 3 days… Who’s responsible for that idea anyway?
Which brings us to driving: Accidents surprisingly are few, contrary to what people may say abut the mayhem in the cities. Unfortunately most fatalaties in Morocco are motorbike related, and the roads can be in a sorry state of repair. Because of this, Moroccans are generally slower drivers, rarely going over 50 kmh in the city, and when a donkey cart goes little faster than a walking man. When there is an encounter it's usually very minor and instead of raging anger, people often discuss the damage, smile and shake hands saying sorry brother or sister. Really!
Respect for Elders: Have you ever seen a gang of teenagers give their bus seats to an elder or a woman with her children? Elders are deeply respected, for their memories, good advice and wisdom, as well as remembering those ancient herbal home remedies that their gram taught them. Which brings us to…
Witchcraft: Alive and well in Morocco. Not allowed under Islam, but practiced all the same. Gives the whole country an air of deep mystery and romance about the old ways with a little bit of horror thrown in. The Koran actually teaches about angels, djinns and devils. Everyone believes, everyone knows, everyone has heard stories, or experienced it first hand.
Trees are Sacred: Or why is that palm tree in the middle of the road? Because it couldn’t cross to the other side? No, it’s because the road crew was not allowed to cut it down. It says so in the Koran and so it will not be done. Trees are essential to life in the desert. Matter of fact trees are essential everywhere on the planet, but not everybody’s elder's wisdom told them this is so.
Family before Work: Often people just don’t show up for work or school. Aside from a mishap or sickness, most often the reason is the family needs them for something. Help father buy a sheep for Fete Mouton, or harvest the apricots, or help grandma to the doctors. Perfectly good reasons and readily accepted. Who can question family before industry?
You can Yell on the Street: Home is where the manners are kept in check, where women rule the roost and secrets are kept. Street is the domain of men where anything goes and it sometimes does. But in a society where public drunkenness is rare, things are pretty calm generally. You might witness a good yelling session with dire verbal threats, but that will be the end of it. Strangers will often get involved freely offering their opinion and asking the anguished to “broaden your mind”.
Blessings are Real: When someone gives you a blessing it is considered a real possibility it will come true, not just said to be nice. Downside is, casual remarks are not thrown away and forgotten but taken very seriously. If you tell someone they have an evil laugh they will literally believe you believe, they are with the devil.
* I was once with a friend and his policeman father on the street waiting for someone. The policeman father stopped a passing stranger who was carrying a big covered plate. He asked “What’s that, couscous?” The stranger showed his mother’s pride and joy, called his friend over to bring some bread and everyone happily shared the meal on the hood of our car.
I hope everyone can come to Morocco someday. If you do, take the time to enjoy the people and the country. There is a lot to learn from this culture.
Warm regards and safe travels,
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