Salaams (Peace and Blessings) all!
I write to you from the greatest cities of all cities, New York City. I am happy to be home. However, I am slightly heavyhearted; I left Morocco with so much left to see and experience. I felt at home there. The past four weeks flew by and I wish I had the superpower to slow down time or freeze in order to experience more of Morocco, my new home. Nonetheless, I have learned many lessons from my study and internship abroad.
I take you back to inform you of the last city we visited, Marrakech. Its name is part Arabic and part African. “Marra” in Arabic means “he passed” and “kech” in one of the African languages means “very fast.” Hence, the city is known for people to pass by quickly; it is a hustle and bustle trade city. This city was the closest to NYC in terms of culture and the nature of everyone being in a rush. Everything seemed to move very rapid there. We also visited a huge square called Jamel-Fena that had many snake dancers, other street performers, and endless shops. Jamel-Fena means the “place where the endings happen.” In other words, this square use to be a center where criminals would meet their “fena” or end. People would gather here to watch the executions. Now the same location is full of life in memory of the dead. We followed that visit with a walk to Marrakech’s landmark, Masjid Koutoubiyya. Masjid Koutoubiyya was one of three identical mosque built by the same king and they are grand!
One of the busy streets in Jamel-Fena
To take you back further, I would like to reflect on my time at the hospital. The hospital environment taught me a ton. It was eye-opening to see how a developing country’s healthcare system operated. My experiences at the CHU gave me a better understanding of how much of a need their is for sound healthcare at a global level. I remember CHU was always crowded with many patients; many of them would stand by the entrance to be let in by security. Another factor that stood out to me was the lack of education among many patients that came to the University Hospital. I quickly became a believer that educating the population would be a great start to better healthcare. It was time consuming to see many doctors educating people. On a deeper thought, I realized that this is part of what doctors actually do. We are not only healers, but we are also educators. Many physicians had to try and convince patients not to use random herbal medicine or any other medication without having sufficient knowledge or appropriate medical advice from licensed healthcare providers.
Prior to going to Morocco, I formulated my own views and perception of the country; I knew Morocco was diverse so I prepared my mind to expect all sorts of people with their own variations to the Moroccan culture. I also imagined its people to be educated, very hospitable, and proud. These thoughts were formulated through my interactions with a few Moroccan-Americans here in NYC. I was however correct and incorrect on many occasions; Moroccans are indeed very welcoming and hospitable. They would invite you for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a cup of “ätay bin na’naa” (classic mint tea – in my opinion the one of the best tea I ever had) in a heartbeat. However, if you do not look like Moroccan and you go to a touristy area, the shop keepers will empty your wallets out! My advice, take a local with you who you can trust and can gauge the prices for you. If not, try to speak darija or French and dress Moroccan; you might not get ripped off.
Another element of surprise was the poverty and lack of education, specifically among young boys and men. I could be wrong; however, my observations in Morocco made me sad from one aspect and very happy from another. I was saddened at the sight of endless cafes full of mostly men till 2 or 3 AM. It seemed like they did not have any work the next day. Most men often taking care of their family business or is engaged with physically laboring jobs to provide for their families; hence, they don’t often get the opportunity to spend years in college and pursue a career. On the other hand, what made me very proud and happy was many of the doctors I shadowed at CHU who were female. The ratio of male to female doctors in Morocco is incredibly lopsided. Although I believe that their should be a more equal ratio of male to female physicians, the number of female physicians is testimony of how hard working and educated Moroccan women are. Anyone who has a bias or misunderstanding that Muslim women in Morocco are oppressed or uneducated will need to visit Morocco’s clinics and hospitals. Lastly, did you know men and women in morocco has equal pay?
As a proud and unapologetic Muslim, I went to Morocco with certain level of religious expectations. I expected the Moroccan population to be practicing Islam at a higher degree than American-Muslims. It was in a way an opposite “culture shock” to see a very liberal Muslim country in terms of practicing Islam. I found plenty Moroccans drinking alcohol and doing all sorts of drugs (all things forbidden by Islam). I went to Morocco thinking the Mosques would be populated for prayers but I was wrong. I often thought to myself that Muslim-Americans probably populate the Mosques back in home more than Moroccans! I have been to Saudi Arabia in the past and they are ultra-conservative. Morocco was the total opposite! On a more positive note, I admired that no one judged another person’s faith by looking at how much Islam they practice visibly. After all, in Islam God does not look at your outward appearance, but rather your heart and your good deeds.
A Mosque in Marrakech where I prayed my last Friday prayer before catching my flight back to NY on Saturday.
As we flew back in time (NY is 5 hours behind Morocco), I watched this gorgeous sunset with all my memories of Morocco on replay as our aircraft was descending on the Long Island Sound and preparing to land at JFK
In short, these were few of my experiences and thoughts on my visit to Morocco. I am grateful to The Creator of Time. Time has allowed me to visit wonderful places I would have never dreamed of. It has allowed me to form new ideas, relationships, and taught me a ton of life lessons. I encourage all of you reading this to make the best of your time. Specifically, if you are an undergrad, please try your best to expand. Go out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself. You will be surprised with what you will discover. Then you will also wish you had more time.
I hope you enjoyed reading my posts. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me.
PS watch my video that I will upload soon!
Thanks for following along – Mohammed