A Complicated Trip to Morocco

Many of us like to daydream of what it would be like to run away from home, and see the world. Our next contributor did just that to celebrate her ten year anniversary with her husband. While most of her trip was delightful, she found one place difficult to manage. She generously shares her experiences with the blog, along with pictures! -C

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As we pull away from the terminal in Casablanca, I felt a strange sense of relief. What was it about Morocco that was so intense, made me feel so uneasy, yet so intrigued? I looked out the window into the Mediterranean, and realized that I felt comfortable for the first time in four days. Our journey to Morocco started on New Year’s Eve in Lisbon. We were at a Gala dinner party, and a lovely couple from Casablanca sat next to us. All of us began talking, joking, and dancing – this was something his wife swore he never did. We all had a wonderful time, and they convinced us that during our month-long excursion through Europe, we needed to take a detour through Africa to Casablanca.

Casablanca was a beautiful city, they told us. The husband often traveled to New York; he would know what Americans think. I told my husband it was a sign we must go to Morocco! I had always wanted to go – I thought it sounded romantic and mystical. We flew in on a double-engine propeller plane, and it was very reminiscent to the movie. We even off-boarded the airplane via stairs, not through the gate. I instantly loved how traditional it seemed, how exciting it was to be on a runway in Casablanca at night. It was like we were living in the movie already! Yet, as we traveled into the city I noticed how the city was dank, and dark.

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I want to share what I did love about Morocco first. I cannot express how amazing the food was. Tangine, a rice and meat dish, usually chicken or lamb, served in a clay pot with dates and raisins. There were soups with lentils, savory pastries, pitas and hummus, and for my husband, olives everywhere – even at breakfast. My husband and I regularly do hookah, (or shisha as it’s called most other places) but in Morocco it was ubiquitous. Almost any café would have a few hookah pipes and both men and women would be sitting outside (in the cold!) puffing on the fruity mix. For those who love shopping, like my husband and me, there was an amazing mall near Plage Madame Choual. It was dubbed “Morocco Mall.” Louis and Fendi lived alongside more affordable brands like Aldo and Zara, and all revolving around a three-story indoor fish tank!

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There is also a restaurant and bar in Casablanca called Rick’s Café, which is
modeled after the bar in the movie. We grabbed drinks there one night and while expensive, it was not kitschy or over done. For those who love the movie, I imagine that would be a very cool experience to have dinner there. Although, I did have a problem with the fact that the piano was a baby grand and not an upright. Details…

Now, I like to think of myself as an independent, confident woman. However, in Casablanca, I knew I needed to walk around with my husband. That thought hurt me, both physically and emotionally. I could only imagine how the women of that country felt as they go out in public… I have traveled to places like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Dubai – I am not a “paranoid American”. All of these countries are uniquely different than the United States. Yet, in Morocco I encountered situations that I had never before seen or dealt with. Men would not speak to me – when I spoke, the man I was speaking to would turn to my husband and respond! Respect for sexism in a culture is disrespect for women of that culture.

I did not wear a headscarf while in Casablanca or Morocco – many women in the street were scarf-free. A friend of mine mentioned that when she was there twenty years ago, she was “forced” for wear a headscarf. It make me happy to learn they had come that far in such a brief period of time. I was told repeatedly, by both genders, to hide my valuables. I just simply did not feel safe walking down the street. I was also openly stared at as we walked around the town. This was not the staring I had become accustomed to based on my red-dyed hair or my paleness. This was straight leering, and it was deeply unnerving.

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While touring around the town with our driver, he was pulled over by an officer directing traffic. After 45 minutes, we learned these cops were just abusing their power. We learned his was ticketed an outrageous amount, and I was feeling like I just wanted to leave this country. Then, there was the coupe de grasses – The Ass Grab.

We were fresh from our trip to Marrakesh, and walking through the train station in Casablanca. A strange man smiled at me as we were about to pass, his grin revealing the gaps between his teeth. I was squeezed in between my husband and this man, at the exit of the station. Suddenly, I felt his hand brush by my thigh as I looked forward. My first thought was concern for my purse – Is he trying to steal my purse? I thought to myself. Within seconds, my fear went from my purse to my body. Once I had processed that he had just grabbed my ass, I turned back and shouted “fuck off, asshole!” All he did was turned towards me and smile.

Of course, putting distance between yourself and a situation always makes it
better. I know that this type of thing, all of these things, could have happened anywhere. My husband pointed out, we did not get mugged or anything worse than ass-grabbed – although easy for him to say, it wasn’t his ass being grabbed! I know that if I had visited Casablanca during a different season of my life, I would have seen it completely different.

I know my husband and I will look back, and laugh at the jokes we will have forever. I can now say I’ve been to Africa, and that I have been through a unique life experiences. Morocco probably wasn’t my favorite country to visit – it wasn’t even my favorite stop on this trip. My feelings, much like the country itself, are complex. It was modern, yet old-world. Traditional but progressive. How could I have possibly understood this place in just four days? I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t understand, and maybe that is the most comprehensive ending I can hope for.

-Rachel Wolf

 

rachyRachel is an in-house counsel for Progressive. She loves food, wine, and Star Wars. When not traveling the world, or at work, she spends her free time loving on her nieces and nephews. You can follow her adventures on Instagram at: citygirlinglasses.

 

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