Marrakech Express

Leah Siegel

I know that my writing this for Whitman’s Pio is essentially preaching to the choir, but I wish to vent a bit about the incredible hatred and ignorance of the film “The Innocence of Muslims.”

For those unaware of the situation, a man in America raised $5 million to create a film mocking the founder of Islam, the Prophet Mohamed.  Out of curiosity, I watched a few clips.  The amount of disrespect it showed to Islam was absolutely infuriating.  I have since felt a degree of discomfort in this country, not from fearing for my safety, but instead from feeling incredibly embarrassed that something so degrading to a group of people who are, for the most part, friendly and peaceful, should come from my country.

Freedom of speech is one of the privileges of being an American that is not appreciated as much as it should be.  Being able to speak up without fear of punishment is empowering.  And, as Uncle Ben from Spiderman put it, “with great power comes great responsibility.”  That’s all that I’ll say on the matter.

Life in the Maghreb has been jam-packed, so I’ll make a list of the highlights and throw in some pretty pictures at the end.

•went to a Moroccan engagement party and gorged myself on bastilla and tajine
•learned how to make Moroccan thé à la menthe from my host sister
•visited a couple of local NGOs that help assimilate newly-arrived sub-Saharan migrants into Moroccan society
•took a weekend trip to Marrakech with friends and, among other things, got some henna done, visited a madrassa from the 16th century, and saw some beautiful gardens in a house once owned by Yves Saint Laurent.
•chatted with some sub-Saharan migrants about their (truly harrowing) experiences of coming to and living in Rabat

My Darija is still abysmal, but we’ve made our way to Fus’ha, or Modern Standard Arabic.  Darija and Fus’ha are so different that they are essentially two separate languages.  I’ve found Darija to be easier than Fus’ha, so it’s not been fun switching all of my survival phrases such as “I want coffee with milk and sugar” to this new form of Arabic.  I’ve also been struggling with some letters of the alphabet that sound essentially the same.  Take, for instance, the د and ض, two letters that make a “d” sound.  The first sound, though, is produced in the front part of the mouth, while the second is produced by pushing the tongue back and hollowing out the inside of your mouth.  My host sister laughs at my attempts to distinguish the two sounds.  Oh well.  Meshi mushkin, as they say here.

 

Going to the NGO Orient-Occident, which helps sub-Saharan migrants living in Rabat
A friend and myself posing in Les Jardins Majorelle
Marrrakechi Camel!
Marrakech at night: the Place Jemaa El Fna was full of food vendors and juice sellers. People were out and about well after I went to sleep.
A window view onto Ben Yousef Medersa, the 16th century madrassa that operated until the 1960s
A man offered to take us to see the tanneries of Marrakech. We put mint leaves to our noses to subdue the stench of the preservatives.