Is Morocco safe for women?

I frequent the Lonely Planet ThornTree board, and am known as the local "snark," so to speak.  I get easily irritated by the same old "Is Morocco safe for me if I'm a blonde/blue eyed/23 year old/sexy/white female?" questions.  But I never, NEVER, discourage women from traveling alone here.  Sure, it's a hassle at times to be on your own in Morocco, and men certainly do approach me SO much more often than they do in the States (see, in the States, I'm status quo - here I'm a goddess), but save for one time, by an escaped lunatic, I HAVE NEVER BEEN TOUCHED.

I have been:
-winked at
-saluted (seriously)
-told to come home with someone
-asked on dates
-asked for a visa
-approached for sex
-asked how I'm doing
-asked what I'm doing

...and more.  But none of the above equals DANGER in my book.

Recently, I disputed some MAN's claim that women should be discouraged from traveling alone in Morocco.  My message was, albeit, rude.  His reply:

Well Bully for you, but we travelled there last summer and met women that had been harassed pretty much constantly when out and about. This is also ties in with the advice in the back of the lonely planet guide. But hey maybe everyone else is wrong and you are right, you strike me as that sort of person.

Well maybe I am "that kind of person," but I don't think anyone ought to listen to a BRITISH MAN when it comes to advice on women.  What the hell would he know?  Not to mention the Lonely Planet guide suggests that "women should seriously think about it before embarking on a solo journey in Morocco."  Well, of course they should SERIOUSLY THINK ABOUT IT, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't go!

I've spent over a year now as a lone female in Morocco (if you count the three months or so back in '04), and I am sorely disappointed whenever I see someone being discouraged from this.  I get frustrated almost every day by the men, truth be told, but what frustrates me is their stares and whistles, not any real danger.  I walk around alone at night, for chrissakes, and cars sometimes actually STOP, but I never, EVER, feel as though I'm in danger.

Perhaps everyone else are pussies.


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it's very important for the driver to drink both Red Bull and coffee, especially when on 4 hours of sleep.

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but in the end, it doesn't really matter.  when you're tired, you're tired.

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but boys quickly bounce back.

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Another Moroccan tradition (just kidding, again): YOU MUST RETURN WITH A BOTTLE OF SAND!

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All in all, despite the lack of sun, a beautiful day...


Thai in Meknes?

We approached the counter slowly, waving hello to the men working at Le Petit Libonais, left behind in our excitement - Bangkok Cafe!?  In Meknes?!  No freaking way, we said to each other.  As we moved forward, I whispered, "Is that chick Thai or Moroccan?"  When she opened her mouth to speak, to take our order, perfect French spewed forth, leaving us to wonder.

The food wasn't that fantastic, but I savored every bite of my chicken curry and thick chocolate dessert.  We discussed whether or not this ethnic/international food concept would actually work in a city where the best pizza tastes like New York's worst; the conclusion was probably not for at least ten more years.  The staff are imported (from Casablanca anyway), the menus too foreign, too spectacular for the somewhat bland tastes of Meknassis.

Still, the smell of fish sauce?  Brings me back.

Not missing Bush so much...

I feel more ashamed than ever to be American.  Bush declared last week that the Star-Spangled banner should be sung only in English.  What am I supposed to tell my students, who still hold the notion that America is the land of the free, the land of acceptance?  And what of this new proposed law to make English the "official language" of the United States - we've gone this long without one, and though we're in the minority on that, why wait until almost half of Americans speak Spanish (though most also speak English as well - I believe I read that only 5% of Americans don't speak English at all).

Interestingly enough though, I saw a program on TV that interviewed average Americans - the ones who opposed the law were mostly native English speakers, and those who were not native speakers said that learning English is a necessary part of becoming an American.  Good - so most non-native speakers want to learn English; I fully believe that they ought to in order to do business and be integrated, successful citizens.  But in the land of the free, must we require it by law?

My 24th Birthday.

My first Moroccan friend (really, literally), Wassim, has been the butt of many "you're old!" jokes from me this month.  He's only a year and five days older than I am, but the difference is, he turned 25 last week - a quarter of a century, the quarter-life crisis, insert trite joke here...Anyhow, he reminded me that I too will be old in about a year.  But for now, I'm 24 years young, as of yesterday.  A bit of how I spent my birthday...

I knew my boyfriend would be planning some sort of surprise.  For one, he loves me (of course), but for another, he has surprised (along with our friends) every single one of his friends for their birthdays this year.  Therefore, I'd expected something.  But he managed to surprise me anyway...twice!

The first was with his family - the night before my birthday, he invited me to dinner at their house (his mother had already said she wanted to do something but that he had told her not to on my actual birthday).  I figured it was nothing...when we arrived, however, his whole family was waiting to surprise me.  There was a beautiful cake...
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...And of course, cake cutting...
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...The boys discussed politics...
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...and we all showed our love for mom...
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The next night was full of surprises as well.  The day was rather uneventful, but when I headed home after work, I discovered my boyfriend outside, leaning on a car.  He invited me to a cafe, but I told him I wanted to drop my bags off first, and he (seemingly) reluctantly agreed.  We headed upstairs and entered...complete silence.  Turned on the lights...nothing.  That's when I heard it - loud drumming out of nowhere.  And suddenly there were three tqakiya (somewhere between Aissawa and Gnawa but literally meaning "drummers," for those of you not in the know) starting the party, which included of course, all of our close friends and then some...

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...we all danced...

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...and of course participated in ancient Moroccan birthday traditions...

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...taking time to rest is vital to a good party...

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...But when it's's over.

Coming soon: our beach trip to Skhirate!

Being famous in Meknes.

I sympathized a little bit with some famous Moroccans last night - living in a city with, at maximum, 10 other foreigners, you start to feel like a bit of a celebrity.

Anyhow, I went to a big party at the Institut Francais last night; there's been a Japanese animation festival for the past week and this party featured animation with DJs and excellent music.  We (my boyfriend, another couple and I) arrived a little late and headed toward the back of the lawn, where no one else was, and proceeded to dance.  A little while later, Morocco's most famous hip hop group - H-Kayne - joined us and hung out to our right.  We didn't want to bother them (although the boyfriend asked when their next album is coming out - 2007), so we continued our dancing and stayed right where we were.

Anyhow, shwiya b'shwiya, children in doo-rags and baggy clothes (I'm talking 6-year-olds) started to approach and ask for their autographs.  Gracious as ever, they complied, and I managed to exchange a few looks with members of the group (exasperation, perhaps).  We continued to keep to ourselves.

At the very end of the concert, however, the DJs decided to play one of H-Kayne's most popular songs, Aissaouwa Style.  Okay, cool.  Anyhow, my Moroccan friends started to dance like mad, so I joined in, and looking to the right, I noticed the group turn bright red, then slink away.

So that's what it's like to be a celebrity in Meknes, I thought.  It must be really strange to go to a show like that only to find that your own music is what really makes the kids go crazy.

I've never longed for home so much...

Not exactly home, but Westchester, New York.

I just learned from a mutual friend that one of my closest college friend's mother passed away on Sunday.  While this wasn't a total shock (well, it was to me, but I suppose I hadn't been paying close enough attention) as she'd had cancer for some time, I still cannot imagine nor do I want to what it must be like to lose your mother at the age of 24.  My mother lost her mother at only 23, and I can only pray for my own mother's long life.

The hardest part is not being able to be there.  Granted, this friend and I haven't kept in closest touch since I've been in Morocco, but I knew her mom well as our a cappella group traveled to their home every year and I visited her several times there in the summers.

There has never been a better day to start prayer.

Though I rarely post twice in a row...

A comment from my friend Barbara reminded me to post some photos of the time I met her in Rabat.  So, although these are over a month old now, here they are:

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Tour Hassan

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The lovely Barbara.

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A water seller on his bicycle.

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A blurry yet beautiful sunset near the Kasbah.

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I love photographing minarets from strange angles.

And so it is.

Went to Moulay Yacoub hot springs for the first time yesterday with my boyfriend's family (sans boyfriend himself).  After many jokes about what the real Moulay Yacoub must've smelled like (given that the town/spa stinks of sulfur and couldn't be a compliment to the man), I enjoyed a personal mineral jacuzzi and returned incredibly refreshed.  Recommended.  On the other hand, don't wear any silver - my ten year old silver toe ring is now black.  But that's cool, it adds character.

It's been a few months of birthdays.  My boyfriend and his friends are surprise party geniuses, and so when he tells me not to plan a party for mine (it's in 10 days and he has a key to my apartment), I know why.  Anyhow, a few photos to tell the story:

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And since I rarely photograph myself alone:

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Picturesque Ifrane picnic.  Wish I'd taken a photo of the baby goats.

Three months and counting until Destination: America.  And by that I mean my vacation home for the first time in a year.  I'm flying to New York, hanging with my friends there in Queens or Long Island or what have you, making my way with a couple of them up to New Hampshire, chilling there, flying out to Seattle to see my best friend for the first time in almost TWO years (crazy; we grew up together and rarely went more than a few months without a visit in college), then flying back out of New Hampshire to here.



I finally have some photos from Marrakesh; they're hidden in the secret folders of my photo website (due to photographs containing things that my Moroccan friends would not want their parents to see), but they're there.

A sneak preview:

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I allowed a Moroccan girl to do my makeup.  YIKES!

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The pirate-like roof of our riad, Riad Chorfa.

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Djemaa al-Fna, of course!

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Inside our gorgeous riad courtyard.

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Our riad mascot.  With a rose petal.  How romantic!

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I LOVE camels!  The one in the back was scratching his neck; look closely.

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A gorgeous fountain at La Menara.

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Frequent exclamation re: this cat..."He's dead!"  He wasn't.  But he rarely moved.

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TV in petit taxi.  WTF?

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Wave goodbye!


I'm not so sure "travelblog" is the most apt title for what this is.  Perhaps LivingBlog or ExpatBlog or DisullisonedAmericanblog would be more fitting?

I can't write, not right now.  You see, I've just moved into a much nicer apartment, and for only an extra 250 MAD per month (that's about $25, making the expenditure undoubtedly worth it).  This apartment has no cockroaches that I can see, no ants, no lingering stench, no couscous stuck to the ceiling, no peeling asbestos-ridden paint, and certainly no one looking into my windows and throwing little notes at them.

It does have, however, two Grecian-style columns.

The moving process was fairly simple - actually, unplanned.  My boyfriend and his friend showed up on Monday (Labor Day everywhere but the US) to help set up the satellite and decided to just move all the furniture right then and there.  So, that mission is accomplished.  Now it's a matter of the little stuff, but it's downpouring off and on and I don't possess a vehicle.  I have a stove to hook up, a refrigerator to connect, a washing machine to...plumb?

Anyhow, I'm completely and utterly torn between stressing about this and just living day to day, eating snack food from the hanout and spending what little money I have to waste on sandwiches or, alternately, sucking it up, asking my boyfriend to bring over the car, and finishing the job tout suite.

Lastly, my cat must be spayed.  Due to the extreme cost of moving, this will have to wait another month.  Awesome.

But honestly, I wouldn't change a thing.
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