An American in Morocco – Africa

Arriving in Morocco, I am greeted with strange smells and somewhat familiar sounds, but no luggage! The murmur of cars and horns connects me with New York City; the grunts and chants of Arabic with Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon. Everything else, though, is completely new, except for my clothes. I will continue to wear the same outfit for the next three days.

When we come into Morocco, we are whisked away to the governor's where they serve us a feast at 9:00 a.m.; late afternoon for me. The governor takes us around the city on a private tour. I wrap my head in a hijab, as we enter the most famous and second largest mosque in the world – Hassan II. For my first time visiting a mosque, I felt quite at home. It was similar to a Catholic Church except for the rituals of absolution. Muslims wash themselves to purify and clean the body before they pray. Men are on the bottom; women up top so there is no distraction to God.

Women are considered sacred here. Even though the majority of them are dressed head to toe in veils, their veils are a symbol of religion, fashion and respect. Like the exterior of the homes in Morocco, women are covered and inauspicious from the outside, but exquisite and sacred from within. All of this was new to me; I was curious about everything.

I wanted to know about the Islam rules regarding sex. I asked the guide if he would answer some questions. He shook his head, yes. Are Muslims allowed to masturbate? He blushed, the governor laughed, the scientist joined him and Mr. K. stood still in silence. "No," the guide said hesitantly. "Of course, when the child is young he will go through a phase of "self exploration". " Now I know, thank you, so what is this room for?", I said quickly to distract their shock and attention.

From there we visit bookstores and olive vendors, stopping later at an exotic restaurant to feast on fresh fish. Then on to Ourzazet; a desert town south in the Sahara. Arriving late at night, I climb into bed.

Up again at 8:00, I arise to the sun shinning in my eyes. On our way out of town, two police officers stop us for speeding. While Mr. K. is looking for his car registration, an old woman calls out to the officers to come eat. Not a minute later, the police and Mr. K. are slapping each other on the back, smiling as they walk to our car. One of the men gets the couscous. I come out of the car to take photos of the officer and the old woman. The officer yells for me to stop taking photos. He then offers us the couscous and asks me to take a picture of them and me. I have a picture not of them, but with them. Neat.

Back at the inn, I am given a hamam – a Moroccan scrub and steam bath. Relaxed and clean, I am presented with a magnificent Moroccan dress, equivalent to a moo moo with gold rhinestones.

I come into Tangier as the sun is setting, shadowing the Mediterranean and Atlantic. The city streets are stacked on top of each other, like the south of France. I go to a woman's shelter where battered women work in a spa and restaurant; proceeds of their sales go to improving their lives. I do the works: a massage, facial and food – all for charity.

Later that night we dine in a fabulous French restaurant. After some wine, I sing, first in Arabic, then in French to the applause of the chefs, waiters and patrons. Walking back to my room, I am glad I came and sad I am leaving.

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