Today, I went out into the street with an elegant dress and no sweater. For the first time in my life here in Morocco, even though I was walking through the streets alone with a sleeveless dress, I didn’t feel afraid that anyone would touch me or talk to me. I went to the corner where no women walk, where cafes have lots of jobless men, and even though men turned their heads to look at me, they never spoke. It was on a Saturday when I should have been at home on shabbat, but my friend just had a baby and I went to the hospital. I wore a beaded white pearl necklace and a black dress with a lace top and a string belt. Large black sunglasses and a smile.
I hauled a cab and headed off from the men’s turning heads. I got home and laid down and elevated.
So much to say about where I have been in the last few days.On a work trip to Rabat I went in without an appointment into the branch of government that deals with journalistic permission and grants foreign press the right to work here. It’s the same branch that shut Al Jazeera down after years of them reporting on prostitution and wittingly or unwittingly spreading a very charged image of Morocco in the Middle East. So they threw them out. The place I work is a news agency that focuses on Jewish news, so I sat down at the table of a beautiful older woman with an intelligent peaceful feminist mentality and told her what we do and what we want to do in Morocco. She said there was no problem with religion we could do what we wanted and we could even speak about hot topics. We had a full conversation in Moroccan and she applauded me for doing so. She described other foreign journalists freaking out in her office. She said to speak in the language of the people really connects you to everyone instantly. She and I became friends and she and I spoke about what we love about Morocco while acknowledging that people are not angels here by no means. However, Morocco is not Egypt.
She said the exact thing that had be bothering me over the last day. “There have been nearly 100 rapes in Tahrir Square in only a few days,” she said.We were both expressing pain and empathy for those women. “It doesn’t matter if they wear a scarf or if they are wearing a mini skirt, men have no right to touch.” I absolutely agreed. “We let our women protest here legally. And if there is an assault other Moroccans will and must come to her aide.” This I know to be true. Even in the case of the underage girl being forced to marry her rapist. People took to the streets to protest in a way that I don’t see happening in Egypt because they are terrorizing the girls from protesting with the real threat of rape.
We agreed on everything, even the attitude one needs to have with Ramadan. She said, “Oh if I didn’t do this for love I won’t fast in Ramadan. And no one should do it if they don’t mean it. It would be better for all of us if they ate and the ones of us who want to just do it. It’s hard the first few days but after you can find us laughing up in here.” In the all women filled offices of her floor where the real work gets done, she claims it happened like that not on purpose. I said, “It makes sense. It’s the women that work in this country.”
There was only one topic that it was understood that we couldn’t cover. Thankfully for me, it’s an issue I don’t have a problem with because in my view, Morocco is in the right on this.
I left feeling a relief especially also when I found out later that the channel is now on NileSat, the satellite of choice in the Middle East and North Africa, making it mainstream in the world now over here at least. The best thing about the trip to Rabat, aside from the tramway, was the representative at the Ministry. It was meeting my spiritual and political twin.
She wore a flowery scarf with her hair showing out from underneath and tied under her chin loosely, in the posture of “I am a married woman”. Or uninterested in being married. Which is different from the religious scarf, which is different from an extremist scarf, different from “I am working leave me alonel” scarf and the many other reasons that people wear their individual scarf. She was herself and if there were more like her the country would be beyond corruption.
I had barely made it into Rabat that early morning due to arriving well past midnight on the road from Bin El Widane. Bin El Widane means between lakes and it is an island surrounded by two lakes and the coast line which are sandy cliffs and mountains. The house was made from scratch. It was a party of wisdom and immaturity, water, lakes, pools, bunk beds, sunny heat and the most beautiful house and place I have ever seen in all of the 7 years in Morocco.
I was mistaken by an older 20 year old for being the same age.
When I announced I was 30 and a mother we all laughed. They didn’t believe me but I insisted that it was true. To my surprise it didn’t seem to detour any engagement.
They were all kids but each of them, and some more than others, had a wisdom or a genius and the conversations to my surprise were never boring. We spoke about movies, documentaries, styles, philosophies, religion, being a Jew here in Morocco, rap, NYC, shabbat, shalom, the Arab Spring, protest, drugs, the Oscars, skincare, maids, cooks, cleaners, gardeners, drivers and parents.
The kids were semi-privileged but they knew that and assumed that position but allowed for social consciousness too.
One of the kids was always there when I turned. I woke up to him sleeping on the floor near my couch and checked up on me often. Good kid and just 20, smart and funny with all the expected sexual tension of a man going through his virility peak years.