jeudi 4 janvier 2018

A Sola Backpacker - Part VI

What stroked me the most is that most of the people I encountered were very friendly. You smile and they immediately smile back, that if they don't actually smile first. As far as I go, the urban features are getting simpler, or rather more 'primitive', if I may say. Less fancy houses, less fancy cafés, less schools, less entertainment areas, less health services, less "civilization". The more I walked, the more I felt content and at peace. The bigger that satisfaction, the bigger grew my excitement and drive and the more I felt hungry :D. 

I stopped by a restaurant. Ordered the easiest meal on the menu, I was starving. Meanwhile I started chitchating with one of the waiters. "First of all, he said, you are eventually in Tamraght." Then, he pointed out that there are not many hotels around and that the owner of the restaurant might arrange a room for me, given he own a small hostel. My guts said no. I told him that I wanted to book a room in a hostel but it was busy. He said that it should, given that it was surfing season and all hotels, hostels and apartments tend to be fully booked. 

A guy undoubtedly was ear dropping , as once the waiter left, he started a conversation with me regarding a place to rent. I let him make his offer: a bed in his little cottage down the beach, cheap, clean and safe; conveniences: no electricity, no private bathroom, no neighbors. No. So I looked for accommodation in Taghazout and luckily I found one. 

I enjoyed that little break and decided to keep going to reach Taghazout.

It was a bit difficult to carry on in the same pace as my stomach was full, so I took it slow. Along the way, there were lot of construction projects, so I passed by trucks, workers, and dust. One security guard advised me that if I want to reach Taghazout, there is a quick shortcut after about 10 min walk to my right, it'd take me down the beach. I asked him about the other main road, he said that it gets up to the mountain, circling the buildings at the bottom of the hill. 

As tired As I were, I opted for the shortcut, bearing in mind that there are touristic residents ashore and that it would be secure for me to walk along the beach even if it were deserted. To my surprise it was not. As I discovered later on, the said beach is only a 5 min walk from Taghazout.

I reached Taghazout around 5 PM. -ish. It was busy, lot of vans and caravans parked along the way; coffee shops oozing with tourists, lot of surfing boards and wet-suits.....

mercredi 27 décembre 2017

A Part-time Prostitute V

One evening I heard footsteps on the corridor, heels to be exact from two different pair and female voices. Well, my room was next the main door, so yeah I heard basically everything. Anyways, it was bit unusual given that only two people live in that flat, me and her. My parents don't have time to visit and her family never visited her, so I got curious.

The very next morning, I went to buy some supplies and the shopkeeper briefed me, of course
" - I heard that your flatmate has visitors?
- Really? I don't know.
- Yes, I saw them yesterday around 8, all high-heeled and with hug suitcases.
- Aha.
- I can't hide it but they look suspicious.
- Aha. Are you done?
- Yes, I mean it is not my business, but you see we live in this conservative neighborhood with families and stuff. It is just those girls are suspicious."

I bit my tongue to stop me from asking him about the girls he keeps bringing to his apartment every night. Because guess what, he lives in the apartment upstairs. I bit my tongue to stop myself from busting him. Because guess what, I saw him tiptoeing one upstairs. Whatever!

I had quite a busy week. I didn't get the chance to meet with the visitors nor chitchat with my flatmate. By Saturday, she came knocking on my door around 9 in the evening, and inviting me to her room to introduce me to her friends. I wanted to refuse but well, I went. 

Two girls, one my age and another younger, smoking like chimney. Fake nails, hair-extension, lowest V-necks ever and jeans about to bust open. The girl my age was white, with vision glasses, black hair and cute smile. The other one, dark-skinned with a hoarse voice, long tie dye black and light-brown hair, rather pretty and appeared to be rude. We greeted each other and conversation flowed. The dark skinned happened to be my flatmate's bartender friend's daughter  and the other girl is her friend; both are living in Turkey and coming to Morocco for vacation; both working in bars as waitresses. That explains a lot. They summoned me to inform me that one of the most famous nightclubs in Tangier sent them an offer and they needed company: one free liquor bottle of their choice for a bunch of 5 girls. Three of them, me and some other girl we should find/invite asap. 

I just phased out from the conversation, making a mental list of the reasons I won't join them. 

1. I have mid-terms to study for and two presentations to prepare;
2. I don't drink/smoke;
3. I am broke;
4. I have nothing to wear (that's gonna be a lame reason, bearing in mind the amount of clothes scattered over that room, on the sofas, on top of the suitcases, on the floor...
5. my hair is a mess;
6. I don't have any other female friend into clubbing.

So I opted for excuse 1 and 6. They hated me for that but well. 

I stayed for a cup of tea and it was really interesting. The way they interacted with each other was strange to me. They acted like sisters and enemies. My first impression was proved. The girl with the glasses, with her naive features and petite physique, is the actual brains. The rude-appearing one was actually sweet but her appearance would made it hard to appreciate her for herself. They started talking about guys, cheating, sugar daddies and a lot of concepts I never heard of until then. And of course, they made fun of my non-drinking non-smoking character.

vendredi 8 décembre 2017

Morocco, Moroccans and Sub-Saharan Illegal Immigrants

Once again, the issue of the Sub-Saharan immigrants resurfaces. Moroccan society is truly and literally divided over this issue, especially after a clash between Moroccans and illegal immigrants in Casablanca a couple of days ago. Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, Safi, Essaouira and other Moroccan cities have known a significant flux of illegal immigrants from countries down South, along with Syrians refugees. Those aim at crossing the borders to Ceuta or Melilla or reaching the greener side, Europe. Some are still waiting for the so-longed for opportunity to cross or reach; some have reached the greener side, got caught and were repatriated while others, unfortunately, died trying.
©Mathiew Willcocks, World Press Photo
A significant number of Moroccans think that the government and the authorities should repatriate any individual from African Countries, as they are not welcome into Morocco due to their behaviors, difference or simply race that tarnish the image of Morocco worldwide. Their argument is that many of those illegal immigrants stuck in Morocco are working as drugs dealers, beggars, pickpockets or running prostitution networks. "We don't want those “Aawaza” (blacks) in our country", one old woman said in taxi conversation, "I fear that there will come a day when they would colonize us and claim our lands as theirs. What would happen then to us and to our children". "Look around us, 'Africans' are everywhere", added the taxi driver, "they don't do us any good, and after the King's order to regulate their situation and to issue residence permits to them, they will be empowered more than they already are".

Such un-educated opinions are a combo of racial, religion and other differences mainly. "They don't respect us, neither respect our religion, culture and traditions", said one Facebook comment, "you know why that incident happened (in reference to the clash between Moroccans and illegal immigrants), it happened because one or many of them harassed one Moroccan girl in the street and two Moroccans interfered to help her; the harassers got backup and the girl called backup, her family and neighbors, and things got out of hands urging police intervention". "The government is to blame. When they saw Euros, they agreed to take those immigrants blindly without considering the aftermaths. We don’t know who they are, they might be rapists, criminals, or killers escaping justice." One comment in a Moroccan online newspaper stated. Some go as far as refusing to rent houses to 'Africans', simply because they are 'Africans or because they are 'loud', 'dirty' and tend to overcrowd the houses.
On the other hand, aside from any racial or biased prejudices, many citizens think that Morocco has its hands full with the current interior conditions. “As much as we want to welcome our brothers and sisters into our country, as much as we fear that with the increase of unemployment and illiteracy, difficulties facing the educational system, stumbling heath institutions, and the like, the country would fail both of us ”, stated a comment on Facebook.” As a matter of fact, Morocco is bound by many partnership and cooperation agreements with European countries, mainly Portugal, Spain, France and Italy regarding illegal immigrants coming from Morocco and other African countries. In fact, most of these agreements appoint Morocco as a border "guard" to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into Europe and to abort any attempts to reach the other bank by fighting against illegal immigration mafias.
©Sergi Camara - The Guardian
Such mission forces Morocco, its government authorities and security services to deplore plenty of its resources to ensure the "guarding" mission. In addition, depending on each agreement, Morocco is not only expected to guard the borders but also to receive and welcome the repatriated immigrants into its territory, not only Moroccans, but also immigrants from other African countries and ensure their rights and reintegration. That alone will take all Morocco's focus, concentration and resources, as NGO's, Human Rights organizations, and binding treaties and agreements are regularly supervising and monitoring the situation.

European aids and funds to carry such "guarding" mission only are not sufficient. Such issue needs strategies and methods that Morocco is not capable of making. Take Germany and other European "developed" countries for example, they have had their hands full when managing the flux of refugees; Then what would Morocco, a country under development, do? As a result of the lack of such strategic and well-built approaches ensuring a suitable life for those immigrants, many citizens strongly recommend that Morocco itself should repatriate the immigrants to their home countries for public benefit.
Credits: Fondation Orient - Occident[
It is not like there are not any illegal Moroccan immigrants in Europe or elsewhere - or at least Moroccans who used to be illegal immigrants before the regulation of their situations. In this regard, I share with many the belief that society, associations and individuals should take part in the reintegration of those illegal immigrants, through organizing events to introduce the Moroccan culture, traditions and lifestyle, to establish mutual understanding of each other’s differences and to help improve the lives of those immigrants, interacting with them without prejudices and treating them right, after all, notwithstanding color, language, faith or status, they are human beings.

Foundation Occident Orient is a great illustration of such reintegration. It provides assistance and help to immigrants and refugees. It provides a platform for those immigrants to reintegrate society and to meet with, discover and exchange with Moroccans. Another example of this integration is the African Cultural Center in Rabat that promotes African culture in Morocco and the exchange between Moroccans, Sub-Saharan immigrants and non-Moroccans residents through organizing cultural days, souks (markets), art exhibitions and so forth.

I personally have come across many immigrants who integrated the Moroccan society. Some have earned their residence permits, found jobs, married Moroccans or brought their wives from home, even learnt Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and started a living in Morocco either by working as musicians, dance teachers, sellers, journeymen, beauticians, laborers and sadly beggars; some are still waiting for the regulation of their status while others, unfortunately, are still pursuing the dream to reach the other side.
©Walid Bendra, Instagram

If you visit the Twin Center, you will find beauty shops owned by non-Moroccan Africans. If you go to Bab Chellah in Rabat, or Rue Rabat in Safi, you will witness with your own eyes the interactions between Moroccans and non-Moroccans. My Shea butter supplier is a Senegalese. My sister's hairdresser is Congolese. And I even learnt the "tchiiip" from an Ivorian beautician.

In sum, I agree with the worries of Moroccans regarding public safety. I believe that Morocco and other African countries should bind their efforts to manage this issue, especially now that Morocco reclaimed its seat back in the African Union. And If Europe appointed Morocco to do the dirty work in exchange of funds and aids, other African countries need to lend a helping hand to find solution, be it the governments or NGOs. Immigrants, legal or illegal, repatriated or stuck in Morocco are human beings who left their home countries escaping wars and hardships looking forward to better life conditions. They need assistance and help. They need to enjoy their rights as human beings as well as assume duties. They not only need to obtain legal status but also need to have access to social security, to education, and to health care. Morocco, unfortunately, cannot achieve such accomplishments alone.

mercredi 15 novembre 2017

A Part-time Prostitute IV

"I think I am in love!", she said one evening. Dreamy shining eyes, silly smile on her lips and a cigarette between her chubby fingers. "I think am in love, girl. No, I am in love".

Oh no! 
"But wait, lemme open the window, I don't want my hair to stink."

"Do you remember the guy I told you about once. The high school teacher that I met in the bar where my friend works back in Meknes? The guy I ignored most of that evening? I remember telling you about him.

It turned out that he really liked me that evening and later on, he requested my phone number from my friend and started calling me. I didn't think about him seriously, neither liked him back then; He is not my type and younger than me."

"Then what changed?"

"I don't know, it just happened. When you were away for the holidays, I got really lonely. We talked a lot, day and night, and he grew on me. We have lot in common. We, both, are away from our family. We, both, bore responsibility at early age. We both are single obviously. So yeah! 

"So he is living in Meknes?

"No, his family is in Meknes but his work is located in Taounate, so he only visits his family during holidays or given weekends. So we hit it off. Talking over the phone and texting. Here, let me show you his picture.

Me: "humm he doesn't look his age!"

"No. So when you were away for the holiday. We decided to meet in Meknes. So it happened. We met at the same bar, drunk together and chitchatted and agreed to meet again. When he knew that I love red wine, he ordered a whole bottle. He invited me to visit him in place and I agreed."

Me: "So you are going all the way to visit him?"

"Yes, it's an opportunity to meet him outside, you know, to get to know him better."

"Your work?"

"I'll take Friday and Saturday morning"

"Ok then, be save"
What to tell her? The woman already made up her mind, her bag was already packed.


Knocking on my door, still carrying her bag, just got back from her trip. 

"Giiiiirl, come, come I got plenty to tell you! And I brought nougat! I know it's your weakness.

This weekend. It was the best of my life. It was just peeeeeeeeerfect!

So, when I arrived to Taounate, I found him waiting for me at the taxi station and everything. We headed home. It was dark. Nobody saw us, I think. Anyways, when we got in, the lights were on. And guess what? He prepared dinner and bought wine. RED WINE, my fav. Can you believe it?, he remembered. 

jeudi 19 octobre 2017

When I look back at my teens, I empathize with the little me.

It all began when I started noticing the differences between me, my family and the outer world. My mother is white, my father is black, both from the South of Morocco, with African features. So, I grew up surrounded by family members that I resemble: dark skin, nappy curly hair, long fingers…
Thanks to my grandfather (blessed be his soul), with whom I spent most of my childhood, I learnt to appreciate his skin tone and mine as well. I grew fond of his skin that shone as if it was highly-polished.

I was full of myself, my perfectly curly hair and doll-like figure. At early age, I had never really understood the weight of difference between myself and my Caucasian classmates and friends. For me, skin color was a feature just like an eye, or a leg, or a mouth, just a thing that anyone has, a part of who we are.

During my teen, and with the overwhelming urge to fit into the surrounding, I started comparing myself to others. Mainly comparing my gravity-defying curls to those silky hair strands of my classmates and of the characters in cartoons and later on, to those of the women in TV commercials and movies. To be honest, my blackness never ever created any issue but my hair did.
My 4A-type natural hair used to reach my lower back. At first, my mother took good care of it: applying natural masks, Henna treatment and other natural grandmother-to-daughter recipes. My aunt used to braid it for me. My favorite hairstyle was cornrow braids. One of my primary school teachers used to make fun of my hairstyle. At first, it was a joke I enjoyed along with my classmates as he used to compare the braid rows to roads and used to give each row a direction.

This is the road to Marrakesh, that the highway to Tangier, this to Casablanca and this takes you downtown”, he used to say while finger tracing the spaces between the rows. I used to laugh. But that road nomination comparison game repeated itself every single time I put corn braids, which was often. Why is it always me? I used to wonder. Other girls used to wear their hair in two-section buns or French braids. And never ever did he point that out. Why me?
By the age of 15, I had to start taking care of my own hair. The products available in the Moroccan markets back then were not suitable for natural hair . Nothing seemed to help me smooth the frizz, comb and untangle and style my natural hair; No thing seemed to help me cope and shield myself from the constant remarks about my hair.
My aunt stopped braiding it for me. My own mother had been relaxing her hair since God knows when and wore it short. My cousins had silky hair. My younger sister had silky hair as well. I was the only one in almost all my classes with curly hair. I always stood out whereas I was trying to fit in.

Then, people offered me advice, to which I carefully listened: how relaxing my hair would make me fit in and make me look 'normal', even girly-er and more beautiful, and would help me manage all that hair. I urged my mother to relax my hair, which she did. I relaxed those gravity-defying, natural, frizzy hairs.
Guess what? Even with relaxed hair I just could not fit in. I used to relax my hair every 6–9 months for about 5 years, if I remember well. My hair became so damaged that nothing I do help: breakage, heat damage, hair loss, you name it. I had enough. I stopped by the time I finished high school and resumed university.

By then, I grew tired of all those burdens and decided to drop them and live. I don’t fit in, so what? I don’t have to fit in to live, to study, and to build a career and a future. I no longer knew how to take care of my damaged hair, neither how to style it, so what? I’ll just moisturize it and wear it in a bun. After a while, I just had enough. I started doing research to better understand how to deal with my hair. I learnt about the famous “big chop”, about transitioning, natural hair types, hair loss and damage solution and so on and so forth.

It took almost 4 years to grow my hair back, a much healthier natural hair. I regained my curls and my pride, to be honest. How? Alienation. I had to live in another city to pursue my studies. I was a foreigner and knew almost no one. That alienation made me reach many conclusions, most important of which were self-love. I big-chopped during that period.

Went from mid-back long damaged hair to a five-year-old-Micheal-Jackson Afro. That big chop was more than cutting damaged hair, it was also cutting through those self demeaning tendencies. It was cutting deep into those built-up prejudices that I took over from what people labelled me by. It was cutting deep into myself.

That Afro made me befriend lots of natural hair buddies, made. That standing out I always hated during my childhood became my strongest asset. During those 3 years, I read and read and read about self-acknowledgement, self-esteem, and self-knowledge, embracing the self, and owning the difference; about the struggle to overcome that yearning to fit in. I watched loads of videos, Tedx talks, comedy shows with Africans, African-Americans and black communities, with people that look like me, with Afro heads, natural, nappy, kinky, and curly hair. I found the representation I always needed. I will be the representation many girls need.

NB. I don't own the art works.