Walking down the dusty tail in Casablanca, Morocco, I tightened my grip on my camera and darted my eyes around nervously. There was no real reason for me to be so cautious… I was just paranoid.
I’d been told by Semester at Sea representatives at our pre-port meeting (the mandatory meeting we had before debarking from the ship) all of the dangers that would await me in this foreign country. The men in the country would be aggressive. I should cover up. I should be with at least three men I trusted at all times. I should never travel alone. I would most likely be robbed. I should be cautious of being led down mysterious alleys by friendly seeming locals and taken advantage over. They didn’t like Americans. The country was poor. I shouldn’t bring my camera. Even my photography teacher (who fearlessly photographed everything) said he wouldn’t blame us if we were too afraid to take it.
Their speech made me nervous. It made me afraid of Morocco and the people that lived there.
I brought my camera. I held fast to it. It took me awhile to smile at others. But, once I did I couldn’t stop. And then I started to talk and ask questions. People stopped what they were doing and answered me. We talked and talked about all kinds of things– the weather, politics, religion, family, education– everything. And for hours.
I hopped on a train and traveled to Marrakech. People offered me tea, led me into their homes, cooked meals for me and showed me their lives. I took pictures. Lots of pictures. No one tried to steal my camera, they just smiled and posed.
Men didn’t harass me in the streets, instead they complimented the color of my dress and my hijab. When I traveled without a man, shop keepers looked out for me, told me which paths to take and walked me home. Whenever I felt nervous around someone, “No.” was something that they respected.
I learned that people were people. No matter their country, no matter their religion, people are still people.
I made friends. Ali and Hussein. We spoke for hours over Mint Tea and Couscous. Before I left, Ali told me something that would stick with me forever “This is what I want people who visit my country to understand; there are good people and bad people everywhere. There are not only good people in America, there are not only bad people in Morocco. I want you to remember that when you travel. Be cautious, but not too cautious. Be trusting, but not too trusting. Be open-minded, but pay attention”. I nodded slowly, shocked by the truth and depth of his words. “Now hand me your camera so I can take a nice tourist picture of you.”
Walking down the dusty tail in Casablanca, Morocco, I snapped a picture and promised to return.
Story by 2nd year student and HoosNetwork intern, Debbie Mosley.
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