Loving and Leaving Morocco

“Inshallah!”…Wait, Does That Mean Never?

Just two weeks ago, I packed up all of my earthly possessions and moved lock, stock, and barrel halfway across the globe. Okay, no. I packed up two bags, two carry-ons, and sold or donated the rest. Airlines these days are not particularly on board with the whole “But I need more luggage, this is a FOREVER move!” concept.

When we talk about moving halfway across the globe, we always picture far off lands, exotic environments, and lots of adventure. Though this is true, in my case the adventure is coming home. I have spent the last few years living in Morocco, and now it was finally time to return to the exoticness that is Washington State.

Morocco—the very word breathes adventure and mystery. Desert landscapes, camel caravans, and towering mounds of spices. Each time I visit home, people have asked me if it is dangerous, if there is unrest all over the place, and “Is it in any way more liberal than Saudi Arabia?” (Practically anywhere is more liberal than Saudi Arabia.)

I have come to realize that there are a lot of misconceptions about this beautiful country, which is a pity given that it is such a wonderful place.

Though there are magnificent desert landscapes in Morocco, there are also towering mountains—Mt. Toubkal is the highest mountain peak of the Atlas Mountains; there are forests and beaches, and even a town that closely resembles an Alpine village. There are also rustic Berber villages, and a brisk tourist trade that includes camel rides and “caravans” out to the desert…though in most instances, trucks have replaced camels in everyday life.

Life in Morocco—in my case, Rabat, the capital city—is a pretty calm affair. Though North Africa has seen an increase in tension and instability in the last few years, Morocco remains a peaceful and stable environment. In so many ways, life in Morocco is like life anywhere else; you go to work, you hang out with friends, you go shopping (mainly French brands), you go out to dinner, you go home. It is only when you’re driving around that you notice the old, faded walls that surround the ancient city, or when you go down to the marina and walk through the old kasbah that you are really struck with how different this is from everything you knew back home. Not to mention the hours spent haggling with the sellers in the old “medina”—the inner city and old market place where you can find anything from the newest iPad and Android releases to handmade carpets and traditional ornaments.

via Unsplash

Moroccans are a very expressive people. In fact, they are so expressive that I have become much more self-assured and confident since moving there, if only to hold my own against everyone else. Certain phrases are heard so often that they soon become part of your own personal lexicon, regardless of your background or religious preferences. One of my favorites is “Hamdoullah,” which means “thanks be to God” (i.e. you have been wandering the city late at night for forty minutes looking for an open restaurant, and you finally hear a friend shout out “This one’s open!”—logical response? A very heartfelt “Hamdoullah!”) There is also “Inshallah” which means “if God wills it.” Most westerners feel that this is the Moroccan way of saying “Never gonna happen,” and when I first arrived I thought the same. But with time and experience I realized that this is often a sincere way of saying, “I will do my best to make sure this gets done, and only God willing it otherwise (unexpected circumstances), will prevent me from doing so.” Of course, there were times when my friends, knowing the Western perception of this word, would look at me with a smile and in joking tones state “Inshallah” just to scare me into thinking they weren’t going to do what I had requested of them.

Additionally, Moroccan food is to die for. Those mounds of spices most people envision when they think of Morocco really do exist, and they help to serve some of the most delicious dishes I have ever tasted. There is couscous, which is served with vegetables and meat heaped on top, as well as tagine—a blend of sauce, meat, and vegetables, slow-cooked for a couple of hours and capable of convincing you that there is a paradise on earth. And I mustn’t forget brochettes—skewers of barbecued meat which you can eat plain or dipped in spices. All followed by endless glasses of sweet, minty tea to wash it all down.

Coming back from Morocco, I sacrificed space in my two suitcases to ensure I carried a tea-serving tray, all my tea glasses, and my tagine pot (made out of clay, and conically shaped) back with me, as I now find myself incapable of living without these elements in my life.

Ten years ago, I had the experience of wandering Morocco as a tourist. Now, I have complemented that with a few years of experiencing Morocco as a permanent resident. I was well-known at my grocery stand, by my butcher, and even in the various restaurants I frequented. Rabat is not very big, and I am a creature of habit. Though my experiences were not always positive, the fact remains that I am, and will continue to be, in love with this country. When my friends and coworkers all asked me if I was ever coming back again, I gave them a big smile and assured them, “Oh definitely! Inshallah.”

About the author
Soleil Muñiz is fascinated by travel, and has lived in various countries including France, India, Jordan, and Morocco. She plans to continue wandering the world until she finds a place where she can happily settle in forever.

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