Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Morocco and The Middle East

over 10 years ago, I remember when I wanted to go on a service trip to other parts of the world and Morocco was one of my main choices. My father was adamant about me going anywhere but there. I could go to Brazil or India, but not Morocco. Why? Because ignorant people associated it with the middle east and terrorism or because the cous cous might make me gain even more weight? I let it drop and let my dear father remain with his own thoughts. But I, myself, the cultural lover, could not understand where his prejudices came from.

A few months later I met a Moroccan man who invited me, as a guest, to his country of Morocco. I was thrilled to go! But I had to get past the dragon of my father first. So I sat him down for lunch and talked to him about all the money I have been earning and how I want to go on a trip. Now I can go anywhere I want if I pay for it, correct? He said, well honey, you are a grown woman I can not stop you from making you own decisions with your own money. As long as you would be safem you can ho where you want. Then I said, great dad! I am leaving for Morocco next week! What? He screamed. I explained the situation to him and he talked on the phone with Mr. K and all was set in motion for my first trip to the east.

Every fear of middle eastern terrorists was wrong. It is not in the middle east. It is N Africa. Morocco has its completely own system, cusine, language and history unlike any place…….oh Morocco

But I noticed that many people feared the prejudices of others. They hated being categorized as the Middle East and they loved distinguishing themselves from other N African countries surrounding them. The Moroccan’s knew there history and are so proud of where they come from, what they have been through and what they have created. Since they were not inhabited by the Ottoman Empire, their cuisine is not the traditional dishes of the middle east and their Arabic is mixed with French and different cultural slang....its so beautiful and unique.

The people are darker but a deep clay color with big beautiful, piercing eyes and their music comes from the Gods; both the Jewish interpretation and Sunni. I left Morrocco with a feeling of piece with in my heart. A beautiful and mystical country with roots that go far beyond any land I have yet to step on.

Luckily I was on my way to Eygypt, so my feet soon touched even more ancient land. People had many predjudices about Egypt but not as many as the upper part of the middle east. But to tell you the truth, I felt the least safe in Egypt then I did an any other arab country. The loudness of the cars and the the heavy pollution and suffocating looks of the men and desperate looks of the people consumed the long nights along the nile and the walks along the pyramids. Egypt seems to have forgotten their roots of divinity and are selling out the Saudi crowd of mass consumption and forced Islamic traditions. But as a first time observer and a young woman from Oklahoma, what do I know? I just walked the streets with an open mind and heart and left the country knowing more then when I came. At least I was in good company.

     But when I stepped foot into the land of Lebanon, everything changed. It was not an easy process getting there. The predjucies and stereotypical fears that laced my journey were not comforting nor inspiring to my soul. Everyone from my father and mother to the bartender at the Drake Hotel in Chicago…when they found out where I was going all they could say was, "Have you seen , 'Not with out my Daghter'? "Yes" I snipped back, I am very well aware of the Oscar winning performance Sally Field put on! But look how they treat their women and the car bombs….your parents are letting you go?

My parents, once again, had no choice because I already made my decision and I already swiped my credit card for the ticket. I consulted many of my middle eastern friends about the safety and they assured me all will be fine. There was a stand still in the elections of the Lebanese president so the country was being run byt the army, but as my Lebanese friend said, “when all is silent in Lebanon, that is the time to worry. There will always be something going on, so go over there and just watch your back but enjoy the beauties of that amazing country”. And that is exactly what I did.

To prove predjucies wrong, you have to go through the valley of fear and come back stonger and more alive then when you came! We have to listen to peoples fears and worries so that we can understand the root of their confusion and bring them back a gift from the holy land of experience that has turned into wisdom. CNN can not give you wisdom, Michael More can not give you wisdom…talk to the taxi cab drivers from Pakistan,  now they have some wisdom!  Go to the people from that country and ask their opinion. Then compare if their fears are similar to yours, if so, then you can keep your fears but you can not own them yet...not until you touch the earth of that land, or at least the hand of someone from that land.
 And I assure you, after spending a week in the country of people whom you fear, you will come back with more stories of generocity, survival and humor then tears!

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