Monday, May 18, 2009

Morocco – An Insider’s Perspective of a Moroccan Family

Today, we were fortunate to have Hammadi give us a different perspective of Morocco. First, he took us to his adventure camp, a fairly rural piece of land in M’Hamid owned by his family, which he is in the very early stages of development into a base for adventure travelers. We had tea in his “restaurant”, a large Bedouin-style tent with Berber carpets and pillows and then headed back to Zagoura, where Hammadi’s family lives. His family lives quite well by Moroccan standards – his father was a successful figure in the Moroccan army and owns land in many parts of the country. As is custom here, the parents provide what they can and then their children are expected to take over and bring in income to support the extended family, which can often be quite large. Often, only one or two family members will bring in income to support everyone. Hammadi’s home was located on a quiet side street that looked fairly plain from the outside, but was extremely large and modern on the inside with an unbelievably large number of “sitting rooms” for hosting of guests. Their backyard resembled a small farming complex nestled in a grove of palm trees, with animals, gardens and terraces. We met his sister and many of his cousins and nieces. Per Moroccan custom, we brought “white gifts” for the house - milk, salt, bread and sugar – symbolizing purity and good luck. We were then seated on pillows in one of the main rooms for an amazing couscous lunch - with carrots, onions, eggplant, zuchinni and roasted goat from the backyard. Traditionally when his father is home, the men would eat in a different room from the women. However, since he was away that day, we all ate together in the same room - although Hammadi, his cousin the boys and I ate at a separate table and were served first. It felt strange to be eating while Casey and Suzanne were staring at us hungrily! Hammadi was kind enough to give us utensils for eating, although traditionally, Moroccans eat with their right hand (the left hand is considered unsanitary). His sister showed Suzanne and Casey how to roll balls of couscous, but it seemed quite messy and none of us bothered to try. It was simply a struggle to remember to not touch food with my left hand – particularly since I am left-handed! After a desert of homemade cookies and fresh fruit followed by a mint tea, the women presented Suzanne with a pretty hand-made bracelet and necklace, and Casey exchanged coloring books with Hammadi’s niece, Delel, who is also 5 years old. While at times it was a struggle to communicate given our inability to speak each other’s language, overall it was an amazing gesture of hospitality and gave us unique insight into daily Moroccan family life.

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