My weekend in Tangier!
This was our class’s first completely free weekend, so myself and a group of friends decided to head north to Tangier. Finding our hotel the first night was pretty stressful because it was located in the maze of the medina, but after we found it everything else went swimmingly. We decided to go to the beach the next morning, and it felt so great to just relax! The beach was absolutely amazing, it was fantastic to be able to lay out, enjoy the water, and read a book. It was interesting to see how many more men there were than women, and the few women that were there were dressed in a wide range of attire, from a full veiling to swimsuits. It’ s actually a trend that a friend of mine pointed out that in any public place there are usually many more men than women, and I suppose that may just be a part of the modesty aspect of the culture and what the woman’s place is in that. I didn’t feel awkward at all though being in a bikini, and it was great for once to not feel out of place or like I was being stared since I really can’t blend in anywhere.
The call to prayer woke me up at four each morning this weekend. It was kind of hard to appreciate at the time, but it really was SO pretty. I think the imams are better at singing there than they are in Ifrane, because that was the prettiest call I had heard yet in my time here. The influence of religion in society continues to stun me. I can’t imagine living in an America with so many devout Christians. Of course, there are people all across the board here in terms of being devout and not very serious about their religion, just like you find everywhere. However, it still feels different here, like the amount of devout Muslims is higher here than, say, devout Christians in the US, and that they devout Muslims are generally more dedicated than devout Christians. Again, none of this is meant to be a judgement on any culture, it just seems like passion about religion is more common here. I’ll try to explore this topic more later.
I saw so many lots while on the train on the way there that had the beginning of a house built, meaning about a four foot high wall enclosing a sizable square. I just keep thinking about the book Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, which cites slowly building a house as a common form of investment for the global poor. I wonder if these sites are abandoned or not, because most of them usually have trash in them, but they may not be abandoned, they could just be a work in progress. One of the hardest parts of being here is knowing how much money my family has at home. In the US, whenever the topic of money comes up and whether or not you can work your way to being wealthy, I immediately think of my father. He had to work his way through college, and he has worked graveyard and swing shifts to climb his way up over the past 27 years, and he put in everything it takes to achieve the type of salary he has and the lifestyle he’s been able to provide my family with. But now, I’m here, and I see people who put everything into owning their small business, and you just know that this is going to be what the rest of their life looks like. It feels unfair, and I know life is not fair; it is rough and challenging and beautiful all at the same time, but it’s not fair. The book Poor Economics actually completely changed my perspective on things like this. It really is incredible hearing the local people talk from a different perspective than I had entertained before. At dinner Saturday night, one of the men running the guesthouse we stayed at mentioned how Westerners work all the time and just try to earn more and more money instead of making what they need to live and simply enjoying the rest of their life. I certainly see what he means by that, but I also think there is great merit in working hard and being able to have a comfortable lifestyle and retirement. Also, without myself and my parents working hard I wouldn’t be able to be here and learn about this culture and have these great conversations, so I think there are two credible sides to this argument. Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting a comfortable life, but I do see how there can be too much excess for one person. I think this is just a difference in what different people value.
Overall, Tangier was fantastic, even though I got a sunburn. Look for my next post on my weekend in Rabat!