When I ask people who come on the retreats if they were warned against travelling in Morocco by their friends and family, almost every hand goes up. They are warned about the evils of terrorism, often accompanied by a lecture about how ‘evil’ Islam is, and presumably more Muslims by extension.
Truthfully, some of the participants on the retreat are a bit spooked before they arrive and discover that Morocco is full of…Moroccans living their everyday lives, just like people live them back home; they work, go to market, take care of their families, have dreams, hopes and worries just like everyone else.
There’s some evidence that we’re hard-wired to be racist as we fear the unknown and strange, and Morocco certainly looks different than anywhere in Europe; people are loud, some women wear head scarves, some men wear long robes, the mosques emit a deafening call to prayer 5 times a day, it can be dry and dusty, and everyone speaks Arabic or Berber, languages that have little to do with any European tongues.
But what is travel for if not broadening your mind?
The public image of terrorists in the news have as much to do with everyday Muslims as the Ku Klux Khan does with Christians. People are generally just people everywhere you go. In fact, you might be surprised by the kindness and hospitality you can find in Morocco – how often do strangers in Europe invite you home to eat?
Sure, the culture is different and in the big cities those working with tourism can be pushy, sometimes insulting but they’re not representative of most Moroccans who welcome you to their country and won’t ask if you if you supported the invasion of Iraq…