[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]elcome back to Wanderlusting, our guest author series in which we invite other intrepid travellers to share their most memorable travel moments.
This week I’m thrilled to introduce you to Talon and Tigger, 1 Dad and 1 kid on a quest to explore the world.
In this episode Talon talks about how travel has broadened his horizons and offered him the opportunity to take a step back and reconsider the world in which he lives. His piece serves to remind us that life is not always what it seems and our perceptions may not always be well informed.
So abandon all preconceived ideas of religion and respect and read on …
[divider] TRANSFORMED BY MOROCCO [/divider]
I’ve always been fairly open-minded when it comes to different cultures, even before I began slowly travelling the world with my young son just over 2 years ago. While living in the Caribbean for almost a year taught me how to slow down and relax more, I have to say Morocco gave me an even greater fondness for the simple life.
Morocco had always been a place I wanted to visit. It sounded so exotic. When we were offered the chance to do a house sit on an oasis in the southern region of this north African country, I absolutely couldn’t resist.
My son Tigger was game, so that made it easier.
We travelled slowly through Morocco by train and bus until we made it to the small town of Guelmim. The oasis was 15 km from there. Tigger had expected to see miles and miles of sand dunes, but the area reminded me of the Mojave Desert in the US.
[divider] LIVING LIKE A LOCAL [/divider]
Image | The Grand Taxi
Every morning began with the sound of our rooster greeting the sun shortly before the call to prayer rang out from the nearby mosque. Our dog occasionally barked at something from his spot on the roof, and we could hear a neighbour’s donkey braying. The day rarely offered any other noises than these.
A couple of times a week, we would pile into a stuffed shared taxi or board the even more crowded local mini bus to head into town. We were always the only non-Moroccans and were, thus, quite the curiosity.
Women were particularly interested in observing us because my son and I are quite affectionate and playful whereas it is not common to see a father playing with his child in his public. Especially not on the bus. And we never saw a parent tickling their child. The ladies would openly laugh at us and chatter with each other in the local dialect.
While going into town to get groceries could be a tiring endeavour, I often really enjoyed it. This is where I got to have a slice of local life.
[divider] A RENEWED UNDERSTANDING [/divider]
Image | Local Vendors Selling Their Produce
It was always a half-day enterprise that included waiting time for a taxi or bus to leave the oasis as well as for the return trip. Supermarkets don’t carry fresh foods. This is where you go for sundries, pasta, and things of that nature. Produce is obtained from the local vendors, meat from the butchers, chicken from the poulterer, and bread was bought from a guy selling from his cart.
We would alternate breakfast and lunch at our favourite places on each trip, and the owner of the chicken restaurant knew us by name. I knew we had become a small part of the community when Tigger had inadvertently left a small toy behind, and the owner remembered when he saw us a couple of weeks later.
One of the things I consistently dealt with in Morocco was my distaste for how women were expected to cover up. While it is considered optional in this Muslim country, most women outside of large cities cover everything but their face. I always felt it was such a misogynistic practice.
One day we were having a discussion with the handyman. I was seething as he told me how women are required to see a doctor and get their virginity certified before they can marry. Some women scrimp and save to have surgery that will make them appear to be a virgin when they are examined.
[divider] JUDGE NOT LEAST YOU BE JUDGED [/divider]
Credit | fotopedia CC See Wah
When our conversation shifted to his experiences in Europe, I was forced to look at my feelings again. He was saddened by how disrespectfully women are treated in Europe. He seems them being objectified and sexualized.
I was instantly reminded of a discussion I had with the Swedish owners of the house we were caring for where she said that men in businesses treat her with far greater respect than when she is in Spain. There she is ignored as “a dumb woman,” but in Morocco she is listened to and treated with respect.
Later I spoke with a French woman who had travelled the world and later converted to Islam and settled down in the oasis because “Islam was the only religion that treated me with respect.”
It was a discussion that has stayed with me for close to a year. After this talk, I viewed the covered women with a different eye.
While I still wrestle with how some Muslim women are treated, I am forced to look at my native culture’s treatment as well. Western and European culture certainly has its own blemishes in that regard.
This is what I love about travel, and these experiences are what keep me moving from place to place, culture to culture.
When we leave ourselves open to be taught, the world readily provides the lessons. Travel has the power to transform. Not only us, but the world.
If we’ll let it.
[divider]✈ ✈ ✈[/divider]
Has travel opened your eyes to a new perspective, made you reconsider or changed your view of the world? Share your comments with me below.