Lessons from Asilah, Morocco
In 1998, I was a foreign exchange student in Sevilla, Spain and decided to make the journey by boat to Morocco. The Spanish-American Institute for International Education, together with the American Embassy, put out a letter which stated "we have advised the students of the dangers of undertaking such a journey." They told us that due to political instability with Saddam Hussein and issues with the U.S., that we should not travel to the country and avoid interacting with Moroccans. At the time, my young, idealistic American self felt that not going, was not an option. So, when the first Moroccan I met on the train to offer me warm couscous and shelter from the horrible torrential rain, I accepted. I hopped off the train with him in Asilah, and descended onto a small maize of streets and into a stucco establishment. There I sat on a cushion, staring at a picture of Ali Baba and the forty thieves, and wondered if I'd made a mistake by going with this man. Hours of time slipped by as he spoke of politics and how the media portrays things to us in America, that aren't quite reality. After three hours of preparation, the couscous finally came; enough to feed a small village. I realized then that what this Moroccan man was after, was a lesson for me that at home in the U.S., the media doesn't have the same meaning when you look at situations on-the-ground in other cultures. For me, Asilah was a beautiful cultural lesson, I never knew it was such a beautiful place.