Morocco gives new outlook

Aaron GonzalezAfter six hours in the air with the legendary uncomfortable seats I finally made it to Casablanca, Morocco on Jan. 17. First impressions are everything, and Morocco surprised me in many ways.

Coming from the snowy and tan-grass plains of Nebraska, it was a relief to see the deep-green fields and hills of the Maghreb.

Morocco is not like any country of the “Middle East”, but its own character and beauty. Arriving at the airport was a major contrast to those in the West. It looked like it hadn’t been modernized since the 1990s; you know you’re in a different country when you see cats playing around the baggage conveyor belt.

On the train from the airport to the city, I enjoyed the company of a charming lady in her 80s. She’d been traversing globe since the 1940s, and was going to spend four weeks alone in Morocco. I spent the night in a hotel close to the train station in Casablanca.

Though it was literally next to the station, it took me about ten minutes to get there as I had to wade through the beggars, taxi drivers, and “guides.” Next day I was off to see my friend and former CSC student, Younes Chiadmi, 21, of Kenitra. Spending time with Younes was a good introduction to real Moroccan life; Kenitra itself is not a destination city, and even Moroccans will say it’s pretty dull.

CIA World Factbook Map

A map of Morocco

The style architecture is nothing like one would think. Aside from the mosques, almost all buildings are built in a sort of plain, Soviet-era style. But seeing the inside of Younes’ house astounded me. Despite being a middle class dwelling, it looked like a mini Arabian palace, with tile floors, fluffy couches, and beautifully graced columns.

Yet at the same time, I was able to get the perspective of Moroccan about life in the country. It’s generally a given that King Mohammed VI was a great man, that Moroccan life is one of the most progressive in the Islamic world (there exists a great contempt of Saudi Arabia), and other things.

However, a great number of the youth, in fact, see things differently. To them, the etiolated monarchy is no longer an inspiration, but a roadblock to economic and personal liberty. The monarchy, despite recently allowing a new constitution in 2011, still holds much sway in economic and political decisions, with the King himself worth billions of dollars.

Younes offered me comparison between his father and his uncle. “My father used to be a professional soccer player, but the institution is corrupt, and instead of being shuffled around he quit to save his dignity. He’s been a police officer for the past 30 years now in the capital, Rabat.”

His uncle, on the otherhand, “He was able to go to the U.S. and get a Green Card. After only staying there five years he already has his own home, his own car, and a good job with people who appreciate his work. He achieved in America what it took my father much longer to do.”

Professionally in Morocco, one is rarely praised for any good work they do, unlike in America. This is true at work and school. One can never be too good at their job, as it may threaten the position of their superiors, because jobs are scarce enough.

In school, professors are not so much teachers as they are masters. The professors here are nothing like America. If a professor is late to class or bullies a student in America, he gets fired. But in Morocco this kind of conduct often goes un-punished.

The professors are generally late, and no matter how late they are if you’re not in class when they arrive (sometimes as late as an hour or more, and they don’t tell you ahead of time,) it is the student that gets punished.
Many Moroccan students confirmed this to me. Interestingly enough, when the French-style professors study or work in England or America, they become more relaxed and laissez-faire, much like the average American professor. This is why the professors teaching Americans have a positive attitude.

Even just getting a transcript takes a lot of effort, as the bureaucracy and the indifference of the bureaucrats makes efficient work hard to come by. It’s important to note that Morocco inherited the French school system and bureaucracy order, and knowing the infamous lack of work ethic in France combined with Morocco’s poor communications doesn’t help.

Though people generally get by in the end, opportunity, social mobility, and personal freedom is not as fluid as in America, Germany, or Britain.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 14, 2013

The opinion article by Aaron Gonzalez in the Feb. 7 edition of The Eagle incorrectly stated that Younes Chiadmi’s uncle was in the country illegally.

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