It's Morocco week here at Quirks&Quibbles. I've been sitting here for the past hour trying to figure out what I could say about good ole' Morocco. Went on wikiTravel and read a bunch of facts (don't tell my students - I've always told them wikipedia isn't a reliable source!) Anyway, I've never been to Morocco and in all honesty, my only knowledge of Morocco came from The Real Housewives of NYC. All I remember is them riding camels and buying a ton of designer bags that they could have gotten anywhere... But, let's face it, they aren't always the most reliable tour guides...
What I love most about traveling is embracing the cultures. It's not always easy to do but to me, it is important to learn about and accept people's cultures. Last summer I went to Greece, Italy, and Spain with my friend Margaret and 14 teenagers. There are many memories I could share about this amazing trip but one that stands out most is Margaret's speech to the students before we left. She told them that on her trips she doesn't allow students to say "that's weird." Because the word "weird" evokes a negative judgement, we would use the word "interesting" instead. A few days later, on our way to Corinth, an ancient city of Greece, we started talking to our fabulous tour guide Despina. We were discussing religion and she told us about Mount Athos, a mountainous area governed by the "Holy Community" and home to 20 monastaries. It is a big deal for fathers and sons to visit Mount Athos together. In fact, Despina recalled her father and brother going. However, since 1046 women have not been permitted into Mount Athos, as a way to make living in celibacy easier. Even female animals (with the exception of cats, insects, and songbirds) are not permitted.
The reason I love this story is because my immediate reaction was to say "that's weird!" I knew that in my life, in my culture, there would be women putting their pink PussyHats on, waving signs about equal rights. The more I listened to Despoina and heard the pride for her culture in her voice, the more I stopped and thought about what Margaret had said. This clearly was
source of pride for Despina and many of the Greek people and I began to realize that my role as tourist was not to sit and judge. As a feminist, for a moment I wanted to place a negative judgement on this place. Not letting women in? That's absurd! Female power! Equal rights and what not! However, I don't live in Greece. I don't have the right to judge Greece for their beliefs and cultures and traditions just because mine are different. I truly believe that if more people could be as fortunate as I have been in terms of traveling, we would start to see the world in new, more accepting ways. When traveling, there is a big difference between listening to judge and listening to understand.
This brings me back to Morocco, a country with traditional Muslim religious beliefs, something many Americans currently react negatively to. Although many logically understand that being a Muslim does not automatically implicate you as a terrorist, still, many Americans shrink away in fear when confronted with the world Muslim. I hope that I can one day travel to a country that predominately practices Islam. I would like to hear stories and break the narrative I've been fed since September 11th. From my research, Morocco sounds like an amazing place to visit. It has beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean coast, famous Casablanca, and the Sahara! There are many ancient cities to explore and markets to wander through. In fact, from most accounts, the biggest threat you face in this country is what you would face in NYC: cat calling, muggins, and minor crime.
It's clear that Morocco has a rich history and even richer food! While learning more about Moroccan cuisine this weekend, I quickly noticed a trend in ingredients. Couscous and quinoa are major grains used in Morocco while chicken and lamb are popular meat choices. Chickpeas and lentils are major beans but what stands out most are the spices. Moroccan food calls for a lot of spices. In fact, I couldn't find all of the spices I needed at the Greensboro Walmart and was just too lazy to go to Harris Teeter. Commonly used spices include cumin, paprika, and cinnamon!
Tonight I enjoyed chicken skewers marinated in olive oil, greek yogurt, and several spices including cinnamon. I also prepared a roasted vegetable couscous with chickpeas and almond slices in a lemon spice sauce.
If there's one thing I've learned from tonight, it's that I like cinnamon on savory dishes!