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What I Learned Living in Morocco for Eight Months

Morocco is a multicultural country that has rich history and an extraordinary diverse and inclusive community. I had a desire to travel to Morocco from a very young age when I found myself traveling throughout Spain, studying the occupation of the Moors and its connection with North Afraka. I knew that Spain was exceptionally close to Morocco so I thought to just go there, however, I would not find myself in the country until a couple years later. This is where the theme of life coming full circle comes into place.

I decided to further my studies in Ifrane, Morocco, at Al Akhawayn University (AUI), an University founded in 1993 from Royal decree by Hassan II of Morocco with an academic organization based on the American University system. It is stated that the university acquired some of its funding from the late King Fahd Ibn Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia as a means to amend for the oil spill that polluted the waters of Morocco, however, the wind would assist in its removal hence the funds were used to create the university. I was impressed by AUI's involvement in renewable energy as some of their buildings are powered by solar, wind, and the burning of olive pits. OIive pits burned as a former by-product is an ancient way to generate heat, electricity, bio gas and bio fuel. At AUI, it is used to warm their olympic sized pool which is remarkable and pioneering. The political decision to create the university was probably centered around increasing innovation, investment, diversity, and immigration by foreign parties. I had the intention of studying in Morocco to learn more about their political situation and to acquire more knowledge on the Moor community and its history in North Afraka. Conversely, I began to better comprehend the complexities of colonization, the Holocaust, individual power interests, and the act of miscegenation that would all become key factors in my investigation.

During my stay, I visited many cities including- Al Hociema, Agadir, Casablanca, Chefchaouen, Essaouira, Fez, Ifrane, Kenitra, Marrakesh, Meknes, Melilla (Spain Occupation), Oujda, Rabat, Tangier, Taghazout, etc. The only city I did not get a chance to visit that I will in the future was Dakhla, where the desert meets the sea. Each city I visited had its own unique history and distinct ethnic population. For instance, in Chefchaouen the population heavily spoke Spanish more than French but many of the merchants were people that had settled in Morocco generations ago but originated from the Middle East. Some of the populations were intermixed with people from the Sahara and people that had always lived in the city. While others were Moroccans that were mixed with some European origin usually Spanish. Ifrane is a city in the Middle Atlas region of Northern Morocco, meaning it gets incredibly cold- in fact, it is snowing right now. The word Ifran means caves because the indigenous population from Amazigh tribes: Bni Mguild, Bni M'tir, and Ait Seghrouchen strategically formed their homes from caves. The Amazigh people heavily populated all of North Afraka and had their own religious system prior to Islam that was centered around wom(b)man being the creator. To learn more about this there is a MOOR podcast episode that discusses this belief with an Amazigh craftsman from Chefchaouen.

In each Moroccan city I visited, it was like unveiling a new layer of Moroccan history, the longer I stayed and more people I engaged with aided in my ability to consolidate the vast information. In Oujda, I recognized and celebrated Eid Al Mawlid on October 9th, 2022, an islamic holiday that marks the day with a feast for the birth of Prophet Muhammad. I attended a Sufism event where I discovered it was a path to achieve eternal happiness, although, it is considered to be Islamic mysticism as it differs from modern Islamic prayers and celebration. Accordingly, the place I visited to celebrate this Islamic holiday had expanded over the years, hence, there were thousands of people who attended from all over the world. Upon arrival, after a twelve hour drive from Ifrane the group was instructed to wear their traditional clothing and join the session discussing how to radically improve the world around us. I was in awe. Even so, I had not realized that the program would last from sunrise until sunrise the next day which caused me gradual frustration. Yet, I found a great appreciation for the experience as I prayed for hours with people with great passion for love and unity. Despite this glorious event, it appeared that Oujda, a city that borders Algeria, was significantly underdeveloped compared to other cities I had visited.

"Sufism (Tasawwuf) is the esoteric or inward (batin) aspect of Islam, is to be distinguished from exoteric or external (zahir) Islam just as direct contemplation of spiritual or divine realities is distinguishable from the fulfilling of the laws which translate them in the individual order in connection with the conditions of a particular phase of humanity. Whereas the ordinary way of believers is directed towards obtain-ing as state of blessedness after death, a state which may be attained through indirect and, as it were, symbolical participation in divine truths by carrying out prescribed works, Sufism contains its end or aim within itself in the sense that it can give access to direct knowledge of the eternal".

                       -Titus Burkbardt, expert on Islamic Sufism

Melilla is one of two autonomous Spanish cities along with Ceuta with its population heavily Spanish Christian with Berber Muslims and Moroccan Muslims. Upon arrival to this city, I was disquieted by the reality of entering a city of Morocco that was actually owned by Spain which reminded me of