Intercultural

Morocco: A Marriage Between Old and New

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Jordan Erb is a student at Boise State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Meknes, Morocco.

The more time passes, the more I am convinced that Moroccans have mastered the unity between ancient and modern cultures. While I spend time bouncing between the Meknes medina (the old city) and Hamria (the new city), and travelling to towns around the country, I become more aware of how whispers of old world charm dance lightly with modernity. This mixture of old and new is found around almost every corner here in Morocco, and, in my opinion, is one of the most exceptional aspects of this country.

This past Friday was what really opened my eyes to this reality. Before this I had, to some extent, noticed how echoes of an old Morocco reverberate through the streets, but never as severely as in the single class period that I spent in the medina that day. My classmates and I were lucky enough to be invited by my professor to spend the class in his traditional riad, or Moroccan-style hotel. As we sat on the terrace and discussed the days’ content, I couldn’t help but notice the fluid juxtaposition between antiquity and modernity that is embodied in Meknes. Looking out over the rooftops, I watched minarets play hide and seek with the satellite dishes that dot every building. It amazed me to see how the minarets, still standing after hundreds of years, live harmoniously with the technology of the satellites.

American cartoon character Donald Duck peers through an alley in the Meknes Medina.

American cartoon character Donald Duck peers through an alley in the Meknes Medina.

Morocco is teeming with both structures and daily rituals that have been around since its conception. Having said this, it doesn’t take much to find proof of its constant progression towards the avant-garde, either. A walk through any town will point towards the influence of Morocco’s more contemporary neighbor, the West. Recently I spent a weekend at the beach of Al Hoceima, and listened as a local DJ played American pop music. Soon, I realized that this was but a contemporary opening act for the daily prayer call that would resound from a mosque not far from shore. As soon as the muezzin (the man who projects the Islamic call to prayer, five times each day) began his recitation, the upbeat flow of music halted out of respect for the religious custom. Seeing pop-cultured millennials take a break from their lifestyle out of respect for longstanding tradition was a sign in neon lights pointing to the marriage between tradition and advancement here in Morocco.

This minaret in Al Hoceima is perched comfortably atop huge cliffs, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

This minaret in Al Hoceima is perched comfortably atop huge cliffs, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Since my experience in the medina and in Al Hoceima, I have been more apt to watch as custom flirts with innovation. Men and women clad in djellabas (the customary Moroccan dress) drift through the streets, hinting at a simpler time, while young professionals carry designer bags and dress themselves in Western clothes. It has been remarkable to be exposed to these contrasting styles, and to stand by and watch the melting pot boil.

The world awaits…discover it.

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