Friday, 24 July 2009

Life in Fez: and being angry, angry, angry.

I wrote this post the other day. And then I forgot about it. It’s very long, I know. I was one very unhappy blogger that day. And that’s one post I won’t post on the French Prés du Puits, because I don’t want my grand-mother to worry about me.

On my way to the supermarket, something happened. Something that happens far too often in Morocco.

I wanted to cross the street, on the only crosswalk A car was coming from my left, so I waited for it to pass me to cross the road. I looked at it, for maybe 2 seconds. And that's it. That’s enough for some men here When they see a girl, especially a European or American girl, looking at them, they think they have a sexual interest in them. Even if you just want to cross the street and that you want to make sure you're not killed in the process.

So as I crossed the street I heard his horn. I didn't care, really, as I said that happens all the time when I'm alone – and even if I hate it, it doesn't make me feel bad about myself. I'm used to it. But then I saw his car stop, and then I knew he was one of that men. I kept on walking on the sidewalk, decided not to look behind me. He didn't seem to follow me, and I was relieved. Then I heard the sound of his old car, he passed me, and parked in the street. I began walking faster, and entered a little street on my right so I wouln't have to see him. He whistled when he saw I wasn't going to meet him.

After that, I saw him again twice, with always the same technique : he waited that I had walked about a hundred meters, and then would come park his car so that he could see me, and, I don't know, hoping that I would come to talk to him ? This is crazy. When I got to the main boulevard, he obviously couln't keep on doing this because of the number of cars and people.

It wasn't scary – in France, it would have been, but in Morocco, it’s just the usual. Every time I go out alone, something happens. There are men who say « Bonjour » with a soft voice when you walk by them. There are those who follow you – like today. Before that, I got really scared a few times. Once, in Meknès, I had to go see a shopkeeper and tell him that somebody was following me, I was so scared. There are those who say dirty words, in French, in English, and probably also in Arabic. It's rare, but that's really mortifying. And then there are those who insult you..

None of that stuff would ever happen in Ouled Mgatel. That's one of the reasons why I love it so much. Of course women have less freedom in the countryside – even I have less freedom there. Our neighbor Mohammed won't let me stay in the house alone at night, which used to drive me crazy. He would take his daughter with thim and bring me to his house because a women alone in a house at night is a shame for her husband.

But people in Ouled Mgatel respect you. Even people we don't know are always kind, and respectul. I remember once that I was telling Fred about one of this verbal assaults when we were eating with Bachir. Fred translated for him. Bachir got very angry and proposed that to go see the man who insulted me, and to beat him (Really. Ouled Emgatel men are known for their fighting skills). He couldn't even imagine such a thing was possible.

I know this is worse for Moroccan women. Because I don’t have to worry about physical abuse – in Morocco, it’s very dangerous to touch foreigners. And I admire so much the girls and women who dress like they want to defy those men. Short skirts, low-cut t-shirts. Wearing that kind of clothes is really brave in Fez - more than in Casablanca, or Rabat, that are more open. I wouldn't do it. In my dresser I have a place for the clothes I only wear in France. Not that I cannot wear them here – you're free to dress like you want in Morocco – but because, in a way, I'm weak. I just don’t want men to notice me.

Yesterday Fred told me that the man in the car behaved that way because some young women sell prostitue themselves for 20 dirhams (20 dirhams !2 euros !). All men have to do is to blow their horn, and if she’s up for it, the girl wait for them in a nearby street.

Now I’m speechless.

1 comment:

Ali la Loca said...

I don't think you are weak for dressing conservatively. Each woman has the right to do what makes her comfortable! Here in Mozambique, I don't wear shorts or short skirts because the attention I would draw on the streets makes me uncomfortable.

I'm sorry you - and many others - have to deal with these men. Keep paying attention to your instincts, and keep safe!