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Home > News > Moroccan family extends the hand of friendship in Ifni
Moroccan family extends the hand of friendship in Ifni
Added On : 27 March 2009
Moroccan family extends the hand of friendship: In a country that sometimes alienates visitors with its grasping attack on the wallet, a simple meal turns into a warm relationship
Tim Morrison
Special to the Sun
17 July 2004

Morocco is a country of contradictions. On the one hand, it is a nation notorious for preying on tourists. Many visitors find the swarming of high-pressure touts, merchants and self-appointed "guides" far too overwhelming. The constant badgering can lead most outsiders to vow never to return. On the other hand, Morocco, like much of the Arab world, has a tremendously hospitable culture. Every time I meet a local, I am greeted with a cheerful "Welcome to Morocco," or more likely "Bienvenue a Morocco," as this is a largely French-speaking nation.

For me, the warm welcome went quite a bit further when I was temporarily adopted by a Moroccan family. It happened while I was escaping the North African summer heat by whiling away the days on the Atlantic coast beaches of Sidi Ifni. A former Spanish colonial outpost, Sidi Ifni is now a small, laid-back, sleepy southern town that caters mostly to budget-minded middle-class Moroccans who prefer to avoid the crowds of the country's better-known beach resorts.

While at the beach, I asked a trustworthy-looking family to watch my knapsack and clothes while I went for a dip. When I returned from my swim, the family invited me to join them for a picnic lunch of Moroccan tajine, or chicken stew. With its spicy sauces, chick peas, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, meat balls and eggs, it is a hearty traditional meal eaten communally by using torn pieces of French bread to scoop it all up.

The family spoke English about as well as I speak French. Suffice it to say we kept our conversation simple, but still managed to get to know each other quite well. They were the Aboulkacems, a family of six. Along with the parents, there were two boys and two girls, ranging in age from eight to twenty. The father, Sidi Mohammed, earns a modest living as a hospital lab technician and humbly explained his family's special lineage as descendants of the Prophet Mohammed. Among Muslim nations, such rare status is greatly cherished and commands high respect from others.

Nevertheless, the Aboulkacems are an unassuming bunch, hailing from the country's capital, Rabat. Their holiday was just wrapping up and they were returning home on the following day.

To my surprise, yet typical of Moroccan hospitality, the family suggested I come along with them and be a guest at their home, about a day's drive from Sidi Ifni. Having not yet visited Rabat, I accepted the kind offer and was dubbed an honorary member of the family. At Rabat, I stayed with the Aboulkacems for a few days and was kept well fed with couscous, the staple food of northern Africa.

Rabat is much more sophisticated yet far less stressful than the rest of the country. It is essentially the only city of Morocco where visitors are not hassled for their money. It is a locale rich in French colonial history and boasts some of the nation's proudest monuments, many built long before the French arrived.

The family kept me busy with seeing the sights and even brought me to their local mosque as well as a traditional hammam, a Turkish-style public bath common throughout the Arab world. At these places I received further warm greetings from family friends and neighbours, all of whom enthusiastically pointed out I was sharing the home of Prophet Mohammed's descendants, an experience that would leave me forever blessed. And they were right.

My Moroccan family not only honoured me with their hospitality but also reminded me it is never fair to judge and dismiss an entire country solely on its negative elements. While some Moroccans will target you for your tourist dollars, there are many others who will house, feed, and guide you, expecting nothing in return but your friendship.

Photo: Dennis Horgan, Hartford Courant / A Moroccan woman shops for dinner at a typical food market.

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