Rabat and Fez, by Maria Renteria

This marks our first week in Rabat, and already the comparisons with Fez are many.

Fez alone forms an incomplete image of Morocco in the mind of the traveler. There’s a reason that Fez is the religious and cultural capital of Morocco—its essence is unparalleled. It is easy to imagine what precolonial Morocco was like when one walks through the Old Medina and the souk. In a way, Fez is the snow globe representation of Morocco. Idealistic, it is what the Westerner wants to find in the Arab World. It is not however, the whole, truthful representation of Morocco.

              Rabat provides an example of what it means to be a modern Muslim city. Unlike the “Tribal Modern” Gulf, (Tribal Modern 6) Rabat seems to embrace integration into the Western standard of modernity. Men in business suits fill capital buildings and universities. New cars and liquor stores line the streets, and women walk through streets alone, oftentimes not encountering harassment.

              Moreover, both cities find themselves on opposite sides of the sexual harassment spectrum. While sexual harassment is found everywhere, there was an almost palpable sense of danger in Fez for my roommate, whose features were undoubtedly American to the men in the old medina. There wasn’t a day that went by where she wasn’t harassed. Here in Rabat, her demeanor is noticeably more relaxed as we’ve pleasantly learned that sexual harassment is less common in this urban, political hub.

              Interestingly, I’ve found there to be the same generational gap between older and younger Moroccan women in both cities. It is not uncommon to see young Moroccan women flaunt their beautiful hair and stylish jeans and shirts. In my observational experience, I can say I’ve yet to see a woman under 30 wear a jellaba and hijab. This however, seems to be the social uniform for older Moroccan women. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be a social conflict about this generational gap—it seems to be accepted cultural evolution as women in jellaba take their daughters shopping for skinny jeans in malls.

              It would be almost unethical to create one’s thoughts on Morocco having visited only one of these cities. These form two important, distinctive halves to the heart of modern Morocco.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>