The time has finally arrived, and the Duke in the Arab World program has come to an end. The majority of us are departing back to the United States this Thursday. It is always nice to reflect upon a trip and get to remember all of the great memories we have made. This program has been everything I wanted and more as we were able to visit so many beautiful Moroccan cites and even visit Tunisia for a week! The people on this trip have been great and each of them brought something unique to offer our group. I am happy to say that I was able to spend the past six weeks visiting my home country with such an amazing group of friends and a truly amazing professor that always knew how to make things interesting. And with that I thank Professor Lo, Meriam, the program assistant, the Moroccan friends I was able to make along the way, and my fellow friends for this amazing trip that I will always be grateful for being a part of. For my final blog post, I wanted to reflect on the two countries we visited, Tunisia and Morocco, and explore the similarities and differences that exist among the two.
Upon initial sight, Tunisia and Morocco are decently similar in that they both have similar architecture, religious life is prominent with numerous mosques present in both, and the people are really nice and welcoming. In both countries, the language Arabic is spoken but their respective dialects do vary as the Tunisian Arabic incorporates a bit more fusha (modern standard Arabic) and French into their dialect. Furthermore, the value of neighbors, friends, and family help create the connectedness that is not found in such a high degree back in the United States. The food is somewhat similar as some meals can be found in both countries, but I would argue (as well as others) that Moroccan food is just objectively better as there is more flavor to our food and more variety at restaurants. Basically, Morocco has everything Tunisia has but better in my opinion. While Morocco boasts having nice beaches along the
Concerning differences among thetwo countries, I think it’s important to note some statistics and information about their history and people. Tunisia had a higher literacy rate at about 82% compared to Morocco’s 68.5%. However, Morocco has a lower unemployment rate at 10% compared to Tunisia’s 15.9%. In terms of economic comparison, the GDP per capita of Tunisia is $11,800 while Morocco has a lower GDP per capita of $8,600. These are some interesting statistics that help provide a bit of context for comparison between the two countries. The history of these two countries are also interesting to see as they do have some similarities.
Tunisia achieved independence from France in 1956 and the country’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, created a strict one-party state. Habib Bourguiba was overthrown from office in 1987 and replaced by Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. Later in 2011, Ben Ali fled the country after a series of street protests that became known as the Tunisian Revolution. This resulted in the creation of their republic and start of democratic elections. Their constitution was ratified in 2014 and their young democracy is still developing but will hopefully continue to grow and strengthen in the future. On the other hand, Morocco was occupied by Spain in 1860 until France imposed a protectorate in 1912. Morocco achieved independence from France in 1956 and Sultan Mohammed V established a constitutional monarchy. During the Arab Springs of 2011, Morocco had a relatively minimal period of protests concerning political censorship, corruption and unemployment, as King Mohammed VI created a reform program that amended some parts of the constitution and sought to improve the living and working conditions of the people.
Overall, I was lucky to see the great cultures they had to offer and meet some of the locals in both countries. Whether it was learning more about the democratization of Tunisia during our week-long conference or learning the Dharija dialect of Morocco and about the Moroccan culture, I am happy to have been part of this program and look forward to visiting these two beautiful countries again in the future. Alhamduillah the program has ended in much success and I am happy that you were able to follow my adventure through my blogs.
بسلما و شكرا -Ayoub Mahdar