Travelers bear, above all else, responsibilities. I bring my own American community into every new place that I visit, whether I like it or not. Almost two weeks ago, in my first night living with Fatima, Ali, and Saad, I wondered if I embodied a “stranger in a strange land.”My own American community gave me way to eat with my left hand and stroll around the house with wet hair — and this is part of the reason I felt alone and isolated. A community that I refused to relinquish and act vulnerably only separated me further from my welcoming host family. I don’t wear my community like the Amazigh flag hung behind the paddleboats on the Ain Soltane, but my American identity still made me feel safe and protected. My community manifested as discomfort and cultural mistakes.
The generous hospitality offered to me bridged the gap between my own community values that I clasped with an iron grip. Patience and compassion for my jumbled whispers of Darija, French, and English, inability to replace shoes with slippers, and cries of “Shebet! Shebet!” (“I’m full”; also known as the one world that any prospective traveler to Morocco must know) opened me to the warmth of their community.
People opened the community of Fatima’s home. People opened the community of the two surrounding families who offered card games, henna at 1AM, and second lunches. People opened Immouzzer Kandar, which trusts children with strangers, embraces the age-old fair tradition of popcorn and people-watching, and offers up impromptu hairdryers in dire situations. Other individuals allowed me to shed my internal foreignness.
The enthusiastic, unrelenting willingness to welcome and entrust a stranger with the people and values one cherishes most is the true type of world-class hospitality that my temporary country of residence has offered. (However, I will add that the endless tea ceremonies and refusal to let me help clean is part of it too.)
Sharing food, religion, and home with someone forges an intimate connection between communities, and Morocco has welcomed me with more than open arms, but a heart, soul, and lots of bread too.