My group tour ended this morning and quickly I began to engage Morocco on my terms. The group had provided this ever present bunch of friends to share meals and a bit of the sweetness and support of a family. This morning I tracked down an academic conference on population, culture and sexuality. Despite that the proceedings were in French and Arabic, I gleaned a fair amount--certainly not all of the content, but much of the style e.g. many presentations were overviews of a subject (e.g. family planning) rather than original research. The presentation on STDs had very graphic images but none depicted infected genitals. Research results on a study of obesity amongst Marrakesh women noted a sedentary lifestyle and culture-based dietary practices but failed to note that wearing huge caftans absolutely hides it all, certainly making the wearer less anxious about her looks! (Probably only a foreigner like me would note that...) I also chatted with a researcher who had surveyed the sexual behaviors of Moroccan teens. He noted that about 5 percent were sexually active with more males than females. Our discussion then led to a fascinating chat about the impact of feminism/economic opportunities for women and it's incumbent impact of female sexuality
Then I found my way to a different hotel and a very different scene. The group hotel had been in the new city and the hotel I had reserved for myself turned out to be in the thick of the Medina (old city). The taxi I caught refused to drive into the Medina, leaving me to wander the alleys until one of the street urchins spotted me and led me down more alleys and over to the hotel. As I approached the hotel, a throng of men were leaving the adjacent mosque--I crowded along the side of the alley to let them pass. The hotel itself turned out to be a little paradise with gardens, cushioned sitting areas and more sweetness than I could have imagined for less than 30 dollars a night. After settling in I began wandering the streets, trying out Berber cosmetics, chatting with women about who wears headscarves and why (very varied--and generally not an indication of religiosity).
Tomorrow morning I wrap up Morocco and leave for Paris. I'm curious about the differences in cultural expression between the French Motherland and this melangé of Berber, Arab and French.