On my last visit to Tangier, roosters and the Muslim call to prayer worked together to wake me and the rest of that world. When the morning sun was high enough to send a rainbow plunging into the harbor amid ferries busily coming and going, I stood on my balcony and surveyed Tangier kicking into gear. Women in colorful, flowing robes walked to sweatshops adjacent to the port. They were happy to earn $8 a day (a decent wage for an unskilled worker here) sewing for big-name European clothing lines — a reminder that a vast and wealthy Continent is just a short cruise to the north. Cabbies jostled at the pier for the chance to rip off arriving tourists.
Wandering in Tangier — especially after dark — is entertaining. It's a rare place where signs are in three languages (Arabic, French and Spanish)...and English doesn't make the cut. Sometimes, when I'm frustrated with the impact of American foreign policy on the developing world, I have this feeling that an impotent America is better for the world than an America whose power isn't always used for good. Seeing a country where the signs are in three languages, but still ignore English, shows me that there's a world that's managing just fine without us.
The market scene was a wonderland — of everything but pork. Mountains of glistening olives, a full palette of spices, children with knives happy to perform for my camera.
My guide, Aziz, explained that each animal is slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law, or Halal. I asked him to explain. He took me to a table with a pile of chickens and hollered "Muhammad!" to catch the attention of a knife-wielding boy. (That confused me, until Aziz explained that when he wants someone's attention, he says, "Hey, Muhammad!" It's like our "Hey, you"...but very respectful. For a woman, you'd holler, "Hey, Fatima.") He asked the boy to demonstrate the proper way to slaughter an animal, and I was given a graphic demonstration: in the name of Allah, with a sharp knife, animal's head pointing to Mecca, body drained of its blood.
Most of the Moroccans I encountered didn't emulate or even seem to care about the USA. Al-Jazeera blared on teahouse TVs, with stirring images of American atrocities inflicted on fellow Muslims. But people appeared numb to the propaganda, and the TV seemed to be on that channel for lack of an alternative. I felt no animosity toward me, as an American. There was no political edge to any graffiti or posters.
When I tried to affirm my observations with Aziz, he explained to me the fundamental difference between "Islamic" and "Islamist": Islamists are expansionist and are threatened by the very existence of Israel. He explained how Al-Jazeera appeals to Islamists. Its reporting is as "fair and balanced" as we'd find on Fox News in the USA. And then Aziz made it clear that Morocco is Islamic, not Islamist.
About This Entry
You are reading "Morocco: Everything but Pork", an entry posted on 20 January 2010 by Rick Steves.