Tuesday, March 20, 2018

So Your Character is From Morocco ... Featuring Imane @ Booksaccino





It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's  So Your Character is from Nigeria ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts is as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)

Hi, my name is Imane and I’m from Casablanca, Morocco. I’m a 20-year-old medical student (soon-to-be 21) and I basically run on (Moroccan) tea, books, and tv shows. I have never been much of a reader when I was young and I only started to read regularly at the age of 17-18 because that’s when my English got better. My favorite genres would be thrillers and historical fiction. With my hectic schedule, I try to find as much time as possible to blog since I’m really enjoying it but it doesn’t always work out my way. Last but not least, I’m obsessed with cats. A lot! 
Blog// Instagram (Personal)// Twitter// Goodreads

What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
I think that what’s unique about Morocco is its diversity. In the past, we had the Romans, the French and the Spanish in our country among others. Nowadays, we could still notice how this has shaped our dialect, our architecture, and our culture. You’ll find that in some cities, there is a strong French presence with the same façades that you’d find while in Paris or Lyon. In others, especially in the North, you’re more likely to sense Spanish vibes. 


Figure 1 Sandra Cohen-Rose et Colin Rose

I know that this is not specific to Morocco since it is a religious celebration but it is like my favorite day of the year and it is Eid Al Fitr. It is the one day that comes after the month of Ramadan. Now I love Ramadan quite frankly, but this day is quite special. The last day of Ramadan, after breaking the fast at sunset, people go out to donate a certain amount of money for charity. It is compulsory for whoever has the means to do so and can take the form of food or money. This is so that even the poorest people could get to enjoy the Eid the next morning. 

Figure 3 Brahim Taougar - Le 360
This is how it usually goes: First, most people wake up early to pray Salat al-Fajr and then go to Salat El Eid. Everyone wears their best traditional clothes for that! By the time of Salat El Eid (8am-ish), you’ll find that the biggest mosques (such as The Hassan II mosque in Casablanca) tend to get SO crowded. It feels so good to see that many people are reunited for the same cause. We then go back home to get breakfast and then visit our grandparents or any relatives and basically have a feast with lots of laughter, enjoyable moments and great GREAT food!

Figure 4 Pâtisserie Amandine - Marrakech
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
I have not yet been to Chefchaouen. Shame on me! If you haven’t heard of it, it’s this very pretty very blue city in the North of Morocco. I am planning to go to it if all goes well.



So, aside from Chefchaouen and the North of Morocco in general, there are a few places that I can call my favorite. 



First: I am Berber. Hello! And I (well, actually my grandparents) come from a small village called Taliouine. It is situated in the Anti-Atlas Mountains and you can get tanned in 15 minutes. I know very little about this city, to be honest. All I know is that it is the capital of Saffron and that it is very calm and people there are very friendly. 

Also, weddings! They happen over a whole week! Yup, seven whole days of having fun, dan, ing and eating. I believe this was the traditional Moroccan wedding but I’ve never heard of anyone doing one in the city (probably because that would cost an arm, a leg and two kidneys). In short, if you’re fan of very calm places, trekking and tanning and eating very unique food, you’ll love Taliouine.



Second: I have gone to Marrakech a few days ago and fell in love. I finally understood all of the tourists that came and said that they loved it! Have you seen Jardin Majorelle? Perfect. Reading. Place. Especially in the morning when it’s calmer! Marrakech is a big city but it has kept lots of its historical landmarks. Best of both worlds!



Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Couscous. Tagine. Bastilla. Rfissa. Those are the names you should remember. 



I didn’t know whether I could include tea in “food” or not. Either way, we consume lots of Moroccan mint tea. We call it “Atay”. I personally drink at least seven cups a day. I am pretty popular for being a tea lover though. Normal people (that aren’t me) would be drinking one or two cups per day. For breakfast, we serve it. After a big meal, we serve it. Whenever a guest comes, we serve it. It’s basically everywhere!



As for the dishes mentioned above, let me just tell you that my personal favorite is Spicy Seafood Bastilla. It is THE best! It is usually served in weddings and big occasions but still, I would love to eat it every day. There’s also the Sweet Chicken Bastilla for people with a sweet tooth.



My second favorite would be Rfissa. It is chicken and broth over loads of mssemen that could be described as a square pan-fried dough (??). It is very yummy though and is typically given to new mothers. 



Couscous and Tagines are like the basics. Couscous is made weekly and Tagines even more often in a few homes. 




  Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
In Morocco, most people speak Arabic and French. There are some who can speak English (mostly young people) and some who can speak Spanish (in the North especially). Then, there are the Berbers who speak Berber. Now Berber is different from place to place. There’s the Riffi Berber (North of Morocco in the Rif provinces), the Tamazight (Middle Atlas Mountains) and the Tashelhit (Anti-Atlas/Sous). They are all very different. Tamazight and Tashelhit are kind of similar but in the way French and Spanish are similar. My level in Tashelhit is okay and I can understand no word from the Tamazight and the Riffi berber. 

In our Moroccan dialect, you’ll find that we have borrowed many words from other languages. Examples on the top of my head would be: 

A car = Tomobile (Moroccan D.) = Automobile (French)
A fork = Fourchita (Moroccan D.) = Fourchette (French) 
A lighter = Brika (Moroccan D.) = Briquet (French).
A kitchen = Kouzina (Moroccan D.) = Cozina (Spanish)
A wheel = Rwida (Moroccan D.) = Rueda (Spanish) 
A week = Simana (Moroccan D.) = Semana (Spanish).


Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
I don’t think there’s anything special about how we go by day-to-day. I mean the only difference is that we have five prayers throughout the day but this is not typically Moroccan and has more to do with religion. I usually go to my morning shift at the hospital at 8am and stay there up until 12am and then go home. Some people attend the afternoon classes but I don’t because I’d rather study home. 



The only special day would be Friday where there’s the Jumaa Prayer and where everyone goes to the mosque (mostly men because it is compulsory for them) and we get a longer lunch break for time to pray. During the prayer time, there’s usually a live broadcast of the mosque where the King Muhammad VI is praying. In Morocco, that is the day where we tend to serve Couscous for lunch with lben (buttermilk). 



How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
I have never visited the US but from all I’ve learned, it is very different. Now I don’t really know much about the American educational system but in here, we don’t have electives and it’s all mandatory subjects. Even in college. We don’t choose classes, we choose our specialty right after graduating from high school. For example, in America, you have to go through PreMed to choose to become a medical student. In here, you directly go to medschool from graduation after taking a test where you need to score high enough to be in the list of students that will be allowed to get in. Evaluations are also given on a 0-20 scale and not an A-F one.

Public schools/colleges aren’t always great but, at least, they’re free. There are private ones you can go to and they’re usually pricey but nothing as high as American colleges’ fees. Same for healthcare! 

What I feel most sorry about is that we don’t have libraries. Or we have very few but they’re mostly filled with very old books and no new releases. 

I can’t really speak about politics because I know nothing about it. What I know is that religion and state are linked. We don’t exactly apply Sharia law but it’s like a mixture of both Sharia and “normal” law you’d find anywhere. 

I didn’t know where to fit this but I needed somewhere to talk about caftans. Here are a few pictures:


Briefly describe three of your country’s historical events that you feel are important.
January 11th, 1944// That was the day where the Independence Manifesto came out. It was the turning point where Morocco has officially demanded full independence. Late King Mohammed V was exiled though by the French occupation in 1953 which caused many problems/battles that made us reach independence in 1957, which means nearly 13 years after the Independence Manifesto. 



November 6th, 1975// The Green March is basically 350,000 unarmed civilians marching to the Western Sahara border and reclaim it as a Moroccan territory. It was then occupied by Spain. 



August 14th, 1979// The day where Morocco recovered the southern province of Oued Eddahab that was occupied back then by Spain. On that day, 360 people came to Rabat, at the Riad palace, to renew the oath of allegiance before King Hassan II.



What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
To be honest, I don’t think that Morocco is being represented a lot in the media. I mean most movies that are filmed in here, are filmed in the Sahara or in the middle of nowhere. So perhaps that feeds that stereotype where people think we live in tents and we use camels instead of cars. I mean, all of Morocco isn’t this. I remember watching this scene and thinking, “Really? This is the only way you found how to portray Morocco?." 



If you’ve watched the movie Casablanca, you’d be delighted to know that we don’t all wear a Fez and have a moustache. The movie is great though, in case you haven’t watched it! 

The rest of the stereotypes are mainly linked to religion and false understanding of religion. We do not play with rifles at the age of five and are not terrorists. We are not all polygamists. We are not being forced to wear the hijab. And these are usually the ones that disturb me a lot. It is true that we have a certain dress code in Muslim countries but Morocco is really not restrictive in this area so it’s all about personal preference.



   What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
I don’t tend to see Morocco portrayed a lot in the media. I mean some scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed in Morocco but again, it’s usually in the middle of nowhere and in the Sahara so you don’t really get to learn much about Morocco. In fact, it’s just filmed there and they don’t even say it in the show. 

So yeah, I have never really seen a good representation of Morocco in the media. I would love to hear from any of you if you have read or watched anything that talked about Morocco nicely. Up until now, all I can think of are Shay Mitchell’s instagram posts from when she was in Morocco (back in May ‘17). Bloggers who come here also portray it real well. 

Another person would be in the music industry: Red One. His real name is Nadir Khayat and is from Tétouan, in Morocco. He’s worked with many popular singers such as JLo, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. Lately, he’s produced “Boom Boom” where you can see many cities in Morocco. Although it is not my style of music, this can only be appreciated. I mean, check out the riads and the caftans! They’re beautiful!



Who are your top three favorite fictional characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
I think I might start being too repetitive here, haha. I sadly know of no fictional characters native to my country. I can only hope that Morocco gets included a bit more in works of fiction.


Thank you, Kay, for this very informative post! Come back next week for a post all about Kenya!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Cuba, Venezuela, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, Iraq, and Egypt.

Do you have any characters from Morocco? Did this inspire you to write a Moroccan character or set a book in Morocco? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Imane? Be sure to thank her!

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