Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Public space and private space in Morocco are two very different worlds.  You often read about how the Moroccan home is a sphere of tranquillity and privacy and a shelter from the outside world.  This is true and people inside the home treat each other with respect and love and men act courteously and worship their mothers.  Well they should be because the streets are a harsh and unforgiving place where these same men can do just about anything they want and women are only tolerated. 

It is not uncommon to see men spitting, peeing on trees or walls and hear them making rude or obscene comments to passing women.  Trash goes on the ground, garbage piles up and the city streets take a real beating.  For anyone who imagines strolling peacefully through wide boulevards lined with beautiful gardens, Fez can only partially provide that experience. Women on the street find protection in numbers, often walking with family members and girlfriends, but when seen alone they are automatically judged as prostitutes. 

One of the things I quickly discovered, too, is that driving a car does not necessarily provide protection from the street.  Male drivers are aggressive and it is commonly assumed women are poor drivers.  They will also try to attract you when stopped at red lights and intersections.  Moroccans like a good cluster-fuck at the intersection, jamming their cars into gridlock, then blowing the horns full blast.  I find it helps to look straight ahead, just like when walking down the street, drive like I know where I am going and aggressively maintain my space. 

For the most part, my experience on the street is probably less stressful than that of a Moroccan woman but it is still not the place I want to spend any amount of time.  I do my business and get inside.  


  1. Sounds like your not enjoying life in Fez. How long have you been there? I thought about moving to Morocco but I keep hearing stories
    that you always have to pay off everyone just to get things done and still alot of cruption going on. I thought it would be a peaceful-laid back kind of life. From what I heard, you could live very well off $1000 a month there if you already have your house and car. I like to see your comments on living in Morocco.


  2. Actually, I do like living in Morocco. I love it here and feel 100% comfortable. Like anyplace, it has good things and bad things about it. When I wrote this article, I had been talking to several young women adapting to the differences of the street here as opposed to their homes and to some Moroccan women who agreed that yes, the street is still a predominantly male territory. As such, and until it changes, you have to know the "rules".

    Street life is one of the difficult, not necessarily bad, aspects of living here. Use of public space, perception of public space, is very different. It is simply a place to do business, to get from point A to point B, and to remain as anonymous as possible.

    I think this is changing a lot. Public spaces for relaxation and enjoyment are being developed and people are using them. Women are using them. Families are using them. Ultimately, the bullies will be run off to the fringes and become less noticeable and less accepted.