I decide toask her a few questions about their culture and her life here. She doesn’t weara hijab, and I can’t resist asking her about what people’s view on that is. Shetells me that it’s quite common that a husband tells his wife when they decideto get married that he wants her to wear a hijab, or sometimes even not towork. In some families girls start to cover their hair when they’re twelve, butFedoua’s parents never asked her to do it. Then she worked with tourism, andthere they didn’t want people to wear hijab apparently. It was never a naturalthing for her, so when her husband asked her to put on a hijab she said no. “Idon’t ask him to wear anything special, so why would he ask that of me?” Herhusband is okay with her choice, but his family doesn’t even speak to herbecause of it. At the souk I didn’t see anybody else without hijab, wearingt-shirt and trousers like Fedoua, and I can imagine people having opinionsabout that. I admire her strength.
When wecome back Alva is a bit better. Either the tea or the pills seems to have been effective.We decide to go out and look for an ATM, and wifi to look up things and planwhat we want to do tomorrow. There is an ATM, but it only has French and Arabicinstructions, and we don’t want to risk pressing a “give all your money to thisMoroccan bank”-button. There’s a café close-by, and we enter and ask if theyhave wifi. The owner tries to communicate with us in Italian, but we can’t domuch more than stand there and look confused. He gives us the password and wesit down. He keeps asking us things for a while, and then leaves us alone,seeming irritated. Minutes later a woman enters the café and walks up to us.The man has called her to come and help out, because she knows English. Shesays he’s worried we’re lost, and asks if we’re okay. I find this very sweet.Not only did he care about whether we were alright, but also made an effort tohelp us even though we didn’t ask for it, and called for an English speakingperson. In Sweden, if a foreign person came like this, I feel like the ownerwould just give the password and then leave the person alone, not wanting todisturb.
The womansits down at our table and starts to talk to us. Her name is Khadidja and she’sreally nice. She has studied English in school, because she really likes thelanguage. Her life is quite different from what we’ve heard so far. She used tobe married to a man from Pakistan, living in the UK, who she met online. Butthey got a divorce after a year, because it wasn’t really working out, and shefelt like it would be better for her to separate. We ask what people thought ofthat, and she says that both online dating and divorce are taboo here, butpeople are going to talk, whatever you do. Why not follow your own intuition,because you know more about your own life than the others do. Another strongwoman, doing what’s best for her. It’s so inspiring. She says women have to bestrong in order to not be trampled down by the patriarchy. She says that if youhave an education, a job and are financially independent, it’s much easier tobe independent and go by your own will.
She worksas an engineer, which means she’s well educated and probably has more financialstability than the average Moroccan. It’s a male dominated profession, even inSweden, and I know I’m being prejudiced but I wasn’t expecting to meet a femaleengineer here, at least not in this area at a random café. Where she works 9out of 24 are women, and she says that times are changing and society isbecoming more equal. She admits there are equality issues here but says that atleast it’s not like in Saudi Arabia. There the women are not allowed to gooutside alone, to work where they want, or even drive a car. And they areforced to wear hijab or niqab, to cover their hair and body. It’s interestinghow everybody has different reference points, how there’s always a worseexample. From our point of view Morocco is far from equal, but Khadidja’s pointof view is “Well, it’s not as bad as Saudi Arabia”.
Speaking ofdress codes, Khadidja wears hijab, and we ask about her thoughts on thesubject. She says it’s her choice entirely. A few years ago she didn’t, butthen she felt that she wanted to start taking her religion more seriously, andstarted wearing it. At home she takes it off, and also at parties, likeweddings. I guess letting your hair down is a way of dressing up. She gets outher mobile phone and shows us pictures of her without the hijab - at hersister’s wedding, and selfies of her at home wearing a regular tank top. Shedoesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal at all, which of course it shouldn’t be.
Then shetells us more about Ramadan. The boys start participating from the age of 12,and the girls from when she gets her first period. She looks at our bottle ofwater and says it’s really tempting. During Ramadan you’re supposed to fast,unless you’re sick, have recently given birth or are on your period. She tellsus she’s “on her cycle”, but still she doesn’t want to drink in public, becausethen people will know. She’s very open about everything, about things that seemto be taboo, like her divorce, the online dating, possibly this period thing aswell, and it feels like she finds it liberating to talk to us, because sheknows that we, as European girls, will not judge her by what she tells us. Ihope she gets as much out of talking to us for this reason, as we get out ofhearing all she tells us about.
Thefive-times-a-day prayers are optional, and you don’t have to do them on theappointed time, but if you want to do them all you should do your prayersometime before the time of the next prayer. She says that when she ispunctual, and when she reads the Quran, she feels closer to God, and makes acomparison to how you feel more content with yourself, and in relation to yourboss when you do your job punctually and correctly, or like when you hand inyour essays in time. This is on a deeper level though.
Out of theblue Khadidja invites us to come to her house tomorrow for iftar. She lives inthe same building as the café, two floors up, under the apartment of theItalian café owner. We thank her and exchange numbers. This situation is soabsurd. Somebody just coming to talk to you about his or her life and theninviting you for dinner. I love it. I’m so glad we get to see this part ofMarrakech as well, to see what Moroccans are like when they haven’t been ruinedby tourism in the same way.