There's so much to be said about my trip to Morocco. Those 10 days were nothing short of magical. Especially because I didn't have any negative experience related to the colour of my skin.
The group I travelled with was noticeable. We were predominantly black women and most of us sported our natural hair. Fros. Twist outs. Braids. Locks. Sister locks. We were definitely a sight to be seen. And we caught people's eyes.
My pre-travel reading underlined the plight of black people, migrants in particular [article in French], in the region. Being black in the Maghreb (region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. — Source: Wikipedia) can be challenging. Earlier this year, Miss Algeria 2019 [article in French] was the subject of racist comments.
Why, you may ask, do I concern myself with such things? I like to know what I'm getting into. While each traveller may have a different experience, it's good to know what to be prepared for. You may also add that I am not a migrant. But I'm fully aware that people will see my skin before they see my passport. Hostility against migrants who look like me can easily be directed at me. The privileges afforded by a Canadian passport don't often extend to my skin tone.
Strength in numbers?
Given the size of our group, I didn't expect men to catcall. I was wrong. While I never felt unsafe, it was interesting to see how men would just hurl "Mama Africa" or "America" at us.
During our first night out (in Casablanca), we quickly noted that there weren't other women walking in the streets. It was past 10 p.m. We were told that most women drove or were driven when they went out this late at night. The size of our group didn't matter. We were somewhat of an anomaly: a bunch of foreign women walking the streets late at night.
"I am not Miriam Makeba"
"Mama Africa" is the phrase people used the most to address us in Chefchaouen. "America" was a close second.
Some people asked if we came from Côte d'Ivoire or Senegal. We'd say no.
I couldn't help but wonder if they referred to us as "Mama Africa" because of Miriam Makeba.
Casablanca on a Saturday afternoon. About 6 of us were walking to a restaurant for lunch when a white BMW (with red interior?—yo pa egare [Haitian joke]) slowed down next to us. The guy in the passenger seat lowered his window and started talking to us. As many had done before him, he welcomed us to Morocco and went on to compliment us. He wasn't threatening, so I stopped paying attention to him and continued my conversation with one of my travel companions.
I'm not sure if my accent gave me away or if I said a word in French. "Mais vous parlez français!" (Hey! You speak French!), he said. He welcomed me to Morocco. Again. He mentioned how we were a good looking group. Then he proceeded to sing Chocolat by Lartiste (ft. Awa Imani).
Peeps, I burst out laughing. What are the odds of me being serenaded in Morocco by a Moroccan man with a song by an artist of Moroccan descent?!