By Kathleen Brody
Morocco is the place that is the most unlike home that I have ever visited and, for that reason, perhaps the most valuable travel experience I have had to date. Although astoundingly beautiful, it wasn’t just the vibrant colors or fragrant scents of Marrakech’s medina, mosaics, or mint tea that entranced me—it was the people I met along the way.
It was the smiling ṣbah lkḥīr from my Arabic teacher in the morning and the captivating conversations with our lecturers in the afternoon. It was the way that strangers greet each other with warmth and trust rather than with skepticism. But most of all, it was the hospitality of my host family that made me feel at home.
The uncertainty that often accompanies initial interactions practically dissipated overnight with Jihane and Yasser; within mere days, I found myself eating tajine with my hands alongside their whole extended family, conversing for hours about our different ways of life. Invigorated by the excitement that comes with new friendship, I didn’t mind staying up until 1:00 a.m. to eat dinner (the fifth meal of the day) or braving the 110-degree weather under the desert sun.
It wasn’t until a bit later in my trip, however, that I felt comfortable enough to fully discuss topics on which we were likely to disagree—and sure enough, we did not see eye to eye on many of them, including ones that involved some of my deepest philosophical and socio-political convictions.
Yet somehow, despite our vastly different opinions, our respect for one another and our relationship never faltered; even after our most passionate debates, we ended them with the acknowledgement that our respective views are at least a partial product of our different backgrounds, cultures, and upbringings, and that one is no less valid than the other. These conversations culminated in one of my biggest and most important milestones of personal growth, as this was the first time in my life that I genuinely felt I could be intimately close to people with views fundamentally different from my own.
On top of every other joy I experienced during my time with Jihane and Yasser, this was undoubtedly the biggest gift that they, and my trip to Morocco, could have given me—and it would not have been possible without their unwavering openness and acceptance of me as an outsider in their own home. They exemplify a true benevolence that I strive to embody through my own thoughts, words, and actions every day.