After traveling to Tangier, the Sahara, Meknes, Fez, and Chefchaouen, I had doubts as to whether or not our final excursion to Casablanca and Marrakech would be exciting in comparison. Part of my initial woe over traveling to the two cities was the fact that both the Hassan II Mosque and the Marrakech medina had been described to me as “touristy” by a number of individuals. However, traveling to the Mosque was a very culturally enriching experience, as it allowed many of us non-Muslims to get a feel for the tranquility and serenity of such a holy center. Furthermore, the interactions I witnessed between average tourists and the determined shop-owners in the Marrakech medina helped me realize how vast the tourism industry is in Morocco. Furthermore, the degree to which the people of the city recognize tourism as an economic necessity is apparent in both their hospitality and their cross-cultural understanding, the latter of which was perfectly exemplified by the Muslims’ treatment of Europeans and Americans alike who were choosing to not practice Ramadan. Before this weekend, the word “touristy” had repugnant connotations for me. However, the Hassan II Mosque and Marrakech demonstrated that these types of places are absolutely essential in the worldwide quest of this century to strengthen cultural understanding between all nations and people.
Back home, in Hawaii, locations often visited by tourists are just as often avoided by the locals who tend to detest interacting with people who lack their intimate understanding of insular culture and lifestyle. Admittedly, I am guilty of this and, thus, have tried throughout my life to avoid becoming just another somewhat culturally ignorant tourist in a touristy place, like the two that we visited this weekend. This trip changed that for me. It made me, as well as others in my group, realize that if tourists and locals are both willing to be sensitive to each other and open to each others’ differences, touristy environments can evolve into places that promote tolerance and understanding, two sentiments that our world needs now more than ever. Thank you Casablanca and thank you Marrakech for helping me realize that.