Here are some observations that I’ve made around Meknes both regarding the Coffee Shop and the Barber Shop. The Coffee Shop: This is only one observation of the many that have caught my eye recently and I feel that this is worth sharing if you want to get a good insight of the Moroccan lifestyle and economy compared to the American lifestyle and economy. Throughout Meknes, and in any city in Morocco, one will find numerous coffee shops. Now, these coffee shops are all small businesses (not many Starbucks or Caribou Coffee Shop’s in Morocco) with their customers, all of which are men (the occasional female customer but it’s not that common to see). What I found interesting going to these coffee shops is that the customers are just sitting around all day socializing, drinking coffee, or just staring into space. This might seem a wast eof time to some, I’ve asked myself why don’t these men get jobs, help Morocco’s economy grow. What actually happens is that most of the men who sit in these coffee shops are business men and the coffee shop serves as their unofficial office. For instance, let’s say that a Moroccan needs to sell their house and they need a realtor, many realtors are at the coffee shop down the road so the Moroccan goes to the coffee shop and talks to realtor and they start a dialogue. Many business transactions occur at these coffee shops, so it might not seem that anything is getting accomplished at these coffee shops, but in reality there is a whole economic system that is based on the coffee shop.
The Barber Shop and Language Barriers: I believe that going anywhere in Meknes alone allows you to experience to culture in its unedited, purest form. When I say unedited, I mean that although the Moroccans know you are a foreigner and might still treat you differently than another Moroccan, the intimidation factor that comes with a large group of Americans is almost eliminated. People are much more willing to try to talk to you and want to show how Moroccans really live. That being said, going anywhere alone also forces you to use the vernacular so you have to put your Arabic skills to the test. A good example of this is my two visits to the local barber shop. During my two visits I’ve had to use a mixture of Derija and French to let the barber know what type of haircut I want. Along with some charades I usually get my point across. Communicating like this can be fun but also can be frustrating for some people. I try to take advantage of these situations to use and practice the Arabic that I know and I also use it as a learning experience to learn more words to improve my proficiency in Arabic. I also have this experience almost every time I go to the medina to buy something. When the person I talk to knows Classical Arabic, I usually can get my point across pretty easily. But often, I usually end up using what little French and Derija I know along with some charades to get what I need.