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5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Morocco

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During my short stay in Morocco, I was fortunate enough to have staff in our Cross Cultural Solutions house willing to answer any questions that arose. The main priority of the CCS staff was to educate and make us feel comfortable throughout the duration of our stay. Khadija, one of the women in the house who spoke english, was kind enough to have a cultural talk about women and their rights in Morocco. Our talk went on for nearly two hours, so I picked what I deemed the most relevant points she made to share with you.

1. 50% of women in Morocco are illiterate. Majority of the country does not know how to read or write. However, women are slowly gaining more prominent roles in society. Around 25% of judges and 20% of doctors and lawyers are women.

2. No sex before marriage is still heavily valued Morocco. If a woman gets married and appears to not be a virgin, it often leads to divorce because they are not pure. Some women even go the extremes of stitching themselves up to appear a virgin.

3. The Hijab is a choice. Surprisingly wearing the Hijab is not required but heavily encouraged. Women get to choose when they start wearing the Hijab. Some don’t wear it until marriage, some start wearing it once they become a women, and some never chose to wear it. This typically depends on how conservative the town the girl grows up in is and if the family pressures them to wear one. When women are in the house with immediate family they do not have to wear the hijab. They wear it in public for modesty and out of respect for the husband.The most frowned upon situation is when a girl wears a hijab and then stops wearing it, you are better off not wearing it to begin with.

4. Abortion is illegal and there is no sex education because it is shameful to talk about it. However, birth control is free for all women, but since they women are uneducated about it doesn’t help. Though the government declared abortion illegal, women do get a 14 month maternity leave when they have a child.

5. Marriage is arranged and dating rules are strict. When women begin to date they can’t hang out alone with a man and must have a third person present. If a man intends to “date” you they should propose before continuing. You are not allowed to kiss or show affection in public without running the risk of getting arrested. Today, under the new law, women aren’t allowed to get married until they are at least 18 years of age and can sign their own marriage contracts with someone else present.

 

 

 

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Africa

Service Trip: Morocco

In May of 2017 I returned for another service trip coordinated by the PEACE Volunteer Center at my university.  The previous year I traveled to Ecuador and this year I traveled to Rabat, Morocco.  Attached below↓ is my video to recap the trip:

disclosurDisclosure: There is no footage of the actual service carried out due to restrictions on photographing and filming at the sites.

Salam | hello !

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Lalla Meriem Orphanage Volunteers

About CCS

A group of two site leaders, two faculty advisors, and eight participants departed from the (University of) Tampa and landed in Rabat, Morocco’s capital. Once we landed we were provided transportation to our homestay with Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS). During the duration of our stay we split up into different sites where we worked with literacy, special needs/disabilities, and children’s health. We volunteered at Feminin Pluriel, a center that teaches english for free; Lalla Meriem Orphanage, which cares for children and individuals with special needs; and the Rabat Children’s Hospital, where we played with children who were there receiving treatment.

Cultural Activities with CCS

During our stay, we immersed ourselves into the culture as much as possible. CCS provided us a safe haven to ask any questions we had to enlighten us about the Moroccan culture. We had a lecture about the Islamic faith and another on women’s rights in Morocco. We even got some beginner lessons in Moroccan Arabic, but don’t worry, they speak french just as well. They also did a cooking lesson where we learned to make traditional Moroccan mint tea and a chicken tajine.

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chicken tajine dish

We also had a few excursions involved, such as exploring the local Roman and Moroccan ruins built in the 1300’s in Rabat and touring the medina. The medina is filled with clothes, street food, leather goods, and souvenirs galore. We certainly made our fair share of trips there in our free time to stock up on some local goodies.

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Chellah Ruins
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eating corn in the medina

Free Day

When we first arrived/unpacked we had the opportunity to take the train to Casablanca. Our first stop was at Rick’s Cafe, which was designed to replicate the coffee/bar in the film Casablanca released in the ’40’s. The place was stunning with detailed decorations and live performances downstairs.

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Rick’s Cafe

After the cafe we wandered around the city before visiting the largest Mosque in Morocco and third largest in the world. Hassan II Mosque gives daily tours until 3pm and is the only Mosque you can tour in Morocco if you are not part of the Islamic faith. We gawked at the beautiful detail in the tiles used to construct the Mosque in 1993.

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Hassan II Mosque

Weekend Excursion

One one of our free weekend we had the opportunity to embark on a weekend trip to the Sahara Desert where we camped out and played with monkeys and foxes. We endured the extreme heat for unforgettable experience.

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Sahara Desert, Morocco.

For more detail about this weekend adventure, check this blog post out.

Needless to say my two weeks in Morocco were filled with culture shock and emotional rollercoasters at the service sites. Throughout the trip, I gained so many new friends, insights, and experiences that will last a lifetime. I want to thank everyone who made this dream a reality, and to all the wonderful people I met along the way.

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All the volunteers

 

 

 

Australia

Taking the Scenic Route: The Great Ocean Road

 

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Winding roads of the GOR

While driving along the Great Ocean Road you won’t be disappointed with what this coastal drive has to offer. We managed to tackle the drive in a day, but there are plenty of places to stop overnight along the way if you wish to go at a slower pace. You have the option to book guided tours tosit back and enjoy the scenic views or you can opt to drive it yourself.

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The Great Ocean Road sign

The drive took my group about 6 hours to complete, but I can assure you you won’t want it to end. Here are some noteworthy stops along the way:

1. The Wreck at Port Cambell

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Loch Ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge was as breathtaking as it looks. When arriving at the site you are standing amongst the limestone rocks and can choose to travel down a winding staircase to wander around and dip into the water. The Gorge was named after a famous tale where a ship crashed into the rocks leaving two lone survivors who swam to shore and climbed their way out of the gorge.

2. The Twelve Apostles

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The Twelve Apostles were formed from erosion and the crashing of the waves against the limestone. However, there are only nine standing today. You can view them up top as well as down on the shoreline to really put into perspective how tall these masses of limestone stand.

3. The Side of the Road

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Koala

Yup, you read that correctly. While driving along the GOR keep your eyes pealed when approaching any stretch with Eucalyptus trees. You might just find one of these cuddly koalas napping in the trees.

4. Make periodic pit stops at local coffee shops and hiking trails.

While driving you’ll want to stop to explore the lush green forests and local coffee shops. It’s a nice way to meet locals and tourists alike. The forests have distinguished trails to follow if you want to take a break from being in the car to absorb the beautiful surroundings.

5. Lorne

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Seaside town of Lorne

Lastly, while driving you will reach Lorne, a seaside town where you can sit back and relax on the sandy beaches or browse the local shops. Many people seek this as an opportunity to stretch their legs and grab a bite to eat before continuing the next leg of the drive.

 

Africa, Uncategorized

A Camel Trek Through the Sahara Desert

My volunteer group decided to dedicate the full weekend we had in Morocco to a trip to Merzouga— a.k.a. the Sahara Desert. Little did we know it was a ten hour drive from the coast of Rabat, but that didn’t deter our excitement in the slightest. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive… even though it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit and our van had minimal air circulation, but that’s besides the point! Driving was an opportunity to see parts of the country we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

On our journey we drove through a town called Azrou. While passing through we saw monkeys wandering around the road and dangling from trees. We quickly pulled over to get a closer look and fed them a few bananas so they’d warm up to us. We hung around long enough to snap some closeups of these friendly creatures.

 

On hour ten of our drive we finally arrived at our hotel, Riad Mamouche, around 2am. We quickly got ourselves accommodated and tried to sleep in the scorching heat.

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Riad Mamouche Hotel

The next morning our group explored the local area and partook in some cultural drumming and dance. After that we went rug shopping. I’m not exaggerating when I say there were hundreds of rugs to choose from, the rooms continued on for forever! We must’ve spent almost two hours looking at all the different hand-woven patterns, sizes, and colors. They were unique in every way possible, which left our shoppers with some tough purchasing decisions.

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Cultural music and dance
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Rugs available to purchase

 

After our day exploring around 5:30pm we set off for our trek through the Sahara. The dunes rolled into the distance for miles creating a kingdom of sand. The clouds were

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The sandstorm approaching our camel line from the left.

dark and rolling in and I made a comment saying it looked like it was going to rain, but in return I just got laughed at by my friends. I mean yeah, it is the desert, but those clouds did not look promising. Low and behold there was a crack of thunder followed by rain. The rain was cool and refreshing, but was quickly followed by a sandstorm we could see approaching in the distance. We wrapped our scarves to cover our faces and looked down during the duration of the storm. The sand was so fine and pelted you from every angel. Needless to say we all needed a shower after that one. The storm soon passed and we continued on to our campsite.

Tip: Keep an eye pealed for some fennec foxes. They are super soft and make for great cuddlers. You can spot their exceptionally large ears from quite a distance. They have such large ears to dissipate heat. IMG_4127

About an hour later we finally reached our destination and settled into our campsite. We spent the rest of the evening climbing the dunes and watching the sun set behind the mounds of sand. Once night fell we ate dinner and played the drums with the locals who brought us there. Whoever said the desert gets cold at night was certainly mistaken, our tents were exceptionally hot. To avoid the heat we collectively decided to spend the evening sleeping outside on blankets under the stars. It was a truly indescribable sight that you won’t understand until you experience it.

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My camel and I survived the storm

We were up late soaking in every moment we could until the sun began to rise around 5am. We all emerged from the campground and climbed the dunes to watch the sunrise. Shortly after we got on our camels and began our ride back to the hotel. It was a beautiful morning with no clouds and more importantly no wind/storms. I took this opportunity to take more photographs without sand destroying my camera lens. Once we arrived back at the hotel we ate a quick breakfast and drove back to Rabat to continue our service at the orphanage.

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Sahara Desert, Morocco

 

I’ll never stop dreaming of such a tranquil place. Thank you for a weekend that allowed each of us to find ourselves… and most importantly, for letting us play in the worlds largest sandbox.

 

 

South America

Service Trip: Amazon Rainforest

In May (2016) I embarked on a service trip, (coordinated by the PEACE Volunteer Center at my university), to the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador. Little did I know I would be going on a two week trip that would change my life. Below ↓ is a video I edited to summarize the work we accomplished during our stay.

Selected to attend the trip were a group of two site leaders, two faculty members, and eleven volunteers who boarded the plane in Tampa, FL and soon found themselves in Quito, Ecuador. Quito is the highest official capital city in the world, standing 2,850 meters above sea level, and boy I can tell you I could feel the change in altitude once I stepped off the plane. We stayed one night to acclimate to the new country and boarded our van the next morning to the Amazon Rainforest.

Five hours later, we arrived at La Amazanga, Comunidad Indigena Quichua.

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The huts we lived in and mosquito net contraption we managed to hang up.

These huts, which we soon called home, were as minimalistic as it could get. My roommate and I quickly broke out our wire and nails to try and figure out the most effective way to hang up our mosquito nets for the night. We took fishing line and rope and strung it across the room and into the huts foundation, and if I do say so myself, it didn’t turn out too shabby!

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Sea of green deep in the Amazon Rainforest.

We quickly had to adjust to the humid temperatures, but remained covered in clothing to protect ourselves from bug bites and the thorns of the Amazon. Buying anything and everything water resistant was the smartest decision I made because of the annual rain showers that left everything soaked and unable to dry due to the humidity. However, sometimes we wished for rain to substitute as our showers since we had little to no accessible running water. Everyday we would have to fill buckets of chilled water and pour them over ourselves to bathe. So if you can see where this is going, anytime it rained we tossed on our bathing suits and brought our biodegradable soap outside to shower– talk about being one with nature.

 

To start our days we would get up at 4am with the family in the village and drink their morning tea, Guayusa, which they claim will make you live longer. It was served to us in bowls carved from a fruit found in the Amazon (depicted above).

 

Our trips purpose was service with an environmental conservation social issue. This consisted of using a machete to chop bamboo, rebuild stair paths into the rainforest, and carry trees on our backs to replant deep in the Amazon. Aside from the vigorous work, we immersed ourselves into the community as much as possible. The village taught us how to make traditional jewelry, throw spears, and shoot darts through bamboo. We were also taught the medicinal use of many plants in the rainforest, for example, a flower said to cure prostate cancer with the prick of the hand- to the “magical plant” up on the hill.

 

After our long days of work we would play with the kids in the community and practice our Spanish and teach them some English. Towards the end of the trip we painted their school house and they painted our faces for the children’s tribal performance.

 

At the end of our trip we headed back to Quito and visited the equator, made some chocolate, and went zip lining. There’s so much more behind the scenes of this trip that truly shaped me and altered my ways of being more proactive towards a sustainable world. My one word of advice is to travel somewhere that challenges you to break out of your comfort zone, that’s where you’ll learn the most valuable lessons.

 

To read more about what our site leaders had to say in a published article, click here.