Under the beauty of the crimson sun, in the city of Rabat, I step out the revolving airport doors and into a super anxious crowd, awaiting a myriad of passport and baggage control checks. These checks were a natural reaction to the recent surge in terror attacks across the European and Arabic people, so as a measure of caution, security was at its highest. This being my first exposure to the Morocco culture, I certainly felt a degree of tension and unease, yet I couldn’t have been more wrong.
As an English citizen and resident, my exposure and ideas surrounding ‘cultural harmony’ was a somewhat complex idea. On one hand, my friendships and relationships have been formed regardless of race or background: in England, communities and cultural minorities seem to live independently and safely within my relatively rural hometown, and the very language I speak has been formed from a linguistic soup of different civilisations and influences, developed many centuries ago as a result of the merging of cultural influences. However, this has been contrasted greatly with social and political movements within England, such include the English Defense League’s (EDL) rallies within my hometown, the United Kingdom Independence Party’s (UKIP) bid for a border and immigration shutdown and the famous ‘BREXIT’ vote. Whilst cultural harmony seems like the ideal community, it becoming a true reality also feels like it is a world away. However, my opinion on the matter formed through the media and my usual surroundings was to be shaken by my visit to Morocco.
I would like to say that it's impossible to push the brilliant and diverse nature of Morocco into a single category, as everything from age, race and location can re-define this tag - however I digress. A major point I overlooked before my trip was the difference in attitudes towards photography between my own British culture and that of the typical Arabic-Moroccan culture. In western culture, society is very used to the idea that photography and cameras are an extension to the modern world that we have created and the seemingly innate idea of recording life on camera is not adopted by a substantial portion of Morocco's population. My cultural differences and even naiveness led to a very different experience photographing in Morocco than the experiences I was used to at home. For example, in the UK you have the safety of (on the whole) a conservative culture and if things do escalate, the law is always there for your protection. In Morocco however, I found no similar laws protecting the photographer and even if there were any would they be implicated? Since this was a completely unfamiliar culture to me, I had no idea how people would react. However, I can explain that the mixed culture of Morocco does share some of the most hospitable and affectionate people I've come across. This idea of cultural harmony and solidarity is a close reality for 33 million people living in the North African nation of Morocco.
Morocco's history is rich and complex; the region has seen rulers from all kinds of civilisations and overlaps throughout the centuries from Umayyad culture, Andalusian influences, Berber traditions and Jewish traces. As Morocco's past starts hurtling towards the present era, the country has needed to learn how to adapt these cultures and traditions into modern urban life. The Moroccans have so far succeeded in preserving their sense of human solidarity and harmony. They have fused into the modern world, while retaining their own culture.