Written by CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer Ms. Ikram Douaou
My journey as an official CorpsAfrica Volunteer started on the 12th of November 2021. Not so long! Yet, long enough to make me question myself. As a 23-year-old city girl from Marrakech, the “Red City” known for tourism, I have chosen to leave my comfort zone and dedicate one year of my life to a rural area. People think that doing so is for the sake of the development of a village of the High Atlas within my site. That’s what I thought at first too! Little did I know that this experience that did not start a long time ago would affect me so much.
My parents are both Amazigh. They were born in the city but their parents, my grandparents, were not. For so long, I felt the pride of being a Marrakechi with Amazigh ancestors. However, people here did not see me the way I saw myself. They helped me see the differences between me and them, differences that I have never noticed before! As Ryszard Kapuscinski said in one of his major works, The Other: “After all, not only is he an Other for me, I am an Other for him too.” I felt that. Although we all hold the same nationality, same religion and same culture, these elements aren’t enough. Having Amazigh ancestors and a family that speaks the language fluently was not enough for them to count me as one of them. Although I do understand it, I had to speak it!
With all the welcoming greetings, the invitations to wedding and circumcision ceremonies, I was the Other! Let me be clear, people here, my own people, are nice, welcoming, very accustomed to foreigners as it is one of the most popular paths to Toubkal, the highest mountain peak in North Africa. However, I am not a tourist nor a foreigner. I am a Moroccan who resides about 84.5 Km from the village I volunteer in. I was someone known to them but yet not part of them. I was someone that looks like them but yet strange to them. I was another type of Other.
This made me question myself. Who am I if I am not a Moroccan Marrakchi girl with an Amazigh background? Is it my looks? Is it my language? Is it my background that they know nothing about apart from what was told to them? How come prejudice make people so distinguished yet so close. Although they knew nothing about me, they made sure to make me feel physically comfortable. It is my host family that tried to make me feel emotionally and mentally comfortable to a certain degree. I noticed that my host mom tried to protect me from some people by not translating local idioms that were said to me about me. Still, I did understand.
“My identity is what prevents me from being identical to anybody else” this is a quote taken from Amin Maalouf’s book, On Identity. We, as human beings, we are not the same. We belong to a culture, in my case the Moroccan culture. However, subcultures are THE ruling cultures within small communities like the one I live in for the moment. I have to adapt to the subculture to fully integrate. Yet, I must not lose myself.
But who am I first to not lose myself?…