A few months ago when everything started to heat up in the Middle East, I became a bit worried about our travel plans to Morocco. (Although it should be noted that I am well aware that Morocco isn’t Libya or Syria.) Mostly, I was concerned about traveling with a small child and wondered if we were doing the right thing. We kept an eye on the news and went ahead with our plans. I did however purchase a child leash (NOT the same as a dog leash, people: it’s a horse backpack with a leash-like hold attached to it). And can I just say, it was the best damn thing. The souks can get crazy, especially when motorbikes fly through the narrow alleys at high speed and without much warning. Not to mention, it made us lots of friends. I think they may still be talking about us and our child leash in the Marrakesh souk.
We discovered that children are revered in Moroccan culture. 5 year old was treated like royalty everywhere we went. She was like a VIP pass. She collected many head pats, hugs, kisses and gifts. The warm welcome she received melted away our previous doubts and trepidation of any culture clash; it made us smile and relax. We let our guard down a bit, and interacted more genuinely. Yes, we still had to haggle and all, but it felt less like culture clash and more like an adventure with our little VIP pass on a leash. I think it took the experience into a more authentic realm that we may not have touched upon as much, had we traveled without her.
Warm travel fuzzies aside – our experience and the attitude of Moroccans towards children made husband and I recognize that our own culture can sometimes be annoyed by childlike exuberance; we don’t embrace it as often (and I plead guilty). It reminded us to allow 5 year old to be, well, 5, and not fall into the trap of our own adult expectations. Again I quote Tahir Shah, from The Caliph’s House: Morocco has an antique culture, one that’s still intact, with the family at the core. For me, the greatest thing about living here has been that [my children] can play against an inspiring backdrop teeming with a full spectrum of life. As a parent, I have escaped the sense of guilt that drowns all parents in Britain, where the Victorian conviction persists that all children should be seen and not heard. I encourage [my children] to be loud, to shout, to dance in the streets, to be themselves.
We are thrilled to see travel teach our young daughter many life lessons. We didn’t foresee the bonus of getting some lessons in parenting too.