It Must Be Prayer Time

An Opinion Piece from Morocco

It is my second week of my semester long stay in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Although I had previously been in the city last January with Dickinson Professor Staub and several other students, I am still adjusting to life in a culture that is vastly different from what I’m used to. Already I have had many experiences that have struck me in terms of how different Moroccan and U.S. culture actually are.

Last week during orientation we had a particularly long lunch break so one of the other girls and I decided to go to the Adidas store down the street from the center where we take classes. As we approached the block the store was on, it became obvious that we would not be able to get inside as there was a line of people blocking the entrance. Upon closer inspection we realized that what we saw was actually a line of men, and was not a protest but those who were not able to fit inside the mosque for noon prayer. Lined up along the sidewalk for two blocks these men had stopped what they were doing to pray. Most had prayer mats, and there amongst the traffic of one of the more modern and busy sections of Rabat these men performed the noon prayer.

The juxtaposition of the Adidas store which I was unable to enter with this group of men preforming their prayers was not lost on me. It says a lot about what is valued and accepted as “everyday” behavior in Moroccan society versus the U.S. In the U.S. if you ever saw a group of people outside of a religious establishment in the middle of the day you would think they were protesting or there was a big event such as a wedding or funeral.  It was also a sign of the desire in Morocco to keep tradition (the noontime prayer) alive in an increasingly more globalized society (the influx of big name western brands such as Adidas). It seems that religion is second nature here for the majority of the public, which for someone coming from a country in which the separation between church and state is one of the founding principles is very different.