Kawtar: A Great Delight and Honor

by

As I sat down in the university coffee shop after our Arabic lesson I felt tired and drained both physically and emotionally. My throat was dry from the dusty air and the comfy looking couch sitting nearby was far too tempting. After keeping my mind focused for an hour and a half attempting to absorb a new difficult language my thoughts began to wonder away to places such as the hotel pool. As much as I hate to admit it, I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to the university students. I thought of a few questions I wanted to ask, but then I quickly realized I would need a drink of two before asking them because I was afraid they could be taken the wrong way. I didn’t know these people or enough about their culture. What if I asked something they felt was offensive? My body tightened a bit at the thought of saying the wrong thing. Luckily, before I had time to create more anxiety three young men came and sat at our table. We introduced ourselves and started making small talk. The conversation continued but it felt mostly shallow, as if we were all just trying to avoid falling into a pattern of awkward silence. Then, Kawtar arrived and sat one set removed from me. I couldn’t help but notice her obvious beauty that was even more exemplified by her bright yellow headscarf. I immediately felt connected to her because she was the only other female in my discussion group. From the first time she opened her mouth she embodied a perfect combination of wit and intelligence. At first she intimidated me; I thought to myself, “this girl as it all!” She looked me directly in the eyes when she spoke, and her smile quickly won me over, making me feel accepted and comfortable. We quickly moved past the simple questions and began discussing issues with more depth. I asked her, “why do you chose to wear a headscarf,” and “what about all of the girls here who chose to dress in a more Western fashion?” Her response was not what I expected in the least bit. She explained that in her opinion most of the women that try to appear Western or “more modern” actually tend to be uneducated and seeking the wrong kind of attention. She explained that wearing a headscarf is very much her own choice, as is the case for almost of the women in Morocco. It certainly did not make her less modern. As I listened to her speak eloquently I began to view her headscarf as a symbol of honor, beauty, independence and tradition. This conversation lead into politics when she asked me what I thought of Obama and the upcoming presidential election. This brought about a heated discussion between myself, Michael and Nick. However, before we could get into much of an argument she brought us back to what was really important. She praised us for our awareness of the issues in our country. She explained that the people in Morocco don’t really educated themselves on the matter because the politics in their nation are so dysfunctional and complex. She said that even though half of the voters are women, they hardly ever vote women into office in Morocco. Kawtar explained the need for female politicians with such compelling conviction I thought someone should vote her into office! Our talk continued from one powerful issue to the next with equal intensity. When Mouhsin came and told us that it was time to go, I wanted to stay and talk with Kawtar for hours. My tiredness had vanished entirely and been replaced with passion and desire to learn more about life as a woman in Morocco. Despite the many differences that Kawtar and I might have, we had become friends in this short period of time. I thought to myself as we left the university that evening what an honor it would be to have a relationship with a woman such as Kawtar. She displayed poise, power, kindness and so much more in the little time that I spent with her. It became clear to me that despite any differences we may have, it isn’t hard at all to overcome them if you take the time to learn about one another. I was saddened by the fact that I knew I would most likely never see her again. Little did I know, God had other plans. As it turns out Kawtar was the one to accompany me on my first exciting adventure to the hammam, where I had the honor to learn more about her culture in action. It’s safe to say that this experience brought us all pretty close pretty quickly, if you know what I mean. While there is much that can be learned through studies–visiting sites, reading and discussing, it doesn’t quite compare to what you can learn through friendship.

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