For Ladies Only

My sisters, I am finding that in this patriarchal, predominantly Muslim, conservative country, I am virtually invisible to the typical man on the street. If anything, I am looked at with disapproval. The only people who greet me cordially are the shopkeepers, who would like me to separate me from my money.
I have learned quickly not to make eye contact, and after a week here I now walk with my baseball cap pulled down low on my forehead to avoid people’s stares. Since at home a large part of my job is to interact with strangers, it was difficult for me to remember not to smile at people. That is, until the first few sneers and rude remarks. One man yelled “Hootchie coochie” at me – I guess that’s the love call of the Moroccan male.
Even the little kids are disrespectful. One small boy deliberately kicked his soccer ball into my leg at close range, as his three friends watched. I caught the ball and held onto it as we continued down the street, only to discover that we had reached a dead end. As we made our way back, the friends, thinking I was coming after them, quickly pointed out the culprit. I knew just enough French to tell him that was a bad thing to do, and I’m sure he could tell by my tone of voice that I was very angry. I wonder, would he have dared do that to a Moroccan woman? I doubt it very much.
On another, related topic, girlfriends, let’s talk toilets.
Veteran travelers know not to expect American style bathroom facilities wherever they go. In Morocco, you look for the door marked Toilette or WC. What lies behind that door ranges from western-style porcelain fixtures within stalls with floor-to-ceiling doors with functioning locks, or holes in the ground with a footprint on either side. But let’s face it: sometimes you can’t be too particular about the facilities when nature calls. This is not a problem if you have come prepared. There is a very convenient item sold in travel speciality stores that can revolutionize a traveling woman’s life: it’s a little paper cone called Urinelle, and it allows a lady to avoid the necessity of coming into contact with off-putting facilities and to pee standing up, just like the boys do. Of course, one must be prepared in advance. And don’t forget the tissues. Or the hand sanitizer. Or one’s sense of humor!

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