Americans view the Middle East as a place filled with violence. When I told people that I was going to Morocco, they would raise their eyebrows and tell me to be careful. Of course they had good intentions but I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. What I didn't expect was how Moroccans view violence on a daily basis.
I am not writing this to make assumptions or accusations about the culture here because I do not understand it myself. But I do want to share a few of my experiences regarding violence. My host family thinks it is the funniest thing to threaten each other and even us with knives. Every time dinner is brought out, the mother will have the knife and thrust it towards us. She'll do this over and over until we laugh and let her know that it's funny when in reality I'm terrified that if I flinch I'll have a knife in my arm. One day when I came home for lunch the woman that cleans once a week was having lunch with the family. My host father would "playfully" hit her leg and await for the uproar of laughter that followed. I'm not sure why it was so funny because he did, actually, hit her really hard.
Another instance when I found this humor uncomfortable was when I was in the Sahara. When the Berber guides brought Gabrielle and I to the top of the sand dune, one of them pretended to choke me. I was actually really scared because I realized how easy it was for a murder to take place up there and no one to notice. He of course let go right away and he and his friend just laughed at my reaction.
This happens with strangers, too. I went into an art gallery to buy a painting I had seen and started talking with the artist. He was very nice and our combination of Arabic and French seemed to suffice. I chose the painting I wanted and he brought out a pipe to roll the paintings around. When he came out of his room, he had this horrific look on his face and he made a motion to smash my head in with the pipe. I gave him a wide-eyed look and then smiled at his "joke." He laughed and just shook his head at our lack of communication.
I have yet to understand this kind of humor. These are just some of the experiences that stand out to me, not to mention the fascination with blood and gore that many of the younger boys have here. I am disgusted and terrified and also intrigued that a culture can have such a humorous view of violence. I completely realize that this occurs with people in the United States, too. But here is it much more prevalent and it seems that more people share this humor. I am still trying to work around this idea in my head because it was such an unexpected shock.