I got asked by so many people about this: is Morocco a poor and under-developed country? This is one of the things that I have been thinking about, and in the whole, I would say that statement is only 50% true. I mean considering the amount of money people make and compare that to the American standard, then yes, Morocco is a developing country. Considering the development of cities and other infrastructures, and compare that to what we are used to in the states, then yes, Morocco is a developing country. But taking the cost of living and people’s happiness in general into consideration, it’s really not that under-developed. The United Nations’ Human Development Index listed Morocco as approximately at the same level as South Africa, a little behind Egypt, and better off than most African countries. Not that I understand what the index mean, but I do have some observations walking on the streets of Fez.
Beggars are not rare in Morocco. Walking from my host-family’s house out of the medina to take a taxi to school (probably a 2-3 minutes walk), I would always encounter two or more people begging for money on the side of the narrow streets. Some of them sits at the same place everyday and doesn’t seem to go anywhere. It is also not uncommon that people walking by do give small amount of money to these beggars. Walking on the main shopping street in the medina, it’s not uncommon that someone (often old people in this case, and one that may or may not be carrying a child) approaches you and asks for money. Some of them may follow you around for a little bit even if you say no, and others just walk away. I myself really didn’t encounter many of them the time I was there.
Staying with a host-family, we “pay” 100 Dh a day. That’s about $11 USD, and I don’t even know how much of that actually goes to the host-family, as ALIF obviously takes some percentage of that. I do get that it’s somewhat cheaper to live here, and I most certainly can make it through one day with less than 100 Dh, but I don’t know whether our presence in our host-family is actually beneficial to the family from the viewpoint of economics. I can say that the host-family I am staying with is not particularly rich nor particularly poor. They manage to have 4 children, even though their house is not big compare to other places I have been to or seen the pictures of. My host-dad owns a leather slipper shop, and I don’t really know how much money he makes off of that. All I know is that he must makes enough (or he and my host-mom have some other resource of income that I don’t know of) to bring food back home and feed 4 children (6 this summer I suppose), and they seem to be happy with their lives.
I guess my message really is that, when you think of Africa, don’t just assume it’s the continent that’s still in the Dark Ages and people live in huts and all the other far-from-real stereotypes. We are in the 21st century, and many countries, Morocco among ones that are progressing quickly, are catching up with the world.