Updated: Jul 10
By Houria Chouhab F2F Field Officer
HAF’s representatives in a cultural discussion with participants in the GVANIM program. Photo Credit: HAF
When I hear Dar Malika, I immediately think of Malika’s lovely smile and welcoming spirit. Malika is a woman in her sixties who invites local and international tourists to have a cup of Moroccan tea and local food at her house. Her home is located in the Ourika Valley and it has a beautiful view of the High Atlas Mountains. Dar Malika, the Arabic equivalent to Malika’s House, has a history of cultural reunions where people from different cultures come together to exchange their stories, views and opinions while having a cup of Moroccan tea with mint or absinthe.
There the High Atlas Foundation´s (HAF) team members often meet with young people from different civil associations from Israel to present HAF’s projects and to discuss opportunities for potential partnerships to help Moroccan communities. These meetings allow both sides to learn more about both the Moroccan and Israeli communities and how their NGO´s projects contribute to sustainable development in the communities.
I had the opportunity to have a cup of tea in Dar Malika twice. The first time was in December when I met a group of young Israelis with Moroccan background, who came to Morocco to visit their family origins and learn more about how their ancestors lived. The group was committed to help the communities where their grandparents had lived. Their plans included bringing more tourists from around the world to the country and celebrating Moroccan-Jewish heritage. This would greatly benefit tourism in rural communities and help the people who live there.
Last week, I got another chance to visit the cultural house of Malika, and again I met with a group of young people full of enthusiasm. This time they were from various Israeli non-profit organizations that participated in the Gvanim program. This program aims at introducing the participants to the important role Jewish people and their culture played in the history of Morocco and raising recognition and awareness for this important cultural heritage. It also serves as an invitation for the participants to explore their Jewish identity and connect with the legacy of Israel.
One of the participants said that these visits allow them to learn about Jewish communities in a Muslim country and their cultural development throughout history and to evaluate this in the context of Jewish life in Israel and the Middle East today. Another participant believed that teaching Jewish children their ancestors´ language could be a great way to influence them culturally and socially and connect them with their origins, religion and traditions.
These meetings reminded me of my childhood in Essaouira, where Jewish and Muslim people lived next to each other. My mother once told me that she got a lot of her recipes from a Jewish neighbor and that most of the silver-jewelry makers in the city today learned their craft from Jewish craftsmen. I feel proud to have grown up in a multicultural and socially united city like Essaouira.
Houria Chouhab ; Farmer-to-Farmer Field Assistant and Volunteer Technical.