Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Men are from Mars, Women are from Morocco

There are very few things I can say that I am absolutely of a feminine mindset about, but directions would be one of them. I can not understand the concept of North and South in relation to where I am in a car. I am completely directionally challenged. So how does a woman get around in traffic in this male dominated highway that is Morocco? Read on. Let me forewarn you that this post may offend you and come off as completely sexist. Welcome to driving in Morocco.

I have taken an informal poll of my friends and I have found that women understand landmark directions and men understand north, south, street name directions better. It's just the way we are wired. But since the names of streets aren't always posted on roads here, and even if they are they are in Arabic and French, no one uses them. Really even taxi drivers will often not know the names of streets. You must use the feminized method of direction giving. Landmarks. But what you may not know is every street looks EXACTLY the same and every house is surrounded by a gate and EVERY gate is white. So the direction giving process involves excruciating detail. And I think we all know which sex is best at giving things in excruciating detail.

So giving directions in Morocco goes something like this. You know the royal palace is? Ok, go past the palace. On your left there will be some cows in a field, make a sharp left there and go over the dip in the road. You'll come to a round about. Exit when you get to the big pot hole in the street. Not the little pot hole, the big one filled with water. Then you'll go about 20 yards until you see a white gate the color of a fresh snow fall covered with bougainvillea and a sign in Arabic that says.... well....it says something. Turn right there. You'll go down a few streets until you come to a white gate in a dirty snow color with a parking attendant. If you've come to the young good looking parking attendant with the reflective vest you have gone too far. Then turn around until you see the old guy with the blue coat who doesn't have any front teeth. Park there and you will see the gate to my house across the street. It's the creamy vanilla colored one, not the cafe au lait shaded one.

So what's weird about the fact that we as women are preprogrammed to excel in directionality here in Morocco? Most of the driving in Morocco is done by men. That's not to say that there aren't women drivers here, but that the deviance between the two is grossly skewed in favor of men. Females are usually relegated to the passengers seat with a baby in their lap. There are no seatbelt/car seat laws here. That coupled with the aggressive driving style helps to account for the 10 fatalities in Morocco every day due to traffic accidents. In 2005, Morocco was the 6th highest country in traffic accidents world wide. I recently saw a "lucky" woman who was sitting in the backseat with her baby on her lap. The question is was she back there because it's safer for the baby or because she isn't allowed up front?

Then there is me driving like a man, but ph balanced like a woman. Not only am I that crazy foreign lady driving aggressively but I'm also singing and car dancing simultaneously, the great American past time. Groovin' in your car just doesn't translate in Morocco. So I'm pretty sure I look like some insane white woman who's yelling at them while having convulsions. Like I'm some kind of driving antichrist (oh....that was politically incorrect), I mean antimohammed. They always make way for me at the traffic circle though. Being a foreign woman does have it's benefits and one of those is a yellow diplomatic license plate.

What if there were more Moroccan women driving here? First, the driving would be less aggressive as Moroccan women drivers are notoriously timid and more defensive. More caution equates to less accidents. Then while the woman drives someone would have to hold the baby, which would require a car seat. More car seats translates to less injuries and fatalities on the road. And lastly, she's already expertly equipped to get to her destination and now she can tell her man EXACTLY where to go.....in excruciating detail.


Anonymous said...

I had to comment on this, and I don't know how to say this. You know I am a big fan...but I was so shocked/disappointed by parts of this post (you give fair warning, tis true). You seem to imply that there are reasons other than economics behind the fact that there are more men drivers on the roads than women. In reality, most Moroccan families don't have cars, and those who do, are a one car family. One car = one driver, sometimes the man, sometimes the woman, depending on the needs of each family.
You use the wording "relegated to the passenger seat with a baby in their lap". Of course you have a right to your perspective. However, as a Moroccan woman, I can assure you this is not at all the dynamic that is happening. I drive because I have to, but if my husband is around, then I gladly toss him the keys. This type of chivalry may be outdated, but I appreciate him dealing with Marrakesh traffic. I don't feel like driving in Morocco is a special privilege. Glad I have the skills to do so, but it's not something I need to do constantly to prove that I'm a man's equal.
Your post give the impression that Morocco is some kind of Saudi Arabia, where women aren't allowed to drive. This couldn't be farther from reality. When I drive to pick up my kids from school, at least half of the other drivers waiting at the school are women.
Secondly, you mention that Morocco doesn't have any seatbelt/carseat laws. Perhaps you're not aware of the law that requires the driver and front passenger to wear seat belts. It was implemented a few years ago and was the target of a major campaign, which resulted in an actual shift in behavior. Most drivers do wear seat belts now.
It's also against the law for a child under 12 to sit in the front seat.
Thirdly, I was surprised that you didn't mention the recent implementation of the new driving laws "moudawana", that aims to reduce the high accident mortality rate that you mention, by greatly increasing the fines for traffic violations.
And lastly, not to split hairs here or anything, but your reference to the antichrist is not that far off base, since Muslims also believe in the antichrist, and the second coming of the Messiah, upon whom be peace. (I know you're not meaning us to take you literally, just thought you'd be interested to know).
I am in the same boat as you as far as directionality. When tourists ask me how to get to Jardin Majorelle for example, I'm like this flailing, gesticulating, most unhelpful oaf. My favorite way of giving directions in Morocco "go to the next street light, then ask again".

The Loerzels said...

Thank you for your comment.

I write things as I see them. I wasn't trying to account for the reasons why there are more male drivers, merely that they are. And you're right if I were tackling why there are more male drivers, economics would be right up there.

I was not aware prior to the recent laws that there was a seat belt law or that 12 year olds and under couldn't be in the front seat because the law was completely inconsistent to what I was seeing on the road. With alarming frequency I have seen women holding infants on their laps in the front seat. My husband is a pediatrician and over the summer he was the first medical person on the scene of a horrific traffic accident where a 2 year old child was riding on the autoroute on his mom's lap and my husband was the one to tell this poor woman her child was dead. Had the child been in a car seat in the back seat his death would have been preventable.

Since the new laws have taken effect just a couple of months ago I have seen positive changes on the road which we all hope decrease fatalities.

Safe travels,


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