The day that my mom called me to tell me that she had booked a flight to Morocco, my heart just about stopped. “You did what?” I just couldn’t believe she was going to be traveling to a Muslim country. About a year and a half ago, my family and I were waiting to board a plane to Naples, Florida when two Muslim men rolled out their carpets and began their prayers before boarding. In a panic, my mom gathered up all of her belongings and asked us to come with her because she was going to try to change our flight. When I asked her why, she said, “I think there’s something fishy going on.”
Today, Mother is in Tangier, and she has already hugged three Muslim strangers.
First, there was a hug for Douaa, and then one for Mourad. The third hug Mother doled out was to a man named Mustafa, a warm-hearted man who works at a large co-op store. I had the pleasure of meeting him during one of my first few trips to the Medina. It was the same day I found out that my mom was coming to visit me, and I shared the news with him out of excitement. As I wandered the store and got familiar with this stranger, I saw a beautiful carpet that was way out of my price range. “When your mom comes to visit Tangier, be sure to bring her to my store,” Mustafa said, “I would love to meet her, and maybe she would buy you a carpet.” So I brought my mom to visit him, as I promised I would.
When we arrived at his store, Mustafa came running down the stairs with a smile bigger than the moon and gave me a big hug, and then forced a hug on my mom as well. I laughed, as I could sense the shock on her face as he squeezed her. “Come on in; I’ll make some mint tea,” he said. We kindly declined the mint tea, but we talked with Mustafa while looking through his store.
Slowly, I could see that my mom was warming up. She started shopping around, and she even joined in my conversation with Mustafa. I excused myself to go to the bathroom, and, to my surprise, when I came back out my mom was looking at some of the same exact carpets I fell in love with during my first visit to the store.
“Aren’t these beautiful, Hannah?” I smiled at both her and Mustafa.
Ten minutes later, my mom was clapping her hands like a little kid as Mustafa wrapped up a beautiful, hand-crafted carpet made by Berber women. When he finished wrapping the carpet, he handed her the bag, held her hands, and said “You have a wonderful daughter; you did a great job raising her, and I am so happy you allowed her to come to Morocco. If she is ever in any trouble, just know that many people care about her and will take care of her.” With tears in my eyes, I watched my mom give Mustafa a big hug and thank him. Mustafa called me over to join them in a group hug. I laughed as I walked over and hugged him goodbye. At that moment, I knew that the experience with Mustafa was enough to change my mom’s life.
Being in Morocco has changed my entire perspective, and I’m certain that it changed hers too. I’m so happy that my mom made the trip to Morocco, a Muslim country, not to visit me, but to see for herself that people in Muslim countries aren’t what they’re made out to be in the American media. The people Mother met and the experiences we shared left her with a better understanding of the culture and the kind of people Muslims are: generous, good-natured human beings.