By TABOR SMITH
ESSAOUIRA, Morocco– I thought I imagined it at first. Not only was it good English, but profanity! I looked to my left. The 20-something Moroccan man was leaned against a wall with his fish cart beside him. His middle finger was erected from his fist, his eyes locked onto me. I looked forward again and continued my hurried walk, my arm linked to my friend, Katherine, and my brain desperately replaying the last 30 seconds.
The incident had taken place just 20 minutes after our arrival in Essaouira, a fishing city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. Katherine and I were lagging behind the group, on its way to a seafood restaurant for lunch, to take pictures of the docks.
Katherine had been walking ten paces ahead of me. I was in no rush, pointing my camera at everything that caught my eye on the lively docks. The twenty-something began calling out to her. “Hello, angel! You’re beautiful!” he shouted.
The girls in our group were used to it by then. The constant attention they received from young Moroccan men was nothing new. As a male, it’s hard for me to know the feeling of constantly feeling objectified, but I see it wearing on them. I’ve seen some of them break down into tears in front of me. I try to help in any way that I can.
“Come be my husband!” Katherine called back to me. She wanted to shut him up. I dashed forward and locked arms with her in an attempt to communicate that we were together. We’ve learned that the golden rule is that Moroccan men generally respect the fact that a man is with a woman. They won’t catcall them if they’re already taken.
Then came the profanity.
The next few days, I would mull over the situation again and again. I thought about the twenty-something’s decision to call to Katherine on the street, one he had probably made before and will almost certainly make again. I thought about my decision to attempt to protect my friend at the risk of angering a complete stranger.
I thought about Katherine; she had no choice.