Someplace far back in my mind while I was in Morocco, I always was aware that Morocco is a Muslim country with its own specific familial structures different from what we generally see in the US. But seeing and hearing about family values first hand is another thing all together.
We went to visit a rug seller one day in Fez to learn about how carpets are made, about the meanings of some of the woven designs and symbols, and especially about how to bargain. And, really it should not have come as a surprise when the salesman began to talk about his family, or rather, in particular, his future relationships and relations with his family. “One day when older, you stay in the corner and you die. But who takes care of you? Your family,” he said. He paused to take a sip of the mint tea with us.
This was a big point to him; he explained that the bigger the family, the more people there are to take care of you, the better off you are. In short, he told us, you never want to be alone. And then he continued: “When I have more money I would like a second wife.” It would take “more money,” he said, because women with their children and their own needs are very expensive.
What kind of second wife would he like? “55, I don’t like. Thirty-five, is better. I want young and beauty.”
We didn’t go into culture shock from his statements because really, we knew to expect this kind of thinking eventually. But on the other hand, when the conversation comes up what are you supposed to say in return?