If you want to understand Morocco, look at this picture.
This is the photo of the Moroccan team players, after they returned from Qatar.
And who is in front? It’s the Mothers.
They are in the foreground, even the king is a bit behind, you can still see him well because none of them are right in front of him, but he is in the background.
(On the other hand, in the photo with the players alone, he is in his rightful place, in the foreground, between his son Moulay El Hassan and his brother Moulay Rachid.)
These women represent all strata of Moroccan society, they live in Morocco or abroad, they are more or less young, more or less beautiful, but they are the players’ mothers.
You saw one or two of them during the Cup, the one who went dancing on the pitch with her son, the one who kissed her son in the stands.
It was the King who insisted that they be there, even if it meant changing the plane tickets. And it wasn’t just for the photo… Hakim Ziyech’s mother, who lives in the Netherlands, took the opportunity to visit the medina of Rabat. But not on her own… she had two policemen to escort and protect her.
(I’m putting it again on so we can see everything).
They have all put on a traditional outfit (except for one, who has just a skirt and a long jacket), because that’s how they make themselves beautiful in Morocco. There are caftans, djellabas, more or less richly embroidered, babouches, “pretty shoes” and sports shoes (called espadrilles, here).
On the right, one of the mothers has made a curious mix with a top and a jacket with small black and white checks, a very European houndstooth, on top of a skirt made of white lace fabric, which is called “sayyia” and which is part of the festive uniform of the Berbers… It is, I believe, the mother of Hakim Ziyech, the family is Berber, originating from the Rif, which has superb Berber tattoos, which have become rare.
A little further to the right, a mother is wearing a niqab (the veil that covers the entire face except for the eyes) and she wore it throughout the competition. But she is not a terrorist (joke). She is not wearing a glove and her jellaba is light coloured, I interpret that she simply refuses to be photographed and that this niqab is her solution to participate in the event without having her face photographed. One of my sisters-in-law too, totally adorable, one of those who used to force me to eat during Ramadan, had this same absolute refusal to be photographed.
They are almost all veiled, one wears the white clothes of the hajjas (women who have made the pilgrimage) and, in their appearance, they are much more diverse than their son’s players, in their navy blue uniforms and white trainers.
When I see this picture, I see a lot of women I’ve met in real life here, it’s the true representation of Moroccan women, whether they live in Morocco or abroad.
You’re going to tell me “Yeah, publicity stunt, communication”. But you would be wrong.
In Morocco, to say thank you, we ask God to bless your parents, Allah irham l walidin, “may God have mercy on your parents” (in other words, since it is thanks to them that you were born and that you were able to do me good).
So it is normal to thank the mothers of the players, not to leave them aside.
And the wives? We don’t see them
That’s the big difference between Morocco and West. Many Muslim women call themselves “Mother of so-and-so” “Oumm Hakim” for example, instead of their first name. This is called Kunya. The use of kunya is not reserved for women; for a man we use Abu (Abu Bakr, or Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur, the real name of Yacoub El Mansour)
This means that it is more respectful to address a person, therefore a woman, by referring to her status as a mother than by using her first name. To the outside world, a woman is above all a mother. Her role as a woman-wife is an intimate one and should not be visible in public.
Is this good or bad? I don’t know, that’s the way it is. I’m just talking about understanding Morocco a bit…