Maid in Morocco

“Zahra has married an honest, hard working and loving man. She’s obviously overwhelmed with joy even if she’s blushing each time she realizes we’ve noticed her rejoicing.” That’s what my mother announced to me on her last evening call.

Zahra was a maid working in my parent’s house. They brought her when she was still a little child girl, aged about eleven, from the rural area of Shiadma, located in the region of Essaouira . It’s a destitute and desolate place where people live in unbelievable poverty. I always vigorously
objected to the Idea that a child could be hired to work, whatever the circumstances and I still feel repulsed by that. I had many spirited arguments with my parents on this issue. My mother’s argument has always been that Zahra was better off with us than with her own poor family; with the money she earns, her parents wouldn’t have to beg in the streets, she argued. Well, that I objected against too, because giving the money that Zahra was earning by her own work directly to her parents was adding another layer of offense to this already unacceptable situation: it literally transforms it into exploitation. If one cannot handle the money he or she gains, that makes him or her a slave. Plain and simple.

My mother is a very compassionate and tender-hearted woman (I know… I sound grotesquely self-indulgent on this one). My parents cared for Zahra and treated her very well, nevertheless, they couldn’t provide her with the education she ought to have. She’s still illiterate at the age of twenty. As far as my parents are concerned, they’ve protected Zahra and made her the lady she’s now become. As for Zahra, she’s (purportedly) grateful and quite satisfied with the life she spent and the “skills” (the words of my mother) she learned.

Zahra’s story is not the worst amongst the so many anecdotes and dramas surrounding the lives of countless house maids in Morocco, many of whom suffer from abominable exploitation, sexual harassment and intimidation. The civil society has for years and still is actively campaigning against this phenomenon which stems primarily from poverty and lack of law enforcement: the Moroccan law banning, in principle, child labor. Let’s hope we’ll get rid, very soon of this shameful anomaly.

Meanwhile, my warmest congratulations to my dearest Zahra. May you have a long, joyful and successful life!

(picture credit: “veracious jess“)

6 thoughts on “Maid in Morocco

  1. Hi Hisham,
    رمضان مبارك كريم. لا أعتقد أنك “تشحطه
    أي بتاعرابيت تاعرابت تأكله
    I quite agree with you that maids in Morocco are exploited and deprived of their child rights. The worst is the kinds of maids that are regularly exported to the gulf states to do the maid work, which you and I know very well. Young maids in Morocco aren’t exploited in respectable families like yours. They do just housework standing. In the gulf states they work in all kinds of positions. That’s the shameful difference.

  2. Dear Abdelilah! I’m very grateful for your wise comment. You’ve just brought this other side of the issue to my attention. I didn’t pay attention to it, and I couldn’t agree more with your characterization of the scandalous abuse of maids in the gulf despotic kingdoms. Now, as a special present for the beginning of Ramadan, this is a marvelous poem by the eternal Nizar Qabbani in hommage to those so many women, whom dignity is ridiculed by the filthy (excuse me but there’s no other word) potentates of Arabia who thing they can buy out everything by their petrodollars.

    متى تفهمْ ؟

    متى يا سيّدي تفهمْ ؟

    بأنّي لستُ واحدةً كغيري من صديقاتكْ

    ولا فتحاً نسائيّاً يُضافُ إلى فتوحاتكْ

    ولا رقماً من الأرقامِ يعبرُ في سجلاّتكْ ؟

    متى تفهمْ ؟

    متى تفهمْ ؟

    أيا جَمَلاً من الصحراءِ لم يُلجمْ

    ويا مَن يأكلُ الجدريُّ منكَ الوجهَ والمعصمْ

    بأنّي لن أكونَ هنا.. رماداً في سجاراتكْ

    ورأساً بينَ آلافِ الرؤوسِ على مخدّاتكْ

    وتمثالاً تزيدُ عليهِ في حمّى مزاداتكْ

    ونهداً فوقَ مرمرهِ.. تسجّلُ شكلَ بصماتكْ

    متى تفهمْ ؟

    متى تفهمْ ؟

    بأنّكَ لن تخدّرني.. بجاهكَ أو إماراتكْ

    ولنْ تتملّكَ الدنيا.. بنفطكَ وامتيازاتكْ

    وبالبترولِ يعبقُ من عباءاتكْ

    وبالعرباتِ تطرحُها على قدميْ عشيقاتكْ

    بلا عددٍ.. فأينَ ظهورُ ناقاتكْ

    وأينَ الوشمُ فوقَ يديكَ.. أينَ ثقوبُ خيماتكْ

    أيا متشقّقَ القدمينِ.. يا عبدَ انفعالاتكْ

    ويا مَن صارتِ الزوجاتُ بعضاً من هواياتكْ

    تكدّسهنَّ بالعشراتِ فوقَ فراشِ لذّاتكْ

    تحنّطهنَّ كالحشراتِ في جدرانِ صالاتكْ

    متى تفهمْ ؟

    متى يا أيها المُتخمْ ؟

    متى تفهمْ ؟

    بأنّي لستُ مَن تهتمّْ

    بناركَ أو بجنَّاتكْ

    وأن كرامتي أكرمْ..

    منَ الذهبِ المكدّسِ بين راحاتكْ

    وأن مناخَ أفكاري غريبٌ عن مناخاتكْ

    أيا من فرّخَ الإقطاعُ في ذرّاتِ ذرّاتكْ

    ويا مَن تخجلُ الصحراءُ حتّى من مناداتكْ

    متى تفهمْ ؟

    تمرّغ يا أميرَ النفطِ.. فوقَ وحولِ لذّاتكْ

    كممسحةٍ.. تمرّغ في ضلالاتكْ

    لكَ البترولُ.. فاعصرهُ على قدَمي خليلاتكْ

    كهوفُ الليلِ في باريسَ.. قد قتلتْ مروءاتكْ

    على أقدامِ مومسةٍ هناكَ.. دفنتَ ثاراتكْ

    فبعتَ القدسَ.. بعتَ الله.. بعتَ رمادَ أمواتكْ

    كأنَّ حرابَ إسرائيلَ لم تُجهضْ شقيقاتكْ

    ولم تهدمْ منازلنا.. ولم تحرقْ مصاحفنا

    ولا راياتُها ارتفعت على أشلاءِ راياتكْ

    كأنَّ جميعَ من صُلبوا..

    على الأشجارِ.. في يافا.. وفي حيفا..

    وبئرَ السبعِ.. ليسوا من سُلالاتكْ

    تغوصُ القدسُ في دمها..

    وأنتَ صريعُ شهواتكْ

    تنامُ.. كأنّما المأساةُ ليستْ بعضَ مأساتكْ

    متى تفهمْ ؟

    متى يستيقظُ الإنسانُ في ذاتكْ
    نزار قباني

    رمضان مبارك وكل عام و أنت بخير عبد الإله

  3. Thanks Hisham for the poem. That’s the sad side of the story when petrodollar becomes a means to satisfy animalistic needs. Such people just waste the wealth of their nations. No wonders if Jews are a power in the Middle East because they can’t squander their public funds over trivial matters. Jewish solidarity is opposed by petrodollar exploitation of human flesh including that of Arab women. When a wealthy Arab sees an a young and beautiful Arab woman as a sex object, his priority is to land on her body and not to defend Arab lands.

  4. I agree with you Abdelilah to some extent. But I must half-disagree on one account: we shouldn’t fall into the Israeli con by conflating too easily Zionists with Jews. There is indeed a jewish solidarity steming from the obvious painful recent historical tragedy the jewish people have gone through. That is not to say -of course- that one crime (the holocaust) should in any way, shape or form justify another: the ethnic cleansing of the palestinian people. But one thing is for sure: not all jews are zionists nor are all zionists jews. The most vocal and effective critics of Israel are in fact jews. They accuse Israel for what it is: a terrorist, apartheid state. They campaign for democracy to flurish in the Muslim world. What Israel, its lobby (made up mainly of christian zionists) and their allies want us to believe is that they represent all the jews on this earth: this is a hoax!

  5. I agree with you Hisham concerning the fact that we shouldn’t put all the Jews in the same basket. There are honorable Jews like Harold Pinter ( the Nobel Prize Laureate for literature) who has been very vocal against unjust policies. But I think you agree with me that the Zionist Jewish lobby is strong because they are united and focussed contrary to the states of the Arab world which have so far failed to come up with a common policy, if not to defeat Zionism, at least to make Arab citizens a real part of the Arab world and not to continue fooling them by the ironic speeches that the Arabs are one nation thanks to common language, history and religion.

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