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Cultural differences.

Last month we travelled to Morocco with some friends for a holiday. Morocco is so close and yet so different. We were met in Tanger by our guide, Abdel, and it is Abdel who has inspired me to write this article. Abdel was going to be our guide for eight days and we had not travelled for long before I understood that here was a man who was very knowledgeable and who would teach me a lot. I can not write about everything that he showed and taught us, but I will write about how I understood some of the laws that his religion inspires him to follow. Being a nurse, and writing about nursing, I took an interest in Abdel’s three fundamental rules on how to live.

Here is the literal translation and my own interpretations:
“Never fill your stomach.” This is essential to stay healthy, and to maintain good physical health. We should never over indulge, as this will only make us tired and, of course, it is a very good way to put on weight. There is nothing new or revolutionary in this, we all know that if we eat healthy food and make sure that we get the right amount of proteins, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and liquid, it will help us stay healthy and feel good. Still, the rule is a simple reminder.

“Don’t be nervous.” My interpretation is that we have to try to deal with out mental worries and problems as best we can. There is a cultural difference here. People who live in the western world will have totally different issues to worry about than the people we met living in the desert. We all have different ways to deal with our worries, depending on experience, upbringing, trust and lots of other circumstances, among others, feeling healthy as mentioned above. Abdel and I got into a discussion on what they do with chronically ill people who for instance psychotic. Maybe diet could help them also? There are some studies made where diet has proved to be good treatment for people with schizophrenia.

“Keep your knees warm!” And I must say; there was no better moment on our journey than that moment when I sat in the Sahara desert, watching the sunset with my knees in the finest, warmest, reddest sand! When I asked Abdel why it was so important to keep your knees warm, he answered that the knees are very important. They enable us to walk and to keep mobile. If we look after our knees, it helps us to stay healthier. I can see a lot of logic in this. I assume that he does not only mean the knees, but that it is important to look after our whole body.

When I was studying to become a nurse, we learnt several theories about nursing. One was to divide nursing into helping patients with their physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Comparing this to Abdels way of staying healthy, I miss both the social and the spiritual aspect. My guess is that he would include social in the first rule, about diet, because traditionally in his culture, people would eat together, and social needs would be discovered and dealt with. With regards to the spiritual need, I learnt that all these rules were written in the Koran.

Abdel also told us how he looked upon being married. He said that if you respect someone, you will always want what is best for that person and that was the key to a good marriage. So simple and so right.

When I got back to the village, my Danish friends told me about all the recent threats some Muslim leaders have made to Denmark, France and Norway for printing a certain cartoon about the Prophet. In Morocco, we were three Norwegians and an Englishman travelling. Everywhere we went, people asked us where we came from, and we told them, Norway and England. Not once did anyone comment on any cartoons.

If you ever want to go to Morocco and need a guide, I can highly recommend Abdel. I have his e-mail address and will gladly give it to you when needed.

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