Interview with local & activist Zineb Boujrada
Hailing from Casablanca, Zineb Boujrada is a natural-born Moroccan activist and intrepid globetrotter. Women's rights, gender equality, and social justice in Morocco are just some of the issues Zineb holds near and dear to her heart. Although she has put her activism role on hold, she is passionate about traveling in Morocco. She hopes that by sharing her local knowledge through her "Discover the True Marrakech" Guide it would give travelers a chance to experience the city beyond the popular tourist destinations. We sat with Zineb to talk about her vision of Morocco and the way traveling has affected her personal growth and curiosity in the world.
Q: What are you currently pursuing at the moment?
Right now, I am more focused on my studies in international development, self-discovery, travel blogging and living my life to the fullest. I try my best at travel writing, hoping it reflects who I am, how I perceive the world, and how traveling as a Moroccan woman can encourage millions of Moroccan and Arab, Amazigh or Muslim women to go beyond social and religious boundaries. I hope that it inspires them to do the things they love the most, whether it is painting, traveling, writing, or photography.
Q: What makes Marrakesh a special city to you?
Marrakech is the central hub of Morocco, if not of all of North Africa! It is special on so many levels: it is a city where all kinds of travelers can choose to focus on their interests and the way they want to spend their time here, no matter what their budget is. I love it for its authentic atmosphere that no other city in the world compares to it. I think Marrakech is an open museum of immaterial heritage, with an array of delicious local food, unique artisanal creations that are wrapped up rich history.
Q: Tell us what your perfect day in Marrakech would be like?
A perfect day would be meeting friends in the city center, wandering around the small alleys of the old Medina, taking photos of unique sights, having a good breakfast somewhere in a local restaurant (trust me it is sooo good). Finishing the day with a dinner in a riad, and then having some tea on a terrasse overlooking Jamaa El Fna.
I have recently put on hold all of my activities in relations to NGOs and related activities. Traveling full time has its drawbacks: I cannot be fully committed to something that I will not ultimately honor. Until last year, I took part in a lot of national, regional and international activities relating to women rights and refugees rights in the Middle East and Europe, which resulted in capacity building trainings and communication workshops that aim to develop better advocacy campaigns.
The reason I became an activist has to do with many elements. First, growing up in Moroccan as a woman is not an easy task. On a daily basis, women have to deal with harassment, misogyny, sexism that are based on religious texts and stem from the culture of Moroccan patriarchy.
Education is another issue. The government has been progressively withdrawing its support from public education and encouraging privatization of such a vital sector, which is the same for healthcare. For me, if activism is not done through actions, then we rely on our voices when we notice an issue within society. Unfortunately, in Morocco, social activism does not lead to significant action. The reason being is that a certain class profits from maintaining the corruption system by keeping the citizens ignorant of their rights and widening the social gap. When activism does cause actions, then we do see changes in public policies that progresses the current situation to a better one.
Q: As a human rights activist, your line of work helps empower and propel the Moroccan youth to help tackle social issues. How does your profession affect the way you travel, and does traveling affect the way you work as well?
I discovered my passion for traveling when I went for a study trip to the United States. It was my very first trip abroad. Since then, I developed a bigger interest in traveling, in collecting memories and not material things. I am still a student but I have always been a part of the civic participation in my country, whether it's on social media or when I was involved in capacity building trainings and workshops outside of Morocco. Education and social involvements define the way we travel, the values we defend on our travels, the behaviors we have and the type of human connections we establish. One thing that I am sure of is: whatever I end up doing as a career (in relation to my studies or passions), it will not undermine my love for traveling and the way I perceive the world, humanity and my relationship to the mother Earth.
Q: Not so long ago, you decided to hit the road and go backpacking in Morocco, which is uncommon for a female Moroccan traveler to do so on their own. Can you tell us about your experience as a solo traveler in your own country?
It was extremely challenging. As a solo female backpacker, I had to deal with harassment, and with outrageous remarks such as, "you are crazy. Aren’t you afraid?"
I also had to convince my family because that was my first time doing so and because backpacking in Morocco is nothing like backpacking in Europe or Southeast Asia. I had to deal with all of this and trying not to give up on my dream to visit my country alone without having to worry about tomorrow or what might happen.
I wrote a blog detailing my backpacking adventures here.
Q: There are many travel blogs/articles/books on traveling in Morocco as a female traveler. As a local, do you have any suggestions or word of advice on this particular topic?I recently wrote a detailed blog post about this on my website. But a few word of advice for my fellow female travelers would be: dress modestly, don't respond to unwanted attention and get in touch with local Moroccans if you truly want to explore the cities.
You can find more tips on my blog post!
Q: Why did you decide to team up with Favoroute and what can travelers expect from your guide?
I love the concept of Favoroute and I love writing about my travels. Getting the chance to write about Marrakech professionally was a big incentive for me to team up with Favoroute. Travelers can discover the city from a local's point of view with my guides. When I travel, I take my time to see new places, try local cuisine, and go off the beaten track and explore the unknown. Life usually happens outside big cities and there are hidden gems out there to be discovered. This is what I like to write about, my personal human experience, not only about places to see but also, the lasting experiences that those places have on me!
Q: Tell us something that people don’t know about you.
I love food! All kinds of food. I love cooking big meals because it makes me happy. My dream would be to live in the countryside and to start a business there as well.