Adolescence in a Moroccan Town
Davis & Davis
Chapter Two
Daily Life in Zawiya1

Both as a physical setting and as a social milieu, a town like Zawiya is outside the personal experience of most of our readers. We therefore precede our more formal discussion of aspects of adolescence in this Moroccan town with a description of the setting as it might have appeared to a visitor during our residence there in 1982. This chapter also provides images of some of the social roles and relationships to which we will refer later by presenting the daily activities of a young woman and a young man. The period of life between childhood and adulthood is marked in Zawiya by substantial individual differences in the daily routine of behavior: it is very different for boys and girls, and it varies profoundly as a function of whether the young person is in school or not. In these portraits, we call the reader's attention to family and friendship relations, since it is in the context of relationships formed in the family and in school that much of the characteristic "adolescent" experience of young Moroccans occurs. Since rapid social change is such a significant theme of the book, we also present part of a vivid account by a lifelong resident of the area of how different things were in her youth. The remainder of the chapter describes the physical setting, history, socio-economic situation and religious values of Zawiya.

A first glimpse of Zawiya

The visitor's first view of Zawiya, the setting for the study described in this volume, is likely to be from the edge of nearby Kabar. Having driven north and east from Rabat, Morocco's modern capital on the Atlantic coast, on a spring-like morning in early March, let us imagine, the visitor passes cork forests and then turns inland though eucalyptus woods. After an hour the woods give way to broad fields of wheat and irrigated citrus, with orange groves on both sides of the road, and the first foothills of the Middle Atlas mountains rise slowly on the south. Finally, after some two hours comfortable drive from Rabat, a large and newly painted billboard welcomes the visitor in three languages to Kabar, the "City of Petroleum." The journey is not, however, quite over.

Kabar, site of a modest petroleum refinery, is a former French colonial town. Stripped of its colonial associations after Moroccan independence in 1956 by being renamed for a popular saint whose tomb and associated religious brotherhood (zawiya) are located 2 km. away, it is known simply as "Kabar" by the residents of the original Zawiya it has overshadowed. The highway now passes up the broad central avenue of Kabar, dividing to allow a double sidewalk and ornamental bitter orange trees along its center. The ambience suggests some wealth and leisure, with large shops bearing advertisements for the cosmetics and soft drinks of the multinationals, a movie theater displaying a French-language poster for "The Blues Brothers," and dozens of young men in European dress seated outside several large cafes. At the head of the avenue the road splits to surround the imposing new three-story structure housing the provincial and municipal governments of Kabar, and in two more short blocks the visitor emerges from Kabar to face an intersecting road and an open field bounded by wooded hills just ahead. In the foreground are several large school buildings under construction, and toward the right, across two kilometers of fields and gardens, crouched at the base of a larger hill, is Zawiya.

The visitor now turns right and follows the highway for two hundred meters, and the main road branches off to the left at an intersection where there are, during most daylight hours, several small blue taxis. After entering one of these and waiting for the other two places to be let, a ride of five minutes leads to a right-hand turnoff, where a weather-beaten sign announces that one has reached Zawiya. The taxi pauses to allow passengers for Douar Doum, the smaller and newer village at the left-hand side of the road, to descend, crosses the tracks of the railway connecting the coastal cities of Morocco with those inland, passes down a 150 meter slope, and arrives at the gardens bordering the foot of the town. In this pleasant weather one sees several dozen men tightly grouped over playing cards in the shade of a cane-break at the left, and perhaps glimpses towel-swathed clients leaving the Hammam (public bath) at the right. The taxi crosses the narrow bridge over the Rdoum River and stops in an open dirt turnaround. While the driver collects a price of 1.20 Dirhams (roughly $.20 at 1982 rates) from the other passengers, there is time to notice that there are a variety of bystanders. Several of these, including two young men dressed like those in the cafes of Kabar, an adult woman of indeterminate age covered from head to foot by a combination of street-length jellaba, forehead-covering hood, and over-the-nose veil, and a young woman in tight Western clothes, are even now pushing their way into the taxi. Half a dozen teen-aged boys are lounging on the bridge just crossed (and are now eyeing the visitor with disdainful interest), several older men in jellabas of heavy wool are standing in the shade of a large fig tree at the left, waiting for other forms of transport, and four persons seated ahead on the left are chanting and asking alms with palms extended. After paying the cab-driver and passing the beggars, the way angles left onto a kind of thoroughfare. Kabar's broad avenue is forgotten in a mixed throng of people of all ages, both sexes, and varied styles of dress on the ascending street. This is the "Suiqa" (the "Little Market"), Main Street for Zawiya.

The Red Crescent office on the left is the first landmark, facing a large coffee shop on the right where card-players and tea-drinkers are ensconced in semi-darkness. The visitor continues past a barber shop, a general store, three butchers' stalls, several vegetable stalls, a cluttered radio-television repair shop, a spice-seller, and a live- chicken shop. The street is full of people: older men squatting against the walls, young men leaning against the entrances to shops, a few girls and women negotiating over purchases at the grocers; and small children of both sexes dashing about among pedestrians, mule-drawn wagons, heavily loaded donkeys being driven to market or hauling drums of water, and the occasional car inching its way toward the head of the suiqa, where the road forks. Turning right, the visitor faces an open area where a small replica of the weekly market outside Kabar has been set up: merchants, most of them male, have claimed a few square feet each for the display of fruits and vegetables. This area is as crowded as the suiqa, but evocative of the countryside, as the last block was of the town. The road nearly disappears at this point, but then continues straight ahead, past the bustle of activity at two water-spigots on the right, where girls and women are jostling each other for a turn; the crowd of children beyond awaiting the midmorning shift change at the elementary school; and a low, peeling building across from the school, where a variety of preschoolers and teenaged girls attend a government-sponsored kindergarten and women's center.

Keeping to the left wall, the visitor makes slow progress past the vegetable sellers and their customers, then turns right at the first opportunity, entering a deeply gullied dirt street just wide enough to allow the passage of two cars. This street, identified in Arabic by a hand-painted sign on the wall of the corner house as the Zenkat Razi, is more obviously residential, though children are buying snacks of roast chickpeas and sunflower seeds from a small shop at the right, and there is a miniscule radio repair shop at the left, from which heavily amplified popular music (the style equally likely to be Middle Eastern or Western) is heard. The journey is nearly over, as the visitor passes down a lane of two-story brick houses, each having a closed door of painted metal facing the street and an overhanging second floor. A large grocery shop is passed on the left, and the proprieters of two much smaller establishments eye each other, and the visitor, from opposite sides of the street a few feet further on. The Zenkat Jamal Abdul Nasser joins from the left at this point, and in one more short block Z. Razi abruptly emerges into an open space perhaps 100 meters square. A footpath replaces the street at this point and continues out of town past scattered refuse on the left and an energetic soccer game on the right. Beyond are low hills verdant with young wheat, sprinkled with flame-red poppies and white narcissus.          The visitor turns sharply left, continues a few more meters past an empty lot where small children are playing hopscotch, glances at a well-stocked one-room grocery shop where the proprietor is joking with two elderly men, and reaches a blue-painted door above which is the number "16." Further up the hill the street assumes a proper appearance, as houses again join it on the right. This is the Zenkat Filistin, Palestine Street, comprising with the adjoining Zenkats Razi and Nasser the bulk of the neighborhood, the "Primary Sampling Unit," under study. The house is ours, where we spent 1982 with our five-year-old daughter, Laila.

Daily Routines

To give the reader a coherent image of the lives of male and female Zawiya adolescents, we present detailed accounts of fairly typical days for two members of the neighborhood, "Hakima" and "Abdelaziz."

 Naturally, no pair of individuals can adequately represent the diversity of personal behavior and psychological characteristics of the 150 male and female young Zawiyans whom we interviewed and tested. We have selected Hakima and Abdelaziz as reasonably illustratative members of the sample teenagers who are in school, as over half (55%) are.


Hakima is a slender, lively girl of fourteen with sparkling brown eyes and an interest in everything going on around her. She awakens early on this Saturday morning, because for her it's a school day; the primary schools have Friday, the Muslim holy day, and Sunday off. Sleeping with her in the room are five of her seven brothers and sisters. Her oldest sister, 22, and her 17 and 12 year old brothers sleep on the narrow couches that are arranged around the walls of the room and serve as seats during meals or for watching television in the evenings.  Hakima and her 10 year old brother and 6 year old sister sleep on blankets spread over the reed mats on the floor, while her two eldest brothers share a room of their own, a luxury which many older boys desire but few families can afford. Though her siblings are still asleep, Hakima hears her mother stirring in the house's other large room where her parents sleep.

After she awakens (she is used to the school routine and needs no encouragement to get up), Hakima washes her face, hands and feet and combs her hair. The other children are stirring, and as soon as they are up she begins to fold the bedding and stack it at the end of the room. She hurries, because it is nearly 7 A.M. and time for her to be at school. Because there are so many children in town, the school operates on double split shifts and Hakima attends from 7 to 10 and 1 to 4.

On her way out the door she snatches a piece of bread; she won't have her coffee and milk until after 10. If she's late, the teacher will strike her on the palm with a stick, so she hurries. She finds her neighbor and friend Khadija just leaving and they walk the three blocks together, joining the throngs of children who are among the first people up in the still chilly November morning. Hakima is wearing a western-style dress, as girls her age do, and a sweater for warmth. She arrives at school on time and takes her seat at a table with another girl (she doesn't like to sit with boys) in her fifth grade class of 36 students. This is the last year of primary school and Hakima is repeating it, which is not at all unusual.

This morning's classes are history and the Qur'an, which is studied for both its religious and its literary value. The room is quiet as the teacher writes the next day's lesson on the board, though Hakima is passed a note by a girlfriend who wants to borrow a book later because she can't afford to buy it. During recitation, the teacher (a woman, as about half here are) calls on students who raise their hands, and each stands to recite. Hakima is relieved that many hands are raised because she didn't study last night and doesn't want to be called on. After this lesson she goes into the schoolyard for a 10 minute recess, where she sits with four girls from her class. They discuss whether there will be an exam or not, fearing they may be punished if they do not know the lesson. In fact, just before coming out a lazy classmate had made several errors and been struck by the teacher, and they laugh about that; they feel she deserved it for not studying harder. After recess they work on reading and Arabic dictation, and are ready to leave a little before 10 so the next shift can enter.

Most of her school friends live in other parts of town, and Khadija has to run an errand for her father, so Hakima walks home alone. Her mother has saved some bread and milky coffee for her, so she has a proper breakfast before she starts her chores. Sometimes she buys the vegetables for the main meal at noon, but 10 is too late to start cooking (she smelled stews browning in olive oil as she walked home from school), so that has been done by her older sister. Hakima's main morning task is to get the family's water supply from one of the town's seven water sources with the help of her two younger brothers. She prefers the tap near the school, because the one nearer her house often has little water pressure and is also known for the frequent fights that occur there; Hakima is assertive, but not quite up to that level. Her little brothers go ahead to "get in line," which isn't a line at all, but rather serves as evidence that you have been waiting awhile when you forge ahead to claim your turn.

Though she knows she's likely to get wet and possibly dirty, Hakima wears her good school clothes to get water; she's just at the age when girls start to care more about their appearance in general, and has noticed that teenage boys often lounge against the buildings near the water taps, watching and sometimes flirting with the girls. As she arrives, she greets several of the girls she knows. Most of the people waiting for water from one of the three spigots are girls between 12 and 22, although there are a few boys from families that don't have girls in this age range. When older teenage boys show up, they usually push everyone out of the way and get an immediate turn by brute force. Hakima waits about five minutes, working her way into the crowd near the tap that has the strongest flow. Another tap is just trickling, and the less aggressive girls are waiting for that one; they seldom speak a harsh word. The tap Hakima has chosen has attracted a different crowd, in which girls are pushing and shoving and insulting each others' ancestors in a part-laughing, part-serious way. Just last week, Hakima and Khadija stopped speaking to each other because of a fight over turns at the tap, but a third friend patched things up and they're best friends again.

Hakima gauges the situation and decides to make her move, butting ahead of several girls she knows won't seriously oppose her. She and her brothers have brought almost all of the family's supply of 5 liter water bottles, and have 40 of the plastic bottles lined up and waiting. As one girl finishes her turn, Hakima shoves aside the girl who thought she was next and jams a bottle against the tap. However, she finds she's misjudged the other girl, who hefts a bottle and knocks Hakima's away, spraying everyone nearby with cold water. Although slight, Hakima is strong and wiry, and uses her body to dislodge the other girl, jabbing with her elbows to discourage those behind her from moving in. She has clearly claimed her turn, and is allowed to fill several bottles before another girl asks to fill "just two", and Hakima lets her. She has been passing the filled bottles to her brothers, and they carry them home four (roughly 5 gallons) at a time. After a brief break Hakima resumes her turn, with reduced opposition. By the time she has enough water for the day's cooking and cleaning needs, she is thoroughly drenched and a little cold, but if she has lunch on the roof in the sun, she will be dried out for school.

After carrying the last of the water home, Hakima sets out two low round tables for lunch, while one of her brothers goes to the public oven to get the family's freshly baked loaves of bread. Her mother and oldest sister have cooked a stew of lamb and artichoke hearts for lunch. The family gathers for lunch, awaiting the father's arrival from work. After he comes in and is greeted by each child kissing his hand, he sits down. Hakima carries in a teakettle, basin and towel and pours water over the hands of each in turn. Next Hakima carries in the main dish, with a little in a smaller plate for her two younger brothers, who eat separately because the table is crowded. She also brings a salad of green peppers, tomatoes and spices, and everyone has lunch...except S`adia, her youngest sister who has the other school shift and will eat later. There isn't much talk over lunch, both because everyone is busy eating and because the children show their respect for their father by not speaking unnecessarily. At the end of the meal, Hakima's little brother asks for money for a notebook and she says she needs a pencil case. Their father gives both what they need, but says an angry "no" to her oldest sister's request for money to buy a scarf. He feels school supplies are necessary but a scarf is frivolous, so Kebira will have to convince her mother to find the money in her household funds.

After lunch Hakima helps wash hands again, and clears away the dishes. She usually helps wash them, but today she expects a French quiz, so she studies for 15 minutes before returning to school. Her mother is understanding and allows her to skip chores when she has pressing school work.

She walks to school alone, taking off her sweater because the midday sun is quite warm, even in November. Again she arrives on time, and sits down to begin her mathemetics lesson. French is the second class, and she is relieved there is no quiz, even though she had studied;  she has found French difficult ever since she began it in the third grade. This afternoon there is another recess and Hakima gathers with the same group of girls, talking again about schoolwork and classmates. In addition, they go over the plot of an Egyptian film most of them saw on TV last night, wondering if the crippled girl will win her doctor's love in next week's episode. After recess, they study French verb conjugation and then Hakima heads home.

She finds her mother has gone to Kabar and left Kebira in charge of the house. Her older sister has just finished a thorough housecleaning, sweeping cobwebs off the ceiling and moving furniture to clean under it. She tells Hakima to finish up by mopping the tile floors of the two large rooms, and also the kitchen and the courtyard. Hakima complains that she had planned to go out with a girlfriend, but sees from her sister's stern face that she can't easily escape and fetches a bucket of water from the large oil drum and begins. Apparently effortlessly, she bends neatly in half from the hips, so the damp cloth in her hands just reaches to wipe the dusty floor.  Many families mop only once a day, but Hakima's mother prefers twice and can manage it with two daughters to help her.

Finally, she has a little free time to spend with her friend Khadija. This isn't one of the girls she spends school recess with; those girls live a few blocks away and it would be inconvenient to run over to see if they were busy or not. Khadija lives one door away, and is ready to go out when Hakima knocks. Since the weather is neither hot nor rainy, they decide to walk out to the field on the west side of town, where grass is just sprouting, relieving the dusty color of the landscape since the June harvest. They sit among groups of other girls, women and children; on the packed dirt beside the field, several groups of boys play soccer informally. Three girls sitting nearby watch the game of some older boys, whispering and giggling the while, especially when a tall, curly-haired boy glances in their direction.  Hakima and Khadija watch this interchange out of the corners of their eyes; sometimes they talk about which boys in their class are handsome, but only at home. They wouldn't dare discuss it in public, even in whispers, and certainly wouldn't actually show their interest by staring and giggling. Some other girls from their street walk over and sit down, and they begin to talk about their families' plans for an upcoming holiday. Hakima would like to go to the city of Meknes, where two uncles live, but her older sister will probably get to go instead.

Her mother has promised to buy her a new dress, but Hakima doesn't mention that now because the other girls are just acquaintances and might gossip about it; she'll tell Khadija later when they are alone. As the sun starts to go down around six, the air gets chilly, and the two girls decide to walk to the main street where snacks of roasted sunflower seeds and chickpeas are sold. Hakima has about ten cents to spend because her father gives her and her siblings each a few coins every night, so she decides to treat her friend. The two girls stand at the shop awhile, listening to the loud music from the cassette store across the way, then head home in the twilight, passing groups of young men gathered in the pools of light from storefronts. Hakima and Khadija are too young and shy to be flirting with boys, but in two or three years the boys will be calling out compliments as they pass, and if one interests them, this time near nightfall is when they might arrange to meet and talk quietly in a dark corner of the neighborhood.

Back home, Hakima finds her family having sweet mint tea and joins them before beginning on her homework for the evening. She and her oldest sister Kebira (who dropped out of school after the fourth grade but can still read a little) answer the questions of the three youngest children about their schoolwork; the older brothers are not home yet. Since their mother is still visiting a sick relative in Kabar, Kebira has made dinner.

Their mother and father arrive home together about eight, and Hakima gives her father water to wash with so he can say his evening prayers before dinner. During dinner, Hakima helps again with the handwashing, sets out the dishes of thin macaroni with milk and butter, and clears away. They turn on the TV and find that the new show they all like, "Le Hulk Incroyable" (The Incredible Hulk) is on. Hakima is glad, because she only likes 'foreign' shows if there is lots of action, preferably violent. The Western shows are usually dubbed in French, which she finds hard to follow, but car chases and fistfights don't strain her vocabulary.

After the Hulk, a serial Egyptian film comes on about 10, and the parents retire to their room. Hakima and Kebira spread out the bedding, and all the children settle down to watch; although the dialect of Arabic is different, they understand much of it. There aren't any regular bedtimes at Hakima's houseÄÄchildren fall asleep one by one when they're tired, and would be allowed to do so even if this were a schoolnight. Hakima stays awake to the end, and she and Kebira talk a little about their disappointment that the heroine ended up in jail, even if she did kill her lover. Then they fall asleep.

Other girls. The daily routine of other girls varied from that of Hakima, based primarily on differences in age and educational status. Overall, about half of the group of girls between 10 and 20 were in school, while the other half had left. These latter girls did more of the household chores. These were of the same type as Hakima did, and in addition they cared for children and washed clothes. Hakima's youngest sister didn't need to be watched, but many girls (in school or out) take along a two or three year old when they go out with friends. Laundry is a huge job with large families and no running water, and girls help their mothers with it about once a week. Although relatively few girls go past primary school, those who do still help with household chores; their special status as high school girls doesn't exempt them. Girls who weren't in school usually did chores all morning and then had an afternoon break to visit with friends, a break that was an hour or two longer than Hakima's.

In terms of age differences, the work a girl is expected to do increases in amount and complexity with her age and abilities. Even at five or six, girls help their mothers by watching younger siblings and running simple errands, usually carrying messages instead of buying things. By ten, they can do most of the daily household cleaning, including mopping, tidying up and washing dishes, and also are sent to buy vegetables, which they help to clean. A sixteen year old has all the basic skills necessary to run a household, and is able to buy meat without getting too much fat, make it into a correctly-spiced stew, and prepare the bread to go with it. Older girls hope to add to their repertoires of main dishes and desserts, and spend much of their spare time embroidering sheets for their trousseaus, but most girls have the skills they need in marriage by sixteen.

There are also variations in the way girls spend their leisure time. Girls of ten or eleven were more likely to engage in active games like hopscotch or jumprope, occasionally in mixed groups of boys and girls, but as they get to Hakima's age they prefer to be with girls and pass time by talking. Older girls sun themselves and visit in the field in good weather, or go to a friend's home and embroider in bad weather. If they were interested in a boy, they might make up an errand after sunset, and talk to him in a dark side street near the shops. A daring girl near twenty might even agree to meet in the town of Meknes on Sunday, if she could manufacture an excuse to go there; it's always helpful to have relatives to visit. Once there, the couple would stroll and windowshop and perhaps go to a movie, and try to arrange a chance to meet again.

A few of the girls we knew spent their days neither in housework nor school. Some attended the town's women's center and learned to sew or embroider; their hours away from home about equaled those of the school girls. Another couple of older girls worked full time, teaching others to embroider or doing agricultural day labor. Teaching sewing or embroidery is a traditional and respected job, and rather pleasant because you work in your own home and can visit as you work. Field labor, on the other hand, is quite unpleasant; girls and women work from sunrise to sunset weeding fields or picking grapes or oranges. The work is hard, and further, girls who work risk damaging their reputations, since they can easily talk to the few men who work with them, so only families who desperately need the money let their women work in agriculture for wages. Traditionally, there were family fields and the other workers were relatives, but that has changed in town. In spite of the problems with this work, one often sees girls cheerily singing and clapping time in the backs of the trucks that bring them home near sunset.

Thus while older girls may have a more complete repertoire of household or cooking skills, and girls who have left school will spend more time on chores and sometimes work for cash while schoolgirls study, there was much overlap in the activities of girls we knew. In general, they spend much more time than their brothers helping with running the household.


Abdelaziz awakens to a cold room that is still half dark. It is 6:30 a.m., a Friday late in November. Everyone else is still asleep, his two brothers curled under covers on other parts of the couch-like cushions which line the room, and he removes the long nightshirt which he has pulled over his underclothes the night before and steps into trousers. Abdelaziz leaves the room and washes in the courtyard of the house, pouring cold water from a clay jug kept beside the room where his mother will later cook. She is often awake before him in the morning, and is the person with whom he usually talks first after waking. Filling an aluminum kettle, he turns on the buta-gas bottle under the counter, lights a burner, and places the water to heat for coffee. When the coffee is ready he adds an equal part of milk from the half-liter carton left from yesterday, and mixes in several teaspoons of sugar. He quickly looks over the French homework for this morning's class as he drinks coffee and eats a bit of yesterday's bread, then leaves the house at seven o'clock.

When their schedules coincide, he often meets his 16-year-old friend Abdelaziz Kabiri (they became friends several years ago, in part because of the coincidence of identical first names) for the kilometer-long walk to their junior high school

, but Kabiri has this morning off, and Abdelaziz makes his way alone through the twisting streets of Zawiya. The seasonal rains have begun during the past week, and the steeply inclined dirt streets of his neighborhood are still rather slippery. He hates to wear the heavy boots made necessary when the streets are at their muddiest, and he has decided this morning to risk his new shoes. Several men and boys are also making their way along the street, those without boots walking gingerly along the dry edge under the overhang of houses' second stories while the boot-clad walk boldly in the gullies at streets' centers. As he nears the elementary school several blocks away he sees dozens of younger kids gathering outside. He turns into Zawiya's main street, the Suiqa, at the head of which a pastry-seller is deepfrying his doughnut-like wares. Most of the shops are not yet open, and he merely nods at several older boys waiting at the taxi-stop at the foot of town for transport to jobs in Kabar, two kilometers away.

Crossing the bridge on the Wad Rdoum, Abdelaziz cuts behind the public bath and crosses a fallow wheat-field, thankful that the rains have not yet been heavy enough to turn it to sticky muck and force him to follow the road. Stepping through an opening in the high hedge of yucca cactus which shields the railroad track from the field, he scrambles down the slippery bank and begins to walk quickly along from tie to tie. Fifty yards ahead of him are two girls he recognizes as being a year below him in the college (junior high school). By the time he has reached the small train station he has nearly caught up with them, and he maintains his distance some fifteen feet behind, enjoying the view. Were he with friends he might try a leading comment about one of the girls, a real beauty, but he is too shy to start a conversation on his own. He turns in behind them onto the road to the school, and by eight o'clock he is being told by a class-mate that the principle's assistant has just passed by announcing a change of schedule: Abdelaziz's morning classes will not begin until 10.

Abdelaziz climbs the stairs to his empty classroom, takes his usual desk, and begins to review his morning lessons. At ten o'clock the French class begins, and the professor calls on him several times. After an hour of French he has combined geography/history, and since the professor spends most of the hour talking, few students are called on. As a loud bell announces the end of class at noon, he quickly pushes his way out into the crowded corridor along with a male classmate, and they head home along a shorter route following the river, now that the morning sun has dried the path. This time he does manage to greet several girls in what he hopes is a flirtatious way, and he and his friend discuss the science class they share as they work their way back up the now crowded streets of Zawiya. Ravenously hungry by this time, Abdelaziz makes his way straight home. As he reaches the head of the suiqa he sees several old men dressed in long white woolen jellabas making their way toward the tomb of Zawiya's saint, which is also the largest of the five mosques. As he reaches the foot of Zenkat Razi he hears the call to prayer, first amplified from the saint's tomb behind him, then as if echoed by the muaddin of the mosque uphill from his house.

Abdelaziz's mother has lunch nearly ready when he arrives home, and he eats with his parents, his older and younger brothers, and the wife of his oldest brother. The brother is an elementary school-teacher in a nearby town. Since today is Friday, Abdelaziz has the afternoon free. He works at next week's homework, paying special attention to science, his best (and favorite) subject. He is lucky that his family's house is large enough to leave an empty room, so he usually has a quiet place to study. Were his married brother to move to a house of his own, Abdelaziz would try to secure the room the brother and his wife occupy. He could then, like a few lucky acquaintances, put up pictures from film magazines, listen to cassettes and radio without interruption, and know that his books were unlikely to be disturbed. At five o'clock he has had enough of study, and he leaves the house to see what his friends are up to, after asking his mother for half a dirham (eight cents) to buy a snack of roast chickpeas from the little shop around the corner. He walks 200 m. to the foot of his street, where several young men are already gathered at the corner alongside Hammad's general provisions shop. He quickly gets into conversation with Kabiri, and they compare notes on the day's school experiences. Kabiri's crazy math teacher has spent the whole of today's class rambling off the topic, and they repeat the school joke that he's "body present, mind absent." They casually watch the steady trickle of customers approach Hammad's: young children of both sexes on simple errands for spices, dry grains, or dairy products; a couple of older boys bringing empty propane gas containers and staggering away with the replacments; pubescent girls rushing in for an item or two needed by their mothers in the preparation of tonight's dinner. They exchange glances and a self-conscious joke over a girl their age as she walks by with eyes lowered, then speculate on the truth of the rumors of her sexual escapades during the mussem (annual festival) of the local saint last month. Tomorrow's school is also a half-day, and several of the boys plan to meet at the soccer field in the early afternoon.

At roughly seven o'clock Abdelaziz starts up the street with Kabiri, leaving him at his door and continuing to his own house. His older brother has returned for the evening, so the whole family is present, and there is some goodnatured joking between Abdelaziz and his mother. His older brothers are more restrained with her, and she still treats his younger brother as a small child, even though he is 12. Their father is a taciturn man of perhaps 65, some twelve years older than their mother, whom he married after divorcing his first wife. He is treated with respect and reserve by each of his sons.

After dinner the males leave the two women to clear away dinner and make their way to the family's guest-room, which also normally houses the television set. They are in time to watch both the French and the literary Arabic news broadcasts, neither of which their parents can understand. Tonight there is also a French-dubbed American family comedy and a Eurovision crime mystery. By this time the women have joined the group, and the family remain at the set until 11 p.m. Finally Abdelaziz moves to the next room, furnished like the guest room with hard-stuffed cushions on wooden bases, along which large pillows are arranged as back rests. He moves these from a two meter length of cushion, spreads a blanket, and lies down after pulling off his woolen sweater. His younger brother is already asleep at the opposite end of the room, and his older brother is making his bed on the cushion across the room, as Abdelaziz falls asleep.

Other boys.  This account is quite typical of routines reported by other older male adolescents who were still in school. Although a much higher proportion of males (48%) than of females (23%) continue past elementary school, a minority of the older males in the study are still in school. Abdelaziz is perhaps somewhat more studious than average, but one is struck by the extent to which school dominates the waking activities of the male secondary student. The working male adolescent's typical day also features several long walks; and these usually take him into Kabar, where he may be either apprenticed to a skilled worker or employed in a shop. Other males of a variety of ages assist fathers at a variety of marketing or agricultural activities. Among the younger half of the teenage males school can almost be taken for granted, although the seriousness with which studies are pursued varies. The reader has probably noticed how free of household chores Abdelaziz's day was, in contrast to that of Hakima. While some teenage boys run errands, fetching groceries from the store or bread from the oven, these duties tend to fall on older males only when there is no one else available. Age and apparent physical maturation are important predictors of whether a boy will assist at household duties, and indeed of whether he will be visible to the observer at all. Older males in this setting have a knack for remaining out of view during most daylight hours, and it is doubtful that most could be pressed into household service even if glimpsed. They are perhaps walking on the hills and paths leading out of town, or hanging out at the large cafe in the Suiqa, watching the cardgames.

Leaving personality and physical growth factors aside for now, prediction of the whereabouts and activities of a male teenager in Zawiya requires knowing at least: whether the boy in question is still in school; whether school is in session; and whether it is Ramadan. As the school day dominates the life of the schoolboy, so vacation time and Ramadan, the Muslim month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, are experienced as a profound change. For the older teenage male who is not in school, the major determiner of the daily schedule is whether he is employed in a regular job.

A Generation Ago

Our study concerns adolescents raised in one neighborhood, children of families who had lived there long enough to partake of its influences (a decade or more) and give their own stamp to it, yet very few of the parents of the adolescents were born in the town of Zawiya. Most lived in small settlements in the surrounding countryside where their families farmed and herded to make a living, as most rural people still do. Thus the history of our neighborhood took place not in Zawiya, but in much smaller settlements differing in many ways from the Zawiya of today. In order to give the reader a sense of the changes that have occurred in one generation, the differences in lifestyle between the adolescents just descibed and their parents, we present the reminiscences of one of the mothers, tape-recorded ten years ago while Susan was studying the lives of women. The phrasing and style are those of a middle-aged woman, long resident in Zawiya and known locally as an interesting speaker. The village she describes was about six kilometers from Zawiya, and included roughly fifty households


Well...I'm going to tell you about when my father was aliveÄÄmay God have mercy on his soulÄÄwhen I was very small. The first thing I remember was when my fatherÄÄGod have mercy on himÄÄwas there, when I was seven years old [around 1930].

  There were houses in the village early on. My father didn't have a tent. The people who were well off had nice houses. The others had tents; they used them to move with the cows and the sheep. Now, when spring arrives, we move the tents from the place where we were living and go to land that has grass and flowers. We build the tents there and we bring our cows and stay with them until the springtime was past...only then did we return to the village. We stayed with the animals until they ate well, and we milked them there and we churned the milk there....

  But my father wasn't like that; he used to have a house. They had big jars in which they used to churn buttermilk. Now, there were people who did the milking, six or eight women. Every evening they came to milk, but not for money like now. They took milk, or buttermilk, or butter, and that's all. They didn't live with us; each had her own house. But when it's milking time, the neighbors would milk for you. Again, if it were the time of the wheat harvest coming up, they gave it to them first; when they threshed the wheat, they gave it to them. Those things were not like they are now. Now, if you want meat, you buy it with money. They won't give you even a chicken; you won't see even a chicken!

  There was plenty of everything at that time; it was just fabric that wasn't plentiful. A woman used to wear just a robe [a rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the body and fastened into a loose-fitting dress]. And the woman who was considered elegant, she would have two robes; that woman was good and important. But there was just the robe: no pantaloons, no nothing. People used to weave haiks [outer cloaks] of wool themselves. Well, now that fabric has become plentiful, they go around in the streets selling it; whoever wants buys fabric or sweaters or pants. Who ever used to wear sweaters or pants? No one!

  There was plenty of wheat and plenty of milk and plenty of everything. A poor woman used to have six or seven hundred kilos of wheat in her house. A person never used to buy grain at the suq (the weekly market). Now all the people only buy grain at the suq; it's gotten so that everything is at the suq.  There are only a few who have things at home. Now that the Christians have come and there are machines and tractors, and there's all's not like that time anymore.

The coming of the French or "Christians" (Arabic nSara, from Nazarenes [Wehr, 970]) to the area soon after they took control of Morocco in 1912 directly affected this woman's life, as it did many of the families in agricultural Morocco:

  My father had a lot of land. He had farm land, and he had sheep and cattle....He had land near the Sebou River and he had land here. Then my father sold the land near the river to a Christian. And when he gave him the deed to that land, he also gave him the deed to this land. He only sold one piece of land, but he gave him the papers for the two pieces of land [her father was illiterate]. And when he asked the Christian to give him back his papers, he said "You sold me everything".

  But that Christian didn't throw us off the land; he left us the land. He stayed on one piece of land and we stayed on the other. We grazed our animals and we farmed and we ate and we drank; he didn't say a word about it.

While many people lost their land through legal or illegal bargains with Christians, they did not react with a bitterness that precluded any further dealing with them. Rather, they were pragmatic, finding that contacts with these outsiders were sometimes very useful. For example, when this woman was an adolescent, parents chose their children's spouses, and her mother arranged her marriage to a man she didn't like. After she objected and ran away once, her family put manacles on her feet to keep her close to home. But as she describes it:

A girl friend helped me take the irons off one leg and I ran away from the village until I got to the farm. It was the farm on which that Christian lived, the one who took my father's land. When that Christian saw the iron on my leg, he took it off. He telephoned the city and took me away from that man...and that was that. From that time, I never went near that man [the fianc‚e]  again.

In another instance, when she was married and had a sick child, the Frenchman's wife helped her get medical treatment.

As she recalls, the separation of the sexes both before and after marriage was quite strict, and men controllled women's activities to a large extent:

When a woman was still young, it was shameful for her to go to the suq (the weekly outdoor market).  Her father-in-law or mother-in-law went; I never saw the suq until I moved into town. Honest to God, I never ever saw what the suq looked like. It used to be that only the men shopped. They brought you potatoes or meat or soup or whatever, and you had to cook itÄÄit was your business.

  And also at that time, if I wanted to visit someone, I couldn't go unless my father-in-law gave me permission or someone came with me. After I was married we lived in a tent, and my boundary was the edge of the tent. We couldn't visit each other, even if I knew you very well. If there was a party or a wedding or if someone was sick, it would be okay, but you couldn't just go to visit. The old people were with us, so we couldn't just leave.

  And if you asked and if he feels like it or it pleases him, he'll let you go. And if he doesn't want to, he won't. Even if you're helping him harvest the wheat and you talk to a woman, he'd say "Why are you talking to her?", even though it's only a woman, not a man. Well, that's what the old people used to do. Old people used to be naive, not like us.

  It used to be that even if you had sugar in the house, you couldn't make tea or couldn't make anything at all if the man didn't make it. And if he didn't give you any, you didn't drink any. And you wouldn't complain loudly and say "I didn't get any at all," or make tea yourself; that was shameful. Now, everything is topsy-turvy [laughing].

  Once I was grinding flour with my sister-in-law when she was still a virgin [unmarried]; we had a stone mill and ground by hand. Every day we had to grind whatever we were going to eat. We were grinding flour and singing and my brother-in-law came and chased us away. He chased us maybe six kilometers, and he was catching up and we were going, running away. He wanted to beat us, and said, "Do I have dancing girls [prostitutes], that you're singing in the house? You're singing and people are passing next to the tent! Goddamn your father!" Now, that's all over with. Now that's finished.

As Zohra's account illustrates vividly, much has changed in Zawiya in the lifetime of its older residents. The economy has been transformed from subsistence to cash, a population of peasant farmers have become wage laborers (or unemployed) living in much larger settlements, and technology and public transportation have brought the world to Zawiya. Gender relations and male authority, though still quite distinct from American norms, have also changed significantly since Zohra's youth. On the other hand, the pragmatic reaction of Zohra's generation to the profound changes brought by dealings with the French should alert the reader that this is a population with great resilience and readiness to accomodate to new circumstances; these qualities are still noticable in the adolescents of today's Zawiya.

The Setting

Various characteristics of Zawiya influence daily life and expand or constrain the options of adolescents. For example, its Islamic character and rural surroundings give adolescents a firm grounding in Morocco's traditions. Its colonial history deprived many families of land and livelihood, and introduced wage labor as a widespread alternative. Today this means adolescents expect less economic dependence on parents in adulthood, which has many implications. They also see education as a prerequisite for many new jobs. A fuller description of the setting will elaborate the context in which adolescents function and characterize its influence on their lives.

Physical Setting

The town of Zawiya is in the more fertile northern section of Morocco, on the southeastern edge of the rich agricultural plain called the Gharb. Nestled against the first foothills of the Middle Atlas mountain range, it is on the edge of Berber-speaking territory. A small river flows along the eastern side of town. While snow falls in the mountains, the climate on the plains is warm temperate (much like California), with wet winters and warm dry summers. Winter temperatures often fall into the 40s (Fahrenheit), which is surprisingly cold without central heating. In the summer months temperatures can exceed 115 degrees, usually cooling sharply at evening.

Although there are about eleven thousand inhabitants in the densely-settled town, in some ways it resembles a village in its lack of amenities. Only the one market street (the suiqa) is paved, and few are wide enough to accommodate cars or trucks. Most are clay and mud and become impassable during winter rains. Only one home (that of the leader of the founding saint's descendants) has running water; eight public taps supply the remainder of the community's drinking and cooking water, while water for washing floors or clothing is carried from the river on donkeyback and sold door to door. Most houses have their own cesspools, but used dishwater and such is poured out into the streets and at all seasons there is a trickle of muddy water running toward the base of the hill. In the last few years some of the houses have been connected to a central sewer system, providing an example of the questionable value of "progress": the modern system dumps raw sewage into the river, near the major point where water-sellers draw wash water.

While many physical aspects of Zawiya still give it a rural appearance, there is evidence of change toward a more urban character. Ten years ago there were no local government offices such as post office, bank or police station. Now there is a small postal service where one can buy stamps, make phone calls, and receive money orders (often from relatives abroad), and also the offices of the new mayor, the police, and other government functionaries. Many government services are still obtained in the market town of Kabar two kilometers away, and a much wider selection of goods is also available there. Zawiya has electricity in most neighborhoods and an elementary school,

 and there are a few telephones in shops and in the most prosperous homes. The town's most imposing feature is the tomb of the saint who founded it three hundred years ago and the attached mosque, located at the center of the original settlement. In the last ten years there are several new mosques in other neighborhoods. There are three public baths, and several butchers, vegetable sellers, and public ovens, providing a range of services and products usually unavailable to residents of smaller, more isolated villages.

The streets are narrow and often winding, lined with the facades of attached houses broken only by heavy wooden or metal doors. In order to ensure privacy, no windows face the street; light comes into the two or three rooms of each house through windows giving onto its interior courtyard. The poorest homes are built of sun-baked mud and straw bricks, and usually have just one small room and a small courtyard. Most of the more prosperous homes are built of fired, hollow bricks, now available in two local shops. The bricks are smoothed over with cement, and the surface may be decorated by texturing the cement or forming designs of stars, flowers or flags before being painted white, blue, gold or pink. These more substantial houses have two or three stories, and tend to be found in the more prosperous of the new neighborhoods.

The town is usually characterised as having seven or eight neighborhoods, each of which has a general socioeconomic status and considerable internal variation; ours was mainly middle level. Zawiya is close to Kabar, and they are connected by an all-weather road on which local taxis operate a shuttle service. The walk between the two towns is a daily experience for many of the adolescents, and provides an important chance for contact with the ideas and temptations of the larger world. There are in addition excellent road and train connections from Kabar to the rest of Morocco, and in the last ten years a train stop has been added only one kilometer from Zawiya. Thus a local teenager can leave town at 11 a.m. and be in Rabat, the capital, by 1 p.m. or in Casablanca, the second largest city in Africa, by 2:30. Many do travel, usually to visit relatives during summer vacation. These adolescents thus live in a semi-rural setting, within easy reach of what is going on in more urban parts of Morocco.

Historical Background

Morocco has a long recorded history, the last millenium of it as a Muslim country. Contacts with the Romans and Phoenicians were common before the time of Christ, and Volubilis, capital of the Roman province Mauritania Tingitana, lies 30 km. east of Zawiya. The town lies in an area that has been populated by herders and farmers for a long time, though the town site became permanent only three hundred years ago when the local saint lived here. The town is considered to have been founded by this saint, and his descendants remain important today; they live at the other edge of town from our own. The descendants of the saint formed a brotherhood, a "zawiya" to follow and teach the way the saint had set out for them; this organization still exists and has branches in Fes, Meknes, Rabat and Sale. It has also given its name to the town.

During most of its history, Morocco may be thought of as politically divided into two parts, bled al-muxsen and bled es-siba, roughly translated "land of the government" and "land of anarchy." These were not static entities: government was the land that the Sultan could control with his troops and whose residents paid taxes, while the majority, who could escape for the time being, were siba. Geertz (1968) notes the importance, in this unsettled context, of charismatic individuals who became warrior saints. One could argue further that the history of fluid control which allowed the rise of charismatic individuals also set the stage for the important role of self-presentation in Morocco to this day.

In prior times, a tribe called the Gharbawa inhabited the Zawiya region, the neighboring Beni Hsen were their traditional enemies, and both tribes and the Berber Zemmour used to raid passing caravans. Descendants from both government and dissident or revolting groups live in Zawiya today, but in general tribal ties are unimportant now. An exception is membership in a government-supported tribe, the Sherarda, because the members are granted the use of land which is inherited by sons but may not be sold.

The Gharb area underwent rapid and lasting transformation during French colonization, from 1912 to 1956. Because of the flatness of the terrain and the superior weaponry and tactics of the French, the plains were relatively quickly "pacified" (LeCoz, 1964; Porch, 1982). Their agricultural potential was exploited almost immediately, and land was both legally bought from Moroccans and expropriated for large scale mechanized agriculture. Partly to transport the products, the French built a railway and road system, with important intersections in Kabar. They also built an oil refinery there, though Morocco must import its petroleum. These factors increased contact with the outside world and combined first to bring the town of Kabar into existence, then to increase its size until today it is much larger than the older, original town. The new town was made the seat of the local government under the French, and has remained so, becoming a provincial capital in 1982. Since Independence in 1956, Zawiya has nearly tripled in size, because of both a high national birth rate and in-migration from more rural areas. Most of the parents of the adolescents studied grew up under colonial rule. Their lives have been in important ways more traditional those those of their children, but the parents' exposure to rapid change in the colonial period has also encouraged in many a flexibility which affects their responses to their children's changing circumstances.

Social Groups

Ethnographers working in Morocco usually specify whether the group studied was Arab or Berber, and some feel this distinction is important in understanding social behavior. The great majority of Zawiya residents speak Moroccan colloquial Arabic as their mother tongue, and on this basis we will refer to them as Arabs. To label the population as ethnically Arabs or Berbers is, we feel, of questionable value; noting linguistic ties is more relevant. Ethnologically, there is some difference between Arab and Berber custom. However, there is also variation within the customs of each group depending on its geographic location, and there has been much borrowing and mixture over the years (Gellner and Micaud 1972; S. Davis, 1983). Less than ten percent of Zawiya's population have Berber as their first language: these people speak either the southern or the Middle Atlas dialect. The former is spoken by the families of some of the shopkeepers, who have been present for at least a generation, and some of whom are quite well off. The other dialect is spoken by more recent in-migrants, many of whom moved into town during the 1981 drought. In both cases, most family members also speak Moroccan Arabic, while very few of the majority who have Arabic as their mother tongue can speak or understand Berber. Thus Zawiya is mainly an Arabic speaking community, and people identify themselves as Arabs.

The patrilineal descendants of the local saint form a small but important social group in Zawiya. The extended family of the saint are shorfa, tracing their lineage back to Ali, the husband of Fatima, and thence to the Prophet Mohammed. There were said to be 334 living descendants of the saint in 1971, most still residing in town. Several members of the immediate family of the head of the zawiya (the mizwar) held important  government jobs in the capital city. While in number this group constitutes only about three per cent of the population, their influence in the town is considerable. Associated with them are the buakher, the descendants of the slaves originally sent to guard the saint and his followers. They have gradually intermarried with local families, and some of these families have been important in local government, a few also holding office in the capital.

The majority of the population are people who have moved into the town from the surrounding countryside during the last thirty years; a few come from as far away as the Rif mountains in the north or the Sahara in the south. The physical variety is striking: a group of local schoolgirls, for example, may contain what looks like a Scandinavian, with blond hair and blue eyes, walking with a girl with creamy complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes, a more streotypically Arab-looking young woman with coffee-colored skin and dark eyes and hair, and a negroid girl with dark brown skin and very curly black hair.

Social Organization

Morocco is a Muslim country, and the residents of Zawiya follow Islamic family law concerning marriage, divorce and inheritance, as well as the custom of patrilineal descent. Briefly, this means that marriage is traditionally arranged by the couple's parents, and a man may have up to four wives. Both partners can request a divorce, but this is easier for the male. Both sexes inherit, but a son inherits two shares to the daughter's one. One's family line is traced through males, and after marriage the young couple ideally lives with the groom's parents in what soon becomes a three-generation extended family. These are the general rules but, as with many things in Morocco, knowing only the rules gives one a very incomplete picture.

The traditional form of marriage is to the patrilateral parallel cousin (weld l-`amm), which means that the children of two brothers should marry. In fact, an earlier survey of households in our neighborhood showed that only 13% of the marriages were to any  close relative, whether on father's or mother's side, first or third cousin, or in-law.


The town's economy is based on agriculture, trade and the provision of services. The availability of a variety of jobs today is important for adolescents. They need not expect to be economically dependent on their parents in adulthood, unlike earlier generations who lived on family farms. In this new (and highly competitive) economic situation public education is valued as preparation for many jobs.

Zawiya's agriculture is not the traditional subsistence form, in which each family lived on what it grew and traded the suplus for items like tea, sugar and manufactured cloth. Because land plots have shrunk with inheritance, most can no longer support a family, and most persons involved in agriculture now work as day laborers on a few very large farms in the area. The descendants of the saints or of their previous slaves are the only local owners of large tracts of land; it was reputedly given to them by Sultan Moulay Ismail around 1680 when he built the saint's tomb. Rather than working their own land, the owners hire local people to work it for them. The crops grown are typical of this area, a kind of "Imperial Valley" to Morocco. The irrigable land is devoted to vegetable and herb gardens, often grown under trees bearing almonds, figs, pomegranates, lemons, oranges and olives, while the hills are planted with wheat, lentils, barley, chickpeas and sugar beets. A few people have small landholdings, held either privately or as members of the Sherarda descent group who have the use of 8 to 17 acres of land. Both traditional and modern methods are used; wheat is harvested both by scythe and by combine, and theshed by mules as well as by tractors.

Most of the flat land around town is owned in large parcels by Moroccan individuals (absentee landlords) or by the Moroccan government. It is on these large tracts that the majority of the day laborers work, being transported at dawn by truck up to 60 kilometers to work and returning at sunset. In 1982 the minimum agricultural wage was 14 Dirhams (roughly US $2.25) a day, and some non-government farms paid less. Most of the workers are women and girls (including a few in our study); this is a low status job and men do it only if they are desperate for money. While the job is not permanent, one can live by day labor nearly all year round by following the cycles of the various crops.

An important part of the local population works in nearby Kabar, most employed by either the oil refinery or the government. These people are important not in terms of absolute numbers but in their influence; their situation is one to be emulated. They are almost the only people receiving a fixed monthly income and are among the most secure in the town, and many adolescents aspire to such employment.

Many Zawiya people supply the towns with needs for merchants and craftsmen. There are a few large grocery shops and many tiny ones selling basic staples. Several butcher shops sell freshly-slaughtered lamb and beef, and other shops sell live chickens. Fresh vegetables are sold from tents. Men in shops weave woolen fabric and sew women's and men's dressy clothing, while women sew everyday women's and children's clothing, working out of their homes. Two electric mills grind wheat for flour, and several public ovens bake the bread each family prepares daily. Several local men work in transportation, either as drivers of transport trucks or of the taxis that operate between the town and Kabar or Kabar and neighboring towns. Other jobs for men include carpentry and construction work. A few local men have migrated to France to work in construction, in factories, or in agriculture, and they send money back to their families and visit every year.


There are several religious schools, in which a man who has memorized the Qur'an teaches it to young children for a small fee. He may supplement his scant income with traditional curing and magic. The elementary school has a principle, his assistant, and about 50 teachers, male and female. Among these jobs the authority and status of the teachers and the income of the emigrants are particularly appealing to adolescents.

This is clearly a cash-based economy, even though people do each other favors and may barter at times. They are quite dependent on industrial products from the city or abroad, including much clothing, radios, TVs and tape recorders, motorbikes and cars, and soft drinks. Most food is purchased fresh. Even 100 years ago people depended on imported tea and sugar to make the traditional mint tea, but recently their dependence on outside sources has grown, including greatly increased food grain imports as a result of inadequate harvests. Many families also depend on money sent by relatives working in the cities or abroad. There are government programs to aid those in need, like the blind or poor widows, but these affect relatively few people; there are no large programs like welfare. Medical care is available nearly free to anyone who can demonstrate poverty; and there is a triage clinic in Zawiya, and several clinics, private doctors, and a government hospital in nearby Kabar.

The people of Zawiya are well-acquainted with modern technology, and most of our neighbors wished they had more access to it. The majority of families we studied had a radio-tape recorder and a television set. When Susan first lived here in 1965, the only televisions were in a few large cafes. By 1970 many well-off families had them; and by 1982 most of the families in our neighborhood had sets, some managing the cost by scrimping on meals, we heard. There was a new village down the road that didn't have electricity yet, but many families there had sets that ran off car batteries. One of television's main effects has been to put people into closer touch with the outside world. In 1965, for example, only a few local women had seen snow, and they were intrigued by Susan's descriptions of it. In 1970, when we mentioned there had been a blizzard in our home country, many said "Oh, yes, we saw it on TV; they have those big machines that move the snow and all." There is only one Moroccan channel, operated by a government agency, with programs in Arabic and French. These include a variety of American programs dubbed into French; "Dallas" and "The Incredible Hulk" were among the most popular broadcasts in 1982, along with Egyptian soap-opera type films. Television would have a much greater impact if it were broadcast in the Moroccan dialect, but so far only some news and occasional dramas are.

 Another sign of the times is the popularity of the Tangier-based radio station "Medi Une." They play Arabic, French and American music intermingled, and move among all three languages for announcements. One may well hear Oum Kulthoum followed by Bob Dylan, Mozart, Bob Marley and Jaques Brel. Older male adolescents love it, though their sisters tend to prefer the all-Arabic stations with their Moroccan popular music.

Political system

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy headed by King Hassan II. Much of the nation's present formal political structure has been carried over from the French colonial period, incorporating some traditional roles but placing them in a broader and more hierarchical system than before. Before independence in 1956 many officials were French, but now all are Moroccan; the government is the largest employer of white-collar workers.

The French-introduced system now in operation is very bureaucratic, and no individual is expected to act without the approval of his or her superior, who is ultimately the King. Briefly, the King appoints several ministers, each of whom has a subordinate organization. Most important is the Minister of the Interior, since under to him are the provincial governors and mayors of large cities, and beyond them all local political officials. Each large town has a qa'id, somewhat like our mayor and county commissioner combined; Zawiya recently acquired its own qa'id. This man's local assistants are the shikh and the moqqadam, who carry messages and issue some official papers. There is also a council of respected elders, both elected and appointed, from several nearby settlements; their power is limited to quite minor local affairs. There are now police located in the town, an they are sometimes called in in the event of disputes. Adolescents have relatively little contact with these political officials, but some aspire to the power upper-level bureaucratic positions provide.

There is also an informal power structure, involving people who are respected locally for their wisdom, their wealth, their connections, or some combination of these. The head of the saint's lineage often has a formal position as a member of the local council. However, his influence goes far beyond that office, and he is always consulted by town officials on any important matter; local people also often directly ask for his advice or mediation.  One of the former slave families used to have several members involved in local government; although they no longer are, they are still influential in Zawiya. Various individuals may have influence by virtue of their access to information (cf. S. Davis, 1983). Taxi drivers, for example, are sometimes a locus of informal power, because they are always on the road and know the movements of both locals and outsiders; they can use this information to their benefit. They are also acquainted with local police and can serve as a contact or intermediary for townspeople.


No discussion of Moroccan culture can be complete without emphasis on the central role of religion in the lives of both young people and adults. Islam has guided the thought and actions of most Moroccans for a thousand years, and the Qur'an and Traditions (Hadith) of the Prophet Mohammed continue to be the basis for thinking about moral action and  family relations. Islam is seen as a complete system for living by most Muslims, and its concepts of growth and maturity form part of the discussion of adolescence as a stage of life (see Chapter Three).

All of the permanent residents of Zawiya are Sunni Muslims. Orthodox (Sunni) Islam favors a direct relation between the individual and God, and does not foster the development of powerful religious officials. There is an imam who speaks in the mosque at the Friday group service; he may alternate with others and derives no great status from this role. There are several local fqis who teach religious school and who may cure or do magic; again, they are not pivotal figures.

Islam prescribes five essential practices. They are:

1) the declaration of faith, saying "There is no God but God and Mohammed is His Prophet" (which is all one need do to convert to Islam);

2) praying at five designated times a day;

3) giving alms to the poor;

4) fasting from before sunrise until sunset during the month of Ramadan; and

5) making the pilgrimage to Mecca, if one can afford it.

All townspeople subscribe to these tenets of the faith, but many admit that it is difficult to find the time to pray, especially for women with small children. Older people are most likely to pray regularly, but older adolescents today are more likely to pray than in the past. Only a few people have been able to afford the pilgrimage, but almost all give some alms. For outsiders, the most conspicuous aspect of Muslim practice is the annual Ramadan fast; it is also the one most directly affecting the lives of adolescents. Fasting is taken very seriously by Moroccans generally. All Muslims are supposed to fast after puberty, and in Zawiya nearly all do; younger children fast a few days each year when they get close, to practice. In big cities some young people rebel by not observing the fast, but while there were a few local examples, no one violated the fast openly.

In addition to orthodox Islam, Morocco has a strong tradition of local saints and spirits and shrines. These popular offshoots are especially apparent near a zawiya, with its saint's tomb and annual festival (moussem). The rural-urban split has always been essential in understanding Moroccan Islam (Eickelman 1976). Popular Islam in Morocco has long venerated local siyyids, persons (usually men) believed to be possessed of an unusal degree of baraka, or spiritual power (cf. Geertz 1968). Popular shrines sprang up on the site where a saintly figure had performed miraculous acts or perhaps prayed. These had become common by the 17th Century, and the zawiya at such a site became the focus for a great deal of popular religious activity. Like most Moroccan towns, Zawiya is also the scene of many heterodox practices involved in magic and in countering the influence of jnun (spiritual beings), some of which affect adolescents in important ways as students or prospective marriage partners.

The town, then, has existed for over 300 years, but grew rapidly during and after the colonial period in this century. Grandparents described French soldiers manoevering on mules; the father of one woman was said to have carried the then Sultan's brother 60 km. from Fez to Meknes on his back because the horse's pace jostled him. Now there are easy road and train connections to Fez, Meknes, and other cities, and one can write or telephone relatives there as well. Radio, telephone and tape recorders mean that Moroccans share more of a common, and sometimes more Western-influenced, culture than they did in the past. Free universal education means that most of those under 16 have a basic level of literacy, while almost none of their parents can read or write. School also gives boys and girls a legitimate excuse to meet and talk, so the traditional segregation of the sexes is breaking down. All these factors are important in the rapidly changing lives of the young people of Zawiya.

Note: This Web resource is based on a draft manuscript for
Davis, S.S., & Davis, D.A. (1989). Adolescence in a Moroccan Town: Making Social Sense. Rutgers University Press.
Do not reproduce or citre without permission.

These are pseudonyms for the two young people, a practice we will follow throughout this volume to protect the privacy of individuals described in detail or quoted.

Note: The day described below is not a literal account of a single day; rather it is a composite based on the routines of two girls we knew. If a girl is much older or much younger than Hakima, or if she is not attending school, her day will differ in some ways, and we will describe those later.

Note: This account is based closely on several daily-activity accounts supplied in interviews with this 19-year-old from a family of about average economic level.

It may surprise the reader to learn that, at the age of 19, Abdelaziz still had several years of school ahead of him. Although he was a serious student, he had repeated two years after failing the difficult year-end examinations.

In the quotations we present, we translate the literal meaning of the Arabic as much as possible. An ellipsis (...) indicates that material has been omitted.

A junior high school opened in the Fall of 1987.

The term "tribe" (tribu) was widely used by the French in their ethnographic portrayals of Morocco, and is now in need of revision. Tribes have much less significance than formerly, and as is the case with other Moroccan social labels, tribal ties have varied import depending on the situation (cf. Rosen 1984).

During 1982, the town post office processed about $45,500 in money orders from abroad and $53,500 in money orders from inside Morocco.

The number and technical quality of programs in colloquial Arabic had increased dramatically by 1987.