Rabat – Abla Samrhouni, a Moroccan-American high school senior, has championed Moroccan culture through her educational presentations in the US.
In an increasingly globalized world, geographic and cultural boundaries have become more blurred. Yet, many communities are still entrenched within their own particular cultural perceptions. It is in this tension between globalization and restricted cultural views which emerges the necessity of intercultural dialogue.
As outlined by the UN, “The diversity of the world makes for an enriching experience in sharing and learning about our differences, experience that can foster peaceful coexistence between peoples.”
As a Moroccan-American, Abla Samrhouni embodies the new forefront of intercultural dialogue and education. Her enriching and enlightening presentations enable Americans to transcend their own perceptions and learn the many intriguing and complex facets of Moroccan culture.
In her series “Morocco on the Road,” Abla gives educational presentations on the Kingdom of Morocco across the US. She showcases the exotic, beautiful, and culturally rich country to US citizens who have not had the opportunity to learn about Moroccan culture.
Her audience spans a myriad of ages, from preschoolers to senior citizens. She gave her first presentation in February 2018 at Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School, in Washington, D.C.
When asked about her presentation, Neil McClay, one of the teachers, said, “She had been asked to deliver a presentation about Morocco to a group of 84 first grade students” for the school’s 1st grade Morocco morning.
He continued, “Abla was an absolute pleasure to work with and her presentation was certainly one of the highlights of a fantastic event. She delivered valuable information in an inspiring and entertaining manner and the children thoroughly enjoyed listening to her presentation.”
In her presentations, Abla covers a wide range of topics. She shares the rich history and culture of Morocco, discussing topics from Morocco’s imperial cities, religion, and customs to its souks, cuisine, and clothing. She even talks about the politics of Moroccan-US relations.
Further, Abla brings in artefacts, musical instruments, and jewelry to tangibly present the vibrant culture of Morocco.
When asked about her motivations behind the presentations, Abla said, “The social issues that inspired me to start this were conflict due to cultural differences, close-minded viewpoints, and prejudice. The goal of the classes for society are to overcome these issues and unite people from all over the world despite differences by teaching them to embrace diversity and the mix of ethnicities in America that enrich the country and to fight against ignorance that fuels stereotypes.”
One of the stereotypes Abla has had to battle is the austere and impersonal perception of the King.
She stated, “Whenever I show a picture of the King and his family to the kids in my PowerPoint they are surprised to see him wearing sunglasses and jeans. He is integrated in common people’s lives and he is humble despite … his magisterial title. This got rid of the image the kids had in their mind of a king on his throne.”
Insights as a Moroccan-American
Abla’s dual identity as American and Moroccan embodies the virtues of interculturalism and multiculturalism. As an American citizen and ethnic Moroccan, Abla has the opportunity to marvel in both cultures.
She recalled the vibrancy of Morocco: “I visit Morocco almost every summer to see my extended family. It is the most exciting part of each year for me because I always learn something new and it feels like an adventure.”
It has also become an incredibly enlightening experience. She stated, “Traveling there every year has gotten me out of my comfort zone, made me develop cultural sensitivity, taught me 2 additional languages, given me a new and more welcoming, curious outlook on life, and allowed me to meet all kinds of people. [To] get out of the world I live in and get exposed to somewhere completely different which showed me there is so much yet to see.”
In her firsthand experiences as a Moroccan-American, Abla has insightful observations on the distinct differences between the two countries.
She asserted, “America is a salad bowl, or in other words a mix of different cultures whereas Morocco is one big culture. In contrast to America, Morocco is predominantly Muslim, and Arabic and French is spoken widely.”
The influences have also informed the values behind each country. According to Abla, Morocco focuses more on hospitality, collectivism, and family, which aligns with their values of tradition and religion. Meanwhile America focuses on individualism, freedom, and equality.
Scholarly excellence and future plans
Beyond her presentations, Abla is a model of excellence. In her senior year of high school, she takes many advanced placement and honor classes. She competes in her school variety track and cross-country team and is also part of the French Honors Society while tutoring students who need assistance.
The presentations have informed her on her future possibilities. Just like her presentations, she hopes in the future to understand, learn, and enlighten others about many cultures.
She said, “I am not positive what I want to do but I’ve been trying to contribute to the effort to bridge between countries and people that come from all over the world in doing these presentations.”
Abla is considering a career in foreign affairs, business or law, inspired by her parents to help people and defend their rights.
She emphasized, “Whichever path I chose I will be completely committed, driven, ambitious, and passionate and hopefully successful. “