A Funeral on a Hillside

Four not-so-tiny women and I (also not-so-tiny) piled into a small Honda hatchback yesterday to climb up and out of Ain Leuh into the surrounding countryside to a tiny rural village called Bou Harsh. Khadija wanted to pay her respects to the family of a man who passed away two days ago. The man’s daughter, Halima and sister, Mehma both work at the cooperative.

The men were gathered in the graveyard burying the body when we arrived, positioning the body toward Mecca according to Islamic custom. We hiked up a steep graveled path to join the women on a neighboring hillside. There must have been hundreds of women milling about the hill, some crying and wailing, letting out their grief as other women physically held them up to prevent them from toppling down the hill.

By Islamic tradition,  a body must be buried as soon as possible. The family then observes a three day mourning peroid, which in Ain Leuh means the house will be full of visitors eating and drinking tea with the family for 72 hours. The widow will dress in white and stay confined to her home for four months and four days.

After standing on the hill with Mehma for about an hour, we all packed into the back of a pickup and drove further up the unpaved road to eat lunch with the grieving family. It was a meal of beef stew with olives and home-baked bread, completely silent. I’ve never experienced such silence surrounded by so many Moroccan women, and probably never will again.


About Laura McAdams

Laura McAdams is a Master’s student at University of Pennsylvania studying International Educational Development. Her experience in the MENA region includes 15 months as a Fulbright student researcher to Fez and Ifrane, Morocco in 2010 and 2011. Her project was interested in understanding the disconnect between the policies of technology usage in education and the reality of how these policies unfold in the classroom. Summer 2012 she returned to the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco to work with a women’s weaving cooperative. She is excited to learn more about other countries in the MENA region and issues involving education policy and reform, technology usage in curriculums and gender equality in education. One of Laura’s lifelong goals is to one day be able to sit down and leisurely read a newspaper in Arabic.
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