M. Hanna ’18 – “Shukran” in “116 Days

“Shukran – Thank You”

“Shukran.” The sounds felt awkward and unfamiliar in my mouth, but I repeated them over and over, determined to learn them. Arabic is a difficult language, and I was not under the illusion that I could master it in the mere four days we would be spending in Morocco. Yet this particular word turned out to be an especially useful one to know. The reason for this is deeply embedded in Moroccan culture, one which is built on values of kindness and hospitality. “Shukran” is the Arabic word for “thank you” (transposed into English letters to aid in pronunciation), and I found myself using it constantly in response to heaping plates of food, biscuits, and traditional Moroccan mint tea offered by locals who had gone out of their way to welcome a group of curious Americans into their workplaces and homes. One afternoon, we all sat in a crowded circle of chairs around a kind-looking family, who offered us a glimpse into their culture and their everyday lives dwelling in rural Morocco. They spoke of the struggle to educate their children and reach medical care, when the closest hospital was nearly two hours away. They spoke of hardships that not a single student in our group could imagine facing, but their attitudes were unassuming, matter-of-fact, good-natured. They offered us more food that we could possibly consume, but our guide explained to us that this is their custom; if a guest can finish their food, they were not given enough. They were happy to share their hospitality and their stories—everything that they had. As I sat there, consuming their tea and biscuits and catching glimpses of the big, dark eyes of their tiniest children peeking out curiously from behind their parents, I knew that the least I could do for these warm, generous people was offer them a sincere—although likely mispronounced—“thank you.”

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