|Controversial Kuwaiti cartoon depicting a Moroccan man|
There were always those high-class men from the Gulf going to the Maghreb and specifically to Morocco. They were few, they were going for their own pleasures or to get antiques. When you say Maghreb, this doesn't mean Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and Mauritania; for the gulf, it only means this exotic touristic Morocco which Gulf men portray as the place to fulfill their drugs/sex dreams. Yes there were people from the Gulf who joined the Algerian resistance against French colonialism driven by their anti-colonial Pan-Arabist sense, but the bridges between the Maghreb and the Gulf have always been limited and based on so much ignorance.
Make us Moroccan!
Being oil states, the Gulf has migrant workers from all over the world. Certain communities of migrant workers were able to impact the cultures of the Gulf or at least make their cultures visible and generally known; biggest two examples are the Egyptian and Indian cultures. However, people of the Maghreb have never been migrant workers in the Gulf until few years ago. Being someone from Kuwait, I noticed the number of young Moroccan women working in malls and beauty salons; Kuwaiti women suddenly wanted to be Moroccan, so what's better than a Moroccan woman to Moroccan-ize you? A good number of Tunisians and Algerians started to come to Kuwait lately as well.
Thanks to Rai
In my own experience, I developed an interest in the Maghreb because of Music. I grew up listening to the hits of Cheb Khaled although I understood nothing of his lyrics. Like everyone else, I thought he is Moroccan! My love for Rai Music grew and with it, my knowledge of Algeria's music, resistance, migration, and other topics. I familiarized myself with the dialects of Maghreb using YouTube videos and I got some French classes, for the influence it has over Maghreb dialects in general.
I love my Desert
I have always had trouble with the Egyptian typical look towards the Gulf. Yes, certainly, there is so much discrimination happening against migrant workers in the Gulf. Yet, I do not believe this justifies the Egyptian-sponsored look towards the Gulf as spoiled, idiots, slaves, traitors, backward and so on. I find it even more dangerous when many Arabs refer to the tribal cultures as savage; only reproducing the colonial discourses!
The exact same Egyptian stereotypes are practiced by all Arabs towards the Gulf. It might be reactionary but it has led to many losses. Whenever I post a picture of an achieved Khaliji (especially woman), non-gulfies would ask questions such as "is this person fully from the gulf?" as if creativity and achievement are genetic features of certain nations!
Witches and Bitches
Al-Watan (the most popular newspaper/TV channel in Kuwait specialized in being controversial by its racist and sectarian tone) made a big fuss two years ago when they portrayed Moroccan women as witches and/or whores. Those stereotypes were inserted into humor and stereotypes in Kuwait in the past few years as young men fantasize about visiting Morocco. The controversy had Moroccan hackers take down some Kuwaiti websites, and it made the Kuwaiti government offer an apology for something that a private media establishment has committed. I believe that was, so far, the peak of the Maghreb-Gulf clash.
Something similar occurred lately on twitter, on a smaller scale, when some Saudis started a hashtag about Morocco speaking of Moroccans sexually; something that insulted Moroccans.
Basically, the tribal culture of the Gulf makes them believe they are the most protective of their women (their honor) and that Moroccans are the opposite of that since prostitution exists in Morocco. The idea of honor and morality for the typical gulf mentality can be best understood through guarding the freedom of females especially in appearance.
What's the answer?
It is both; to deconstruct the conceptions of Khalijis towards the Maghreb is to comprehend all the social dilemmas people live in such societies. In the Gulf, people are of Arab, Iranian, Indian and other roots but the tribal culture has been dominating and enforced in certain places; in Saudi Arabia but not in Kuwait (speaking of media and state representation). The Maghreb as an idea represents this point for a new generation from the Gulf; a clashing point where one is lost between the touristic image of Morocco and the tribal-religious mask needed socially in the Gulf. This blog is interested in examining such dilemmas from both side, so stay tuned.