With over 34,000 hosts in 170 countries, there are endless possibilities of places to marvel at and people to inspire you. With such a vast amount of projects to choose from, we thought we’d delve a little deeper and help you explore some of the options out there! We are always on the look-out for outstanding hosts, which is why each month we invite hosts which have attracted our attention to chat with us about their experiences hosting for Workaway, tell us a little more about where they live and what a Workawayer can expect from their stay. The ‘Workaway Host of the Month’ posts help you discover more of what it’s like to live in different hosts’ shoes and hope to whet your appetite to get out there and embrace all that the Workaway world has to offer!
This month’s blog post sweeps us up on a magic carpet and transports us to the fantastic ancient city of Marrakech, with its vibrant medina (World Heritage site), mosques, palaces, food market and street performers. Marrakech is a wonderful place to lose yourself in, yet many of us have learnt the hard way by arriving in a place which has a very different way of operating, and either ended up feeling embarrassed by our actions or getting caught in an unpleasant situation. Imagine how wonderful it would be to be welcomed by a local who can guide us through the initial labyrinth of acclimatisation!
This month, we have the pleasure of getting to know Mustapha, otherwise known as “Musti” or “kindness itself!”, who lives in the heart of this truly wonderful and enticing city. He believes that, in most cases, when visitors face difficulties in Morocco it is purely a case of cultural misunderstanding or misinterpretation. As a language teacher who has taught French, Arabic and English both at home and abroad, and a social co-ordinator between students from different countries, Musti is committed to building bridges between cultures. Floriane from France said of her stay with Musti:
“Mustafa truly understands the concept of Workaway. It was a real cultural exchange. He is a really welcoming person, very kind, helpful and attentive. Full of positive vibes. We had a great time talking about Moroccan culture, music, love, life, personal stories…”
Hello there Musti! When did you start hosting Workawayers and how did you find out about us?
I started as a Workaway host about 4 years ago and found out about it from one of my couchsurfers. The best thing [about being a Workaway host] is that even though I don’t travel as much as before, the world comes to my door via my guests.
What made such an impression on us is your enthusiasm for cultural exchange and connection! Being already a well travelled and accomplished man, what inspired you to open up your home to visitors?
My motives to open the doors of my house for visitors started when I was 10 years old, thanks to my father who wanted me to invite tourists I met home so that I could practise my French. So, my parents took care of foreigners. Second, being generous by nature, I was, and still am, always happy to invite people home. I am also a kind of multi-cultural person. I feel the need to satisfy my thirst to talk and learn from others.
How easily do Workaway volunteers settle into daily life at your home?
My workawayers get used to me and my place in no time. I make sure that the ice is broken as soon as possible and that volunteers get the feeling of being at home. There should also be trust and a good mastery of the language to help ease the transition of getting to know each other.
I see that most of the help you need relates to the upkeep of the house, cooking and cracking argan fruit. Do argan trees grow locally? What is special about argan and what do you use it for?
For the argan tree, it is a unique one worldwide. It is a wild tree that grows only in some parts of Morocco. Many countries tried to plant it in their own countries, but it failed to live except in Brazil and Israel. Yet, the oil from there is less effective. It is a miraculous tree. Its oil is not only for food and cosmetics, but it is also a medicine. Most visitors who come here buy argan oil as they have read about its benefits.
I buy argan fruits, crack them at home and extract oil for food and well-being massage. I used to buy it from shops, but I realised that most of it was fake. This is why I make it at home for personal use. I am a licenced masseuse so to produce my own argan oil is perfect.
You are also a natural teacher, both in your profession and in your role as host. Do you find that you are also able to learn from your volunteers too?
Sure, I learnt and am still learning a lot from my guests. For instance, I learned punctuality, organization, technology, cooking, especially Chinese herbs and spices…
The best gift I learned from some of my workaway guests is the ability to form a true lasting friendhip and bond, as if we were father and son or daughter, or brother or sister, as if we had become true family members. It is an overwhelming experience, but in a good way!
To use your words you want to “build a bridge between different cultures so as to make the world a better place”, which is certainly one of the principal aims of Workaway! In your opinion, how can this be done?
Bridges between one culture and another can be built via tolerance, respect, understanding and open-mindedness. The ability to avoid being judgemental of others and to make certain compromises is important if one really wants to reach out and enjoy the company of other amazing members of the human race.
What misconceptions, if any, do visitors have about Moroccan culture?
Most misconceptions tourists have about Morocco come either from the mass media or from stories told by some visitors who have had negative experiences, which mostly could have been avoided if they had read up on the cultural traits before visiting the country. Even some Moroccans who want to impress tourists, may warn them of potential dangers in order to gain their trust. But, most of foreigners I have known or met have changed any misconceptions they might have had after they had lived a bit here and discovered the reality themselves.
Many workawayers are incredibly grateful for your guidance on behaviour, dress codes and bargaining. What advice do you consider invaluable for people visiting Morocco?
The invaluable advice to give visitors is to reassure them about Morocco, and dispel any fears that they may have, just because someone once had a bad experience. This can happen anywhere in the world. Some of my workaway guests have shared their negative stories and experiences from what are considered to be the most “civilized” countries!
What unique cultural experiences do volunteers enjoy whilst staying in Marrakech?
I don’t think there is a unique cultural experience that my guests enjoy, but there is an array of experiences on offer depending on the visitors reasons for coming to Marrakech. Yet, really the most important one in my opinion is to be able to diffuse any cultural shock. I mean when they really find out about my culture, they just enjoy what they have come here for – whether that be nature, or the warmth and hospitality of family and friends. Some have even decided to settle down here for good!
I bet you have some good stories to tell!
Now, here are some funny things that happened with my guests. One man from Chile enjoyed his stay at my place so much that he completely forgot that his visa had expired. Then there was a whole family who missed their plane as none of them remembered the date of their return flight. Also there were two Workawayers who came on different dates, and discovered when they met in my house that they happened to know each other from primary school. They had not seen each other since then. Six months later they got married!
Wow! What a great story – yet another Workaway romance! Perhaps we should interview them too!
In fact, think I am going to write a book about my stories. So, it is better to stop here, otherwise you will feel bored or sleepy.
No, far from it. I have visited Morocco a number of times and I am fascinated by it. Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Marrakech yet.
Now, you have a home in Marrakech you are welcome to visit!
Shukran Musti. One of your Workawayers, Eleonore, described you as a “real Citizen of the World and a big big big soul”. I can now see why! Thank you so much for chatting with us today and CONGRATULATIONS on your success as both Workaway volunteer and host!