In the footsteps of Ibn Battuta: An interview with Omar Oualili

In the footsteps of Ibn Battuta: An interview with Omar Oualili
Omar Oualili

Our journey this time takes us to London to meet Omar Oualili, a young Moroccan student whose passion for travel is second only to that of the greatest traveler of all time.

It requires quite a mindset already to move from Casablanca to London, but for Omar Oualili, this was just the beginning. He himself probably wouldn’t have thought that he would one day  be awarded the “Best-Under 25 blogger” in 2015 for his inspirational travel blog Young and bold, Omar seems to have turned the travel bug so many of us have into a mission of life, and for sure he has no intention to stop any time soon. Maybe living in a smaller city would have curbed his enthusiasm, but as London is so strictly connected with every corner of the world, Omar enjoys every chance he has to “indulge” in his passion, gladly diving into a life of adventure and exploration.

A great traveller! Yet Omar never forgets his original roots. No matter how fascinating and colourful the world out there might seem, Casablanca and Morocco have the top spot in his heart. Read on and learn more about Omar as we ask him how he managed to pursue his dream.

Omar, what was the very first thing you noticed once you settled in London? What was the biggest difference with your previous life?

The main change from my previous life was that I became more independent in the UK. It was great at first! But slowly, I started feeling that I should do everything myself, including DIY works around my house. In Morocco anybody can help for a small tip, but in the UK this does not exist. I either fix my stuff myself or pay at least £85! I firstly noticed in London how organised people are here, they are very straightforward and I like that!

Have you been facing any problem or stereotype since you came from an African Muslim country?

This is very interesting question but it never happened to me. I think people respect me for being proud to be culturally African and Muslim. I get few jokes sometimes about being Arab, Berber, African or Muslim. But I, most of the time, tolerate a small stereotypical joke.

Coming here and travelling around the world was probably a shock, but also an opportunity to grow. What does Omar think Morocco should learn from the rest of the world? And vice versa?

Well, I believe that Morocco needs to have a better educational system because it really is slowing our development and it is what I believe is a big failure compared to the rest of the world. I always compare us to other countries in the region like Spain, Turkey, Jordan, Tunisia, and I feel like we are way behind. Similarly, we need to have a better health system because every Moroccan needs to have access to an efficient health system with all dignity and pride. Most people who can afford it run away to get their surgeries done abroad and the reason is how bad the system is. Those two points are really important for me and I do get jealous of other countries I visit for having a good education and efficient health systems for their citizens.

I think Morocco has a lot to offer in terms of culture, so perhaps other countries should learn how to enjoy their cultures in a globalised world. Because sometimes I feel like in some countries people like to get rid of their cultural identity in order to fit another identity, usually Western. But in Morocco, at least in my environment, my family and friends, we are very proud of our Moroccan culture and stick well to it while living a modern life. It is also noticeable from our Moroccan diaspora, whether they are Muslims or Jews, all Moroccans stick to their culture while easily adapting to their host country.

You make it seem very easy, but have you ever felt like being totally stranded or in the very wrong place?

Not so badly! But to sum up, in Lisbon once, my credit card has been emptied from the money I had, someone stole the money. So I was feeling very stranded but luckily it was on my last night. I felt like a stranger in the city because I was lost. Not lost between its pretty streets, but I was thinking a lot. I was feeling stranded. But luckily, I made it to the airport the next morning with few coins I had.

What is the place you have felt the most different from your culture? Have you ever felt like the need to run back home while travelling?

I honestly feel like there’s always something in common with other countries I visit, so even though it is culturally different, there’s a base that I find similar. For example, I find lots of similarities between Moroccans and Brazilians also between Moroccans and Serbians, which would be hard to even think there’s something in common. I luckily never get the feeling to run back home, because I feel good and safe everywhere I go, although I guess if I travel for a long time, I will probably miss home and would need a break from travels!

Do you think the wanderlust is something which belongs to the single person, or can it be a cultural trait?

I think it depends on the person. I meet travellers from all around the world from different cultures and we have the same desire to travel.

Would you have felt so compelled even if you did not win the Blog Award?

Not winning the UK Blog Awards in 2014 was a great opportunity for me to look back and see what’s missing from my blog and what I can improve. I believe that it taught me a great lesson to always keep looking to improve and look for myself. And that’s what I’ve done, I improved things and I won later an award for “Best Under-25 blogger”, but I don’t stop here. I keep aiming for more.

Omar, you say you prefer Italian food to Moroccan, but what is something from Morocco you simply can’t live without?

Hmm. I was actually referring to a specific Italian dish when I was comparing but honestly, I equally like Italian and Moroccan food. I love to eat food from my country, it’s just so special. I will not say anything special but I can’t live without bread! I really get this habit of eating bread with every meal, so I can’t live without it.

What is the destination you might feel like the good resting place once you won’t be able to travel any more?

I hope I will be able to travel forever! But I always think of where I will end up for good. I think Casablanca because there’s no better resting place than home. But it’s not certain, I will just try to live in different countries and try different places, maybe I will find one where I want to stay for the rest of my life.

Learn more about Omar on his official blog. You can also check out his Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram.

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