Learning the local nuances

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The wife of the Moroccan ambassador to China is a fitting representative for a country known for its hospitality. Tracie Barrett speaks with Nouria El Alami about her home and her time in Beijing.

Nouria El Alami, who moved to China in early 2009 with her ambassador husband, finds much in China to inspire her creative process. Photos Provided to China Daily

When one asks Nouria El Alami what makes her home country, the Kingdom of Morocco, special, her first response is the hospitality of its people. Citing a recent report by the World Economic Forum on the world's friendliest countries for tourists, the wife of the Moroccan ambassador to China is proud that her country is third on the list.

"The people are used to playing host to many people from many countries," she says. "In our history, Morocco is a melting pot, so we are naturally very friendly with foreigners."

El Alami, who has spent more than 30 years supporting ambassador Jaafar Ali Hakim to represent the North African country, which is also known for its beauty, moved to China with her husband and two children in early 2009. She treasures the memories and friendships she has made here and as an artist finds much in China to stimulate her creative process.

El Alami studied Chinese brush painting for five years while the family was posted in Seoul, South Korea, and earlier this year painted with Chinese master Liu Dawei at a China World Peace Foundation event in Beijing. She says she is a learner beside Liu, but finds the style fascinating.

"Can you imagine," she says, with a sense of wonder, "from black and white, they can create 100 nuances."

"I always try to take inspiration from the country where I live," she says. "For me, it's very important to have friends, Chinese friends. Because, in the diplomatic life, you have of course many nationalities, many countries, but when you have Chinese friends, you will enjoy living in China more, because you will understand more.

"My friends explain to me many things - the food, the traditions - so I enjoy it a lot."

El Alami says since she arrived here she hasn't had any rest. "All my friends, all my family, like to come here, and sometimes they come more than once. They are impressed by China, by the history, the culture."

She finds her Chinese friends are equally interested in going to Morocco, which they call Moluoge, meaning "brother country".

"Even though the country is not as big as China, you can experience all four seasons at the same time. You can ski, and you can swim in Agadir, and you can go to the south of Morocco and have a safari in the Sahara, in the desert. And you don't need to travel four hours by plane. From Marrakech to Agadir it only takes two to three hours by car," she says.

When people visit Morocco, she says, they too usually want to return.

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