post – relaxing/having fun!

Camino to Morocco, Chapter 6

Had I been anyone else, in Morocco for any other reason, my association with Amine would likely have continued, perhaps until I left.  Besides, his insistence that he continue on with me, despite my assurance that I no longer needed him, made me a bit uncomfortable.  Furthermore, his repeated rant that he “Swears to God, that I got the best carpet bargain he had ever seen,” and insistence that I not tell anyone else (especially my friends in Fes) about my purchase made me squirm a bit.  “They’ll just be jealous and tell you that you could have gotten a better deal somewhere else.”

Despite my gratitude for the “wonderful assistance” he had provided, learning that he had a pre-purchased a train ticket on to Fes gave me the opportunity to part ways.  I “really needed to get to Fes immediately, because my friends are already there waiting for me,” and the train would not be leaving for there for two hours.  He promised to call me as soon as he arrived, “to help me in any way possible.”

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Taxi service in Morocco, as I’ve described in a previous post is a real treat.  Although I observed many others attempting to haggle on price, apparently on the longer, established routes, like between cities, one uses a “Grand Taxi,” and the price per seat is firm. These (typically black small old Mercedes) cars are packed with 4 in the back, and 3 in the front.  Insanity appeared to be the only requirement for the drivers on each of the three times I utilized this fine form of transport.  The authorities seemed quite generous in licensure, since one was clearly younger than 16, one was most definitely older than 80, and one seemed to have Turret’s or was under the influence of something, which under different circumstance would have been entertaining.

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I had to take my fellow passengers word that we had in fact arrived in Fes.  Nothing was posted in any language that I could understand.  I got out and looked for someone who in retrospect I suppose expected to have the name “Abdullah” printed in a bubble-cloud overhead and an arrow pointing towards him.

Then I remembered that I did have a phone I had purchased the day before in Casablanca, and I had added three contacts.  Amine had called me (numerous times), so his was there by default, and Katie (a later post) had given me numbers for both Abdullah, and his brother Allal.  I tapped Abdullah’s name, and as the phone rang, I noticed a man standing not ten feet from me reach for his phone and answer it.  Our eyes met as we spoke to each other.

We embraced with the traditional greeting: A light man-hug, followed by kisses on three alternating cheeks, and I proudly blurted out, “Asalamu-wa-alay-kuum.”  Abdulla smiled approvingly, and as he replied, “Wa-lay-kuum-a-salam,” he pointed directed to his brother, and very soon to become my own, Allal.

Allal took it even a step further, and after our embrace, bowed slightly and touched his right hand to his heart.  I have learned in so many cultures, that all this gesturing is not only tradition, it is very important, and symbolizes how heartfelt one’s feelings are about something or someone.  We miss so many of these nuances if our eyes and hearts aren’t open to them.

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Allal El Harrami

The taxi from the airport dropped us off at what everyone called “bahtah” (sp?), which was kind of a central area, with a few shops, a cafe overlooking the street, a mosque, and I’d soon discover a couple entrances to the “Old Fes” souk.  My two new brothers led me through a maze of cobblestone paths between what at night seemed to be tall walls with doors at street level and windows on the next floors, at intervals.  These were actually hundreds of homes, and each block between streets (paths) seemed to be about a dozen homes, all connected in apartment kind of buildings.  I was struck by how well lit these streets all were, and that there were children out so late – it was well after 11:00pm.

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Soon we stopped, and after unlocking the door climbed lots of white terrazzo stairs into the home of Abdullah and his wonderful wife Nisrine.  We were met with screams of excitement from their beautiful little boy.  Reda appeared to be about three years old, a bundle of energy and enthusiasm.  When I opened my backpack and pulled out the customary gifts for my “host family,” we bonded instantly.  Who knew salt water taffy, a shirt from Melbourne Beach, Florida, and a couple of ball caps would be so treasured?!!

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I was tired, hot and sweaty, and looking around for a couch or a corner where I could unroll my sleeping bag.  Nisrine cleared the table, in what I assumed was just tidying up prior to retiring a very long, exhausting day.  This couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Categories: humorous, post - relaxing/having fun! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Camino to Morocco, Chapter 3

Dar Diafa was the least expensive B & B that I could find listed, and I really needed my first night to be planned.  By American standards, the $126 a night I paid to stay there was reasonable, and I chose it because it was half or a third the cost of most of the other places I found listed online; it would turn out to be one of the (fortunately few) things I would grossly overpay for.  By Moroccan standards that same 1260 dirham would have been an outrageous sum to pay.  Going forward, I would be doing my best with cultural immersion, by being allowed to travel and live with them, and so this would be, by far, the most expensive place I’d stay.

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Anyway, the facilities at Dar Diafa were fabulous, management very obliging and helpful, and the provided breakfast was quite different for me, and although simple, was more than adequate.

I never saw Moroccans dip their pastries into their coffee, so I really think the bowl type cups I was provided with my coffee were more of an accommodation for the French, who I remember like to do this.  I did it last year, and just found myself with a cupful of brew with lots of flakes floating around in it.  I didn’t get it, and since the natives didn’t appear to be doing it this year, I just drank my coffee from the bowl, as if it was a cup.

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I inhaled the pastries they put in front of me, as I busily wrote down all the “must sees,” for the day, and then asked to have a taxi called so I could go to the Mosque I’d heard so much about.

*****

Khalid appeared to be angry, shouting at the taxi driver he had called to take me to the mosque.  I’d soon learn that this was neither anger, nor shouting, but rather part of the culture.  I then learned it wasn’t personal, they tried to overcharge everybody for stuff!  They would speak loudly and right up in each other’s faces, about what something would cost.  This would appear to be an unpleasant exchange, but soon they’d agree on some (often arbitrary) price, then smile and shake hands, as if they were best pals.  And maybe they were!  I’d soon learn that posted prices would really be more like guidelines, and it was almost expected to move back and forth across that line – apparently like the center-line on the mountain road for the bus I’d ride in a few days.

Anyway, as he opened the taxi door for me, Khalid was emphatic, I was to pay 180 dirham, no more!  And pretty predictably, as the driver let me out at the Mosque, he firmly demanded 250.  I refused, and said 180, but before he could shout back at me something about my mother, I said, “OK, 200 (because I was gonna round up for his tip anyway).  He smiled, and acted like he was so glad to have been of service to me.  Win-Win, I suppose.

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The Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in Morocco, and the 7th largest in the world. Its minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 metres (689 ft).  I had been told that it is the only mosque in Morocco where kafir (in polite terms, this means non-muslims), are allowed to enter.  I suspected there were other implications of the word, including infidel, unbeliever, and basically (apparently) unsaved.  It was later explained to me that this “prohibition” is really only “tradition,” and that non-muslims actually are allowed to enter any mosque (except the “Grand Mosque” in Mecca), for educational purposes, as long as we’re not dirty, dressed inappropriately, or have ill intent.  However the practice is seldom allowed, because of the “scandal” it would cause among those there for worship, who might not take such a gracious or welcoming posture.

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They held English (and other) language scheduled tours, and I was anxious to have a look around.  Grand would be an understatement, both in size and furnishing.  Just a few fun facts that I learned on the tour:  Shortly after King Mohammed V died and was replaced by the still current King Hassan II, he commissioned it as the single landmark of Casablanca, as a mausoleum to honor the departed king.  His statement announcing the groundbreaking:

I wish Casablanca to be endowed with a large, fine building of which it can be proud until the end of time … I want to build this mosque on the water, because God’s throne is on the water. Therefore, the faithful who go there to pray, to praise the creator on firm soil, can contemplate God’s sky and ocean.

Quoting the Quran (11:7), “And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days – and His Throne had been upon water – that He might test you as to which of you is best in deed.”

And so, indeed the Mosque was in fact (at least partially) built over the waters of the Atlantic, with the sea bed being visible through the glass floor of a portion of the building’s hall.  

And the whole worship thing is very interesting.  Seeing this massive structure, envisioning 30,000 people on their knees, prostrating themselves giving glory and homage to Allah, with another 80,000 outside would be breathtaking.

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Construction of the structure over a seven-year period involved 1400 men working during the day and another 1100 during the night. They used marble from Agadir, cedar wood from the Middle Atlas, and granite from Tafraoute; Venetian glass was the only imported material. This is just an awfully impressive structure – and I don’t just mean the glass flooring for worshipers to see God’s water below, the marble flooring is heated, it has a retractable roof, and and even a laser light atop its minaret, pointing the way to Mecca each night. There’s also an ablutions hall with more than 40 fountains and two public hammams.  (More about that stuff later)

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Don’t panic, ya’ll.  I’m still an infidel.  You don’t need to “drink the kool-aid” to appreciate a beautiful thing, done in an attempt to glorify God.  Only by recognizing the beauty of each other’s traditions can we learn about common denominators and not (only) focus on our differences.

As I walk the dusty roads of Morocco, I’m fascinated by this culture, so different from anything I’ve ever seen, heard, smelled, experienced.  There was so much more to come.

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I took a few pictures, including the obligatory selfies, and after agreed with myself that I was on no schedule.  So I just started walking.  My internal compass is pretty good, and so after reading about a few things that Fodor’s and Frommer’s (travel guides) described as “must sees,” I just started walking back over towards my hotel.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Categories: cultural, hotel - wifi, post - educational, post - relaxing/having fun! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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Mama Needs Coffee

by Jenny Uebbing

Mama Needs Coffee

God | Family | Coffee | Books | Gilmore Girls | Harry Potter | Photography | Music

theological pipe

Put that in your theological pipe and smoke it...

Jonathan's Blog

Reflections on the glory of God

Some Days in My Lives

Loving Pets and Their People

trekker2013's Blog

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

dogtorbill

“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Movin' it with Michelle

Running, Recipes, and Real life adventures!

this is... The Neighborhood

the Story within the Story

gidivet camino

learning the unforced rhythms of grace

The Cereal Bowl

Taking life one spoonful at a time

St. Val the Eccentric

Contemplative musings on life and faith from a creative original

howsyourlovelife

Improving my love of life.... through loving God, self and others

Thinking Out Loud

Children Matter

sharsharklein

This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas

Positively Sober

I'm just a girl from Boston living with AIDS and addiction. Two diseases, one slogan: Silence = death.

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