This is the second posting. Reminder you must go to www.peneflix.com to read the reviews!
October 1st, 2001 was my original departure date but “the best laid plans of mice and men go oft astray”; the world and my itinerary, irrevocably altered, September 11th, 2001.
Having just returned from a twelve day excursion, my mind in turmoil, I had to synthesize my perceived conceptions with the reality of what I encountered. I will commence with the simple and rudimentary observations: Morocco’s vitality shimmers with colors, scents, and flavors that only India can rival. Life is blatantly displayed, teaming souks with butcher shops, handicrafts, jewelry dripping from exposed venues; humanity, bursting with a force that pulverizes one’s emotional, sensory barometer; stripped bare of stereotypes and perceptions grounded in exposure, illusions fostered by one’s personal commandments.
Smoking is pervasive: no one is standing outside, fifteen feet from the entrance of hotels, restaurants, office buildings, but inside enjoying the effects of nicotine: a flashback to the mid- twentieth century, one is reminded that the addiction is legal and the imbibers unencumbered by the felon stigma.
Never being a fan of Moroccan cuisine, conversion escaped the agenda on this trip. Cinnamon and sugar dominate, stultifying the taste buds; supplicating for unsweetened couscous; realizing that I would need a burka to cover the sins of eating dessert for every meal. Tangine the specialty of the finest restaurants, became boring in its unchanging predictability. Bread, a major life source was divine, delicious and a palate savior, as were the dates, figs and oranges.
In Fes, a foreign, exotic city, filled with architecture representing a blend of Judaic and Islamic unknown master craftsmen; a skilled tableau of heritage, antiquity, binding two cultures that at one time cohabited in a peaceful partnership; leaves one with a feeling of nostalgia, sadness at the demise of this relationship. It was also in Fes that I had to confront my own Western beliefs and fallacies; without casting aspersions I felt that burka and veils were forced upon women, that in this male- dominated world , given a choice women would cast off and shun these identity- defying restrictions. This was not the case, veiled woman projected empowerment, a security in their choice of garb, also never as a Westerner did I feel threatened, just unwanted. Switching roles and climbing into the psyche of this alien universe, realizing that I was the infidel; representing all they had been taught to despise. Faced with the irrefutable elucidation that this is a world that will never change and one that I will never fully comprehend.
Marrakech, a city of stunning sophistication, beauty; a combination of wide boulevards and the mysterious labyrinths of the Medina was more embracing and accepting of the tourist. The 12th century Koutoubia mosque and teaming Djemaa el Fnaa square are other worldly in their uniqueness and enchantment; hammering the senses with inscrutable enigmatic delights. La Mamounia, a hotel of such magnificence and splendor, its grounds, orchards, fit for a king ( it is owned by the government aka the King). Seduced by the marbled glory of the bathroom with its heated floor and towel racks; the dust of the day, swept away, replaced by fantasies long dormant in the closet of the mind; resulting in a keen and powerful joy, a celebration of a luxurious life, lived hedonistically in this wondrous twenty- first century.
Throughout the journey I read Fred M. Donner’s “Muhammad and the Believers, at the Origins of Islam” a scholarly and in depth synopsis of Muhammad’s life; the march and wars that formulated the precepts of Islam, a religion practiced by one fifth of the world’s population. A doctrine with basic principles, reminiscent of all faiths. Unfortunately, through the ages its ideology has been warped by minds of lesser vision and wisdom.
Was the nine year hiatus worth the wait? A resounding “YES” because the experience was shared with a twinned soul, a serendipitous spirit entwined with mine for the duration. The only bone of contention was her inimitable skill of sleeping through the 5am “call to prayer”; while praying for silence, in a country never in need of an alarm clock, I rarely joined the ranks of those worshipers whose prayers were heard and whose unfinished dreams were allowed to reach their conclusion.