Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Genie Of Morocco

I recently was fortunate enough to ease drop on the following conversation between my friends.
Daniel: “Crazy Rich. Crazy crazy Rich.”
Andrew: “I wish I had time on my hands like he does.”
Albert: “Peter Pan.”
Cherise holds up a water melon in her left hand. “This the adventure part of his brain.” She holds up a single grape in her right, “And this is his intellect.”
Mom: “Richard, explain why I see Syria on your itinerary?! Are you trying to get yourself killed?!!”
Aaron: “Come on dog, three months, fourteen countries, twenty thousand minimum, moved out of your apartment, put all your stuff into storage, and have no clue where you’ll live. assuming you even make it back … And you left in such a hurry bro. I mean, what the hell were you thinking!?” …

That the arson investigation was getting too close.

My Life on the Lam
Thank God I was able to leave the chaos that is the United States behind and land in lovely, politically stable Africa. We were only going to spend twelve hours in Casablanca before proceeding to Ghana. Let's make the most of it.
My FIRST notable sighting while still descending the plane’s stairs was a beautiful palace surrounded by manicured palms. Literally, 100 yards from where we landed was one of the many king’s residences.

(the King's Palace on airport runway)

Here is an actual quote from the King of Morocco, which I am not making up, explaining the choice of the location: “Hey, an off-course plane will probably one day smash my house into a million pieces, and incinerate all my family in a fire hotter than hell, but that’s a small price to pay for avoiding airport traffic.”
My first question, to this so called ‘quote,’ from an obviously dubious source: “What traffic?” After exiting a nearly empty airport, where half the people walking around were secret police, our bus was seemingly the ONLY car on the road. Casablanca has seven million people, how are we the only frigging motorized vehicle in existence?

Islam in Morocco

The answer is Ramadan, Islam’s holy month. It marks the time during which the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. Muslims, which make-up 90% of Morocco’s population, are to abstain from eating, drinking (including water), sex, and any impure thoughts, from sunrise to sunset, everyday for the month of Ramadan.

‘Lame,’ said someone’s inner voice who shall remain nameless, but may be writing this blog. ‘I mean, the majority of countries that practice Islam,’ continues the silent voice, ‘are situated on sandy lands. Sandy because it is desert, and desert means it is normally so hot, that nothing grows. And it is August! And the prophet wants people, for the entire time the scorching August sun is in the sky, for his followers to abstain from sex … I mean from drinking liquid?!’

Finally I ask out-loud, ‘Why?”
“To know what it is like for the people who are truly suffering,” states our guide Hamid, who after only minutes of hearing interacting with him, I find one of the warmest, most knowledgeable people I have ever met. “Not only is it a cleanse for the mind and body, but when you are suffering of hunger and thirst, and you cannot under any circumstances eat or drink, you realize what many of the impoverished people deal with on a daily basis. You will understand them, and be much more apt to help them, for you know what deprivation is. It makes our society stronger.”

I am impressed with his explanation. The silent voice has no response. I remind myself not to judge that which I don’t fully understand.

It is immediately obvious that North African Morocco practices a much more tolerant form of Islam than the Middle East. While I see plenty of headscarves, I see only one or two burkas out of thousands. When I was in Egypt last year, at least 35% of the women walking the streets were in burkas, and Saudi Law mandates that any woman stepping outside her house must not have more than her eyes showing. The only way you’ll catch me in Saudi Arabia is if I'm closing an oil deal.
We visit a mosque, second in size only to Mecca. Built in 1991, and it is MASSIVE, and quite beautiful. I am impressed with the architecture and attention to detail. The Mosque was built in poorest neighborhood in Casablanca, but rather than displace any of the locals, it was built largely on top off the local waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Hamid says it is a source of pride for all Moroccons.
The Great Mosque of Cablanca
beautiful mosque, Casablanca
Customer Service

We go into a bank to change money. We are the only customers there. They are surprised to see us. Not much business takes place during the hours of fasting. They politely tell me that the person in charge of exchanging money is not currently there, and they will be unable to help us. Somehow, I doubt the explanation.

I see Hamid shaking his head as we walk out. “This wouldn’t happen in America,” I state to him. “This is why Morocco remains a third world country,” answers Hamid, who, while Moroccon by birth, actually spends the majority of his time in America, “It’s Ramadan, they see the long line forming, they are lazy. They tell us to take our business elsewhere, it’s disgraceful.”

We go to lunch at a local restaurant. Beautifully and artfully decorated. I note a couple giant lamps. I start rubbing one vigorously, in hopes that I will release a genie.

(The Genie lamp!!)

Murphy’s Law takes affect, the moment my camera ran out of battery, a Genie seeps out of the lamp in a large puff of blue smoke! He stood there, a hundred foot tall apparition, and told me he would grant me one wish!! Some of you goody goody’s out there would waste the wish on something like goofy like “world peace.” SO LAME … Use your brains! Being far superior in intellect to you, the reader, I asked for 100 more wishes.

I gazed certainly at the Genie, who merely shook his head, told me I was being greedy, and said he was going back to sleep for 500 more years. Frankly, I think he was just being lazy, it being Ramadan and all.

Rich's Funny sitcom

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