Since I have not been in Morocco for a while, I have not written
much about life in this beautiful country. Therefore, I have decided
to repost an article I wrote for the International Press Association
in honor of the holiest of Muslim holidays, Ramadan.
This year Ramadan coincides with the Jewish High Holidays,
so to all of my Jewish and Muslim friends and readers around
the globe…BONNE FETE! I am thinking about all of
you during this blessed month. PEACE!
WHAT IS RAMADAN?
International Press Association
What is Ramadan? That is a question I had asked myself many times
in the last year. Due to the somewhat closed nature of the Islamic religion,
very few Americans actually know what this most holy of Muslim holidays
is really about. So I decided to make the 35 kilometer trip from the
Ourika Valley into the City of Marrakech, to spend some time there
and really get to know the place.
I must admit, I have not had an easy time of adjusting to the slower
and sometimes frustrating way of business in Morocco. I needed to
be in this city to figure out my place in it. The thought that kept coming
to my mind as I strolled through the
streets; "What is this journey really all about for me?"
I had walked through the tiny streets with all of their colorful trinkets,
rugs and blankets, not really focusing on anything in particular, but lost
in a world of thought. All the while, I was interacting and seeing things
in a different light. It was a strange moment of revelation that I was
here and this was my new world. I had left behind all the trappings
of a modern western life. In a way, America will always be my home,
but I am now in a new place where everything I knew has changed.
I would not say that my mood was melancholy, but rather it was a mood
of atonishment. I had actually left my world behind. I decided then, to
stop at a cafe to have a strong cup of Moroccan coffee.
As I sat there remembering why I had come here, a man slid his chair up
next to me. He began:
"Hello." He said in English.
"Bonjour." I replied.
"Oh, you are French?"
"American? We do not get many Americans here anymore!"
"Oui, Je sais (I know)."
"Bienvenue (welcome) American! We are happy to have you here in
Morocco. You look like you could use some company."
"Non, Merci." I replied, thinking I was being picked up as a tourist
looking for a guide.
"Non, Monsieur – I can tell you need a friend. Let us have some tea
and, let us talk."
"Oui, d’accord (ok) – Sidi! Encore de The, s’il vous plait." I called to
"Shuhkran (thank you). May I join you?" he said to me.
Oui, bien sur (of course)."
He twirled his chair around and sat with both elbows resting on the table
and said to me, his tongue twisting his "R’s" like corkscrew macaroni: "So,
tell me my friend, what you are thinking about over here all by yourself."
"Just getting used to Morocco. It is very different than what I am
"You do not like Morocco, my friend?"
"Oh no. I love Morocco. It is just different from the way I grew up. I
used to live in Los Angeles before I moved here."
"You live in Morocco?" he said with complete astonishment. "You are
"Oui, maintenant! (yes, now)"
"Why you move to Morocco, my friend?"
"Just to do something different, I guess. Needed a change."
I was not giving any hints to my life here. I suppose, I was still having
trouble letting this world in. It is a part of life in Los Angeles
(and the States in general), that everyone is suspect until you get to
know him or her well. It is a hard habit to break once it has been
instilled in you. However, I was willing to talk to this man, who told me
his name is Karim.
Karim is a man of medium height, dark, jet-black hair, drawn face with
a serious dental issue, nevertheless, he seemed nice enough, so I was
actually grateful for the company.
We discussed life in Los Angeles, New York and Morocco.
Finally, I said; “Karim let me ask you something.”
“Yes, my friend, anything.”
Mind you, this conversation is happening in three different languages.
Neither of us speaks the others language well, so we were piecing this
entire conversation together in French, Arabic, and American English.
“What do you think of all the changes happening in Morocco?”
“I understand, my friend. The western influence. You are wondering if we
accept it. Insha’llah (If God wills it!)”
“America is a great country, non? We do not get many American’s here.
Why?” He inquired honestly.
I thought for a moment and finally all I could really think to say was;
“They are afraid of Islam I suppose. What is happening in the world today, Karim?
My country is at war with what they believe to be radical Islam. I have to tell you,
I was a little worried about coming here – but I wanted to see for myself. Now I
see differently, but it is a bit hard for me at times. Everything I knew has
“Yes, I understand, my friend.”
‘It is taking me time to let go of the ways of my old life, and embrace this new life.
How do I fit in here?” I said, feeling a bit apologetic for dropping that little
nutcracker on him. “Sorry, you asked what was on my mind.”
‘Non, Non! Mon ami! I am glad you asked that question.” He paused a moment to
collect his thoughts, I suppose. Then continued; “Let me tell you, my friend.
You are my friend, right? (I nodded politely) Good. Good. Islam is about faith.
There is no difference between you and me, the tourist and the Moroccan, there
is no difference, between those born here and those who choose to call it home.
There is only religion that makes us different. We do not have to be this way.
We can live together. True Islam teaches hospitality to everyone. Therefore,
my friend, you are welcome here. It does not matter if you are American.
You are here. You must adapt to our ways of thinking……..yes, and with that,
you bring something new to us as well. It will take time, but it will happen
for you. You will find your place” “Insha’llah! (If God wills it).”
I thought to myself for a moment……….Then it dawned on me; “Is that what
Islam is really about (from a strictly outsiders point of view)? There is one God.
He is Almighty. He created the Heavens and the Earth, and if you trust in God,
everything is in his/her hands (being PC for you folks out there) to
provide…….in a word; Insha’llah!"
“Exactly, my friend!” Karim replied with great enthusiasm. “You will find your
place here, not to worry.
Karim and I sat for a while longer, just content to sit and watch as life in
Marrakech passed before us. I am not sure how long we sat there. We finished
our tea and after a while Karim said to me; “Well, thank you my friend. It is
time for me to go, but I hope I will see you again very soon. Morocco is
your home now. S’lama! (Good-bye)”
We shook hands and parted ways. I paid my bill and began the long walk back
to the car, with plenty of time to think about our conversation.
It hit me about two streets away from the café; “In God We Trust” the motto of
the United States, which is emblazoned across all of our currency, is exactly the
same idea as Islam……giving over control to divine providence. “Insha’llah!”
Which if you really think about it, all comes from the same source. Nearly
every single religion on this planet follows this idea, philosophy, or theology.
However, do we trust God…. that he/she is right (if God is either
Masculine or Feminine)? So, if we all trust in God, why are we fighting – Over
whose god is the right God? What if we are all right about God, and he/she
is all of those things that we share in common – and it is a lot more than
many people may think.
What if God “IS” the unbelievable diversity that we have on this planet?
I learned that Ramadan is about getting closer to the creator. One must try
harder not to sin against God and against his fellow man, reflecting on all
that is good, and the blessings we have in our lives.
It is much like Easter for Christians, or Yom Kippur for Jews. Getting closer
to God to see the blessings that have been given to us.
I realized that I have been blessed with the opportunity to see the world
and to share that experience with those around me. Even with all of the
difficulties in adjusting, the truth remains. I am blessed to be here and to see
the world that the Creator has given to us. I may not always handle the
changes or differences well, but the fact that I am here, tells me I am supposed
to be right where I am at this moment in time.
This is what Ramadan has come to mean to me.
The blessing for me is………… Knowledge. Insha’llah!