Posts Tagged With: Morocco

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Merry Moroccan Christmas

“ Hey, Hey! Surfa Surfa!”  I looked over to the dusty Moroccan sidewalk and saw a young man in a rasta-striped jump suit, pointing at my surfboard.

“This is bus, you bus! Sidikaouki! Sidikaouki we go! Hey Hey Surfa!”

I looked away from the man and down the street just in time to jump out of the way of a speeding motorcycle that swerved around the oncoming horse drawn carriage, which rolled past full of women in brightly colored burkas. Attempting to avoid the traffic I stepped onto the sidewalk, perhaps an even more chaotic alternative.  One man sells fruit and vegetables, vibrant in color,  next to another who carves off meat as it swivels over an open flame.  The smoke of the dripping fat is pungent and enticing, and the ocean breeze blows the smoke into my eyes.  I slow my pace to take a quick look at the sandwiches being assembled, my stomach growls as the early morning sun begins to heat up.

As I am contemplating an early lunch, a man casually slips up behind me and whispers into my ear.  Hash?  I turned around slowly to decline.  My first few days here were all about accustoming myself to constant attention and sometimes, verbal harassment, that accompanies traveling alone in Morocco. The stress of such interactions caused near many unpleasantries for generations of tourists.  After the first 100 guys whisper or scream ‘Hey, Hola, Hash!” you get used to people trying to sell you stuff.  Be it trinkets, tickets or travel discounts, all of which usually sold at the dubious ‘Friend Price’, the majority of vendors also double as drug dealers.

“Hey, you like buy shirt?”

“No thanks”

“Hey, you like buy tea, mint tea, good tea.”

“No thanks, maybe later”

“Hey, you like buy….Hash?”

I tried to keep these conversations as brief as possible, yet those who ask this question come in a wide and interesting variety.  Ranging from a snotty nosed little kid, running at your side and pulling on your shirt, to your usual sketchy characters, huddled in the shadows of the back-alleys and speaking in whispered tones. One of these guys, stood up out of the shadows, dressed in a white gown and a long black beard.  His nose and forehead were covered in hideous boils. He slowed his pace to match mine and began speaking in perfect American English.

“You have a cigarette my friend.”

“No, sorry, I don’t smoke”

“What a shame, because I have some very nice hash we could smoke, then maybe you buy.”

“ No thanks. But good luck”

He muttered something in Arabic, and judging from his tone he wasn’t happy. Yet for all but the most persistent of salesmen, a quick No Merci, or Shukran La in Arabicusually convinces them you aren’t a potential customer.    Was this guy, clad in his Rasta jumpsuit, just another person trying to press some hash on me?

“Hey we have surfboard.  See!” he shouted to me from down the street.

Waking up that morning the beach in Essaouira was flat, and the swell forecast looked pretty dismal, but a quirky French board shaper tipped me off to some waves a few villages away, a place called Sidikauoki.  I hadn’t heard of the place before, but he assured me there would be ‘something to surf’.  With no waves out front, it was time to explore.  Rasta-Stripe Convinced me that this van was ‘the bus’ that ran to Sidikaouki.

“ I am Rachid, and this is my friend Massir.”  Rasta-Stripe told me as they ushered us into the van.

I climbed in to be greeted by the gazes of many faces weathered by the harsh Moroccan sun, they stared at me in silent observation. Ed and Keith, two Aussie surfers I had met in the day before, climbed inside chattering in their Aussie accents, only to be greeted by the same startled stares.   They hopped into the van with our two new Moroccan friends, Rachid and Massir.

Morocco is a country rich in culture, sights, sounds, smells that vary widely.  One moment you could be inhaling the sweet smell of spices only to be bombarded with the stench of shit around the corner.  The city of Essaouira, where we had arrived the day earlier, on Christmas Eve, has a mind-boggling history.  Its strategic location led it be in the possession a long list of Empires from ancient history, well before the time of Christ. First the Phoenicians in the 12th century B.C., the Carthaginians (Hannibal) held sway over the territory in the 5th century, followed by the Romans around 40 B.C.  Morocco was later ruled by the Byzantines who held onto control after the fall of Western Rome.  The arrival of Islam brought a series of different Islamic Dynasties.  In more recent history Essaouira was a colony of the Portuguese and Spanish, which has left a visible influence in the architecture of much of Essaouira. In the 1960s the city was the home to a hippy scene including a house owned by Jimi Hendrix.  Acid- heads wandered like hindu cows, along the streets and back-alleys, winding further back into time the deeper they went into the heart of the old city.  I can only imagine what types of crazy trips must have gone down in those strange years.  Today Essaouira is a small thriving fishing village, host to growing tourism.  People are drawn by the beauty of the coastal city, which has kept its charm inside the walls of the 15th century Portuguese fortress.

Pondering the crazy historical blend of Essaouria, I found a spot on the floor in the aisle, sitting in front of Ed, whose 6’6 body had trouble folding into the little space available.  With surfboards on either side, we sat like some Aussie-American Surf Hot Dogs, as he hung out the van door shouting ‘SidiKauoki’ trying desperately to jam in a few more souls.  After two unsuccessful loops around the walls of the city we began the forty minute ride through rolling hills; barren except for Olive trees and herds of wandering goats, whose shepherds stood idly by as they found refuge from the scorching sun in the shade of the trees.  One moment we would be screaming down the one lane road, only to screech to a halt and skid onto the gravel shoulder for someone to get off in the middle of nowhere.  My seat in the aisle gives a new meaning to the term ‘riding bitch.’  Men stepped over me clutching bags of fresh fish whose blood dripped from the plastic bag, dinner bought from town before heading back into their rural existence, disappearing into the Olive groves.

“People live out here mate…”  Ed whispered to me over my shoulder as one ancient man vanished into the trees.

Our new friends Rachid and Massir sat smushed in the back corner, but continued smiling. Rachid pulled out his cellphone and after fiddling with it for a minute I heard a familiar tune. Dire Straits Sultans of Swing.  I began tapping my fingers, Keith began whistling and Ed humming.  Before long, the majority of the passengers were taking part in some way, be it a foot stomp, finger tap or a smile.  We emerged from the olive groves to a massive beach that stretched into the horizon.  The van slammed the brakes when Rachid shouted to the driver,  who was out of the van in a flash. Before we could wiggle our way out of the aisle, he was on the roof unstrapping boards.  As I squeezed out of the van door, I was greeted by a herd of camels, casually walking across the highway, and to my right, a big sand beach with a rocky point jutting into the ocean.  There was a peeling left reef that worked its way down the beach for a 100 meters.  Score.  Even when the swell forecast looked dismal for the entire country, a little bit of local knowledge went a long way.  Head high and one guy out.  Not because the beach was abandoned, but the European mobbers in their camper vans were having a mid afternoon nap, I assume they were surfed out.  I have to admit that at first I felt a bit envious, they looked quite at home lounging in fold out beach chairs, snacking away in their portable homes.  Camping on the beach and surfing with all the amenities from home, sounded like a paradise; but then I saw the old man.  He walked slowly as he lead his donkey over the hill and passed by their wagon circle, looking at them for a moment before continuing on his path.  They kept laughing and enjoying themselves, completely oblivious to his presence, and in that moment for some reason I thought of Cowboys and Indians.  These guys were like some modern day Oregon Trail pioneers, except instead of horses and wagons they had WolksVagons. Yet just like the pioneers of the Old West, they formed and wagon circle and barricaded themselves from the locals, effectively isolating themselves from the reality around them. I was snapped out of my daydream as Rachid zipped up his wetsuit and began shouting.

“Ai, Ai Ai, aallllllaaah” he smiled as he sprinted off towards the waves.

“I guess that’s the Moroccan version of the stoked call, Yeowww.” I commented to Ed and Keith.

I changed as quick as I could and Ed and I took off for the waves.  We spent a few hours surfing a fun peeling left, which walled up nicely and broke cleanly, until Rachid pointed at his watch and paddled in.  When we were changing, he asked me.

“Where you stay tonight, Essaouira?”

“ I think we’re planning on finding a cheap hotel.” I told him.

“No, you stay with us, in the house.” Stated Rachid, as if it were a done deal.

“Well, if you insist, sounds great.”

After hiking up the beach and climbing  through the underbrush  Rachid and Massir lay down in the middle of the road as a herd of camels casually crossed from one side of the road to the other, munching on branches as the strolled.

“Why did the Camel cross the road?”  I said to Ed sarcastically.

“Because the bush he eats is on the other side…?” replied Ed.

When the van sped up the road a half hour later we had another interesting bus adventure full of uncomfortable bodily positions, bumpy roads and bodily odor only to arrive in Essaouira and follow Rachid and Massir through the confusion of blue and white streets. Carrying surfboards through the narrow maze we walked past cobblers and tailors, groups of men frying fish on street-side barbecues, and children running and giggling, a kind of Moroccan rush hour.  Ed struggled to keep up as he lugged his large board bag through the narrow back alleys of Essauoira’s historic quarter.  Rachid and Massir peeled off into a poorly lit street and into a small wooden door.  Paranoia would have wanted me to question entering… ‘Is this where they will have an ambush, attack us, take all our money and our surfboards’? Rachid flipped on the light to a staircase and patio area on the ground floor of the apartment building.  In the corner lay two halves of a buckled longboard.  He looked at in and smiled.

“Sidikauki.  Big.”

As we walked inside Rachid’s family’s apartment, I saw the hallway decorated in green tiles of concentric design.  The living room had a table in the middle and low level couches that spanned every corner of the room. Just then the front door swung open and Rachid’s brother burst into the room.

“Hello!  Hello! You are welcome! Please, my name is Zacharia, please you take tea?”  Zacharia explained he had studied English for two years, and spoke French, Arabic, and Berber fluently.  I told him he could add English to the list because he spoke very well. It was an interesting Christmas Day, one of extreme hospitality shown to us by our local hosts of Muslim Moroccan Surfers.

That night we wandered the local market, a aesthetic plethora of sights, smells and sounds.  The entrance to the market was clandestine and the average passing tourist wouldn’t know that behind the ragged wooden door lay such a bustling treasure trove.  We bought the ingredients for a Tajine, a traditional Moroccan stew filled with lamb, potato, onion, carrots, olives and a bunch of spices.  As we were cooking, we passed the time joking and speaking about many subjects.  Our generous hosts offered all they could, if you drank your tea the cup was refilled almost magically. Before long everyone was very happy and laughter filled the air.

Then I heard it. Faint at first but growing louder, the sound was familiar but I couldn’t place it.  It was like the slow twinkling of a nostalgic memory, the quintessential holiday spirit booster that eventually becomes tortuous.    “I’mmmmmmm dreaaaammminnngg of a White Christmas.”     Christmas Carols? Rachid came out of the kitchen dancing in small circles, with the flaps of my Rip Curl surfing hat twirling with his spins.  In the spirit of Christmas I gave Rachid my hat, which he had been staring at intently the whole afternoon.

“I find music for Christmas” he said smiling.

All six of us sat slouched on the couches sharing stories from life in different cultures around the globe a version of 20 questions, except the themes were more about cultural curiosity and the similarities that we as individuals shared.  The tajine in the kitchen began spewing smells of curry and spice; after eating very little all day, surfing, and then waiting the hour and half required to cook the tajine we were all famished.

With the Christmas carols at a much less intrusive volume, the dish was bought to the small table in the center of the room.  Like a primal tribe, we huddled in a tight circle around the steaming dish, throughly excited to eat our Christmas dinner.   We ate in the local style; a piece of bread and your right hand served as a fork and your portion was the food directly in front of you.  Hesitant at first, Ed Keith and I looked at each other.   We had seen the bathroom, a small hole in the ground designed for age-old “pop-a-squat” technique, interestingly enough this hole also served as the household shower.  I had distrubing images as I imagined showering. If you slipped and your foot went down the whole….. I was also a bit preoccupied with the fact that the sink outside the bathroom had no soap, but hunger overpowered hygiene and I dug in.

The food was delicious and disappeared in a five minute feeding frenzy. Eating quickly combined with exhaustion and a slight buzz allowed drowsiness to creep into the room.  A few yawns later and we called it a night.  With some blankets and a soft sheep skin I lay their staring up at a framed excerpt of the Koran that hung above me.

I realized that Santa Clause and Rudolf probably didn’t include Morocco in their global gift flight. I toyed with the idea of Santa cruising around in a camel drawn magic carpet, laughing with sunburned cheeks and red eyes, gifting spices and hash.  At that moment it seemed just as plausible as an obese toy building jovial arctic hermit, who spent all year cracking the whip in his elf labor factory just to give out annually to good children. I had come to Morocco with a few presuppositions about what I would encounter; I was also especially worried about being an American traveling alone in a Muslim country.  Yet as I lay there sleepily, fed and warm in a borrowed bed, I realized I had been worrying for no reason. Perhaps I was a subconscious victim of Western Propaganda which brands all Muslims as terrorists, something that was obviously not true after experiencing true Moroccan hospitality. The good vibes, diverse culture, and the genuine people I met in Morocco made up my mind and left a lifelong impression on me. With this late-night epiphany I shut my eyes and drifted to sleep.  Merry Moroccan Christmas indeed.

“ Hey, Hey! Surfa Surfa!”  I looked over to the dusty Moroccan sidewalk and saw a young man in a rasta-striped jump suit, pointing at my surfboard.

“This is bus, you bus! Sidikaouki! Sidikaouki we go! Hey Hey Surfa!”

I looked away from the man and down the street just in time to jump out of the way of a speeding motorcycle that swerved around the oncoming horse drawn carriage, which rolled past full of women in brightly colored burkas. Attempting to avoid the traffic I stepped onto the sidewalk, perhaps an even more chaotic alternative.  One man sells fruit and vegetables, vibrant in color,  next to another who carves off meat as it swivels over an open flame.  The smoke of the dripping fat is pungent and enticing, and the ocean breeze blows the smoke into my eyes.  I slow my pace to take a quick look at the sandwiches being assembled, my stomach growls as the early morning sun begins to heat up.

As I am contemplating an early lunch, a man casually slips up behind me and whispers into my ear.  Hash?  I turned around slowly to decline.  My first few days here were all about accustoming myself to constant attention and sometimes, verbal harassment, that accompanies traveling alone in Morocco. The stress of such interactions caused near many unpleasantries for generations of tourists.  After the first 100 guys whisper or scream ‘Hey, Hola, Hash!” you get used to people trying to sell you stuff.  Be it trinkets, tickets or travel discounts, all of which usually sold at the dubious ‘Friend Price’, the majority of vendors also double as drug dealers.

“Hey, you like buy shirt?”

“No thanks”

“Hey, you like buy tea, mint tea, good tea.”

“No thanks, maybe later”

“Hey, you like buy….Hash?”

I tried to keep these conversations as brief as possible, yet those who ask this question come in a wide and interesting variety.  Ranging from a snotty nosed little kid, running at your side and pulling on your shirt, to your usual sketchy characters, huddled in the shadows of the back-alleys and speaking in whispered tones. One of these guys, stood up out of the shadows, dressed in a white gown and a long black beard.  His nose and forehead were covered in hideous boils. He slowed his pace to match mine and began speaking in perfect American English.

“You have a cigarette my friend.”

“No, sorry, I don’t smoke”

“What a shame, because I have some very nice hash we could smoke, then maybe you buy.”

“ No thanks. But good luck”

He muttered something in Arabic, and judging from his tone he wasn’t happy. Yet for all but the most persistent of salesmen, a quick No Merci, or Shukran La in Arabicusually convinces them you aren’t a potential customer.    Was this guy, clad in his Rasta jumpsuit, just another person trying to press some hash on me?

“Hey we have surfboard.  See!” he shouted to me from down the street.

Waking up that morning the beach in Essaouira was flat, and the swell forecast looked pretty dismal, but a quirky French board shaper tipped me off to some waves a few villages away, a place called Sidikauoki.  I hadn’t heard of the place before, but he assured me there would be ‘something to surf’.  With no waves out front, it was time to explore.  Rasta-Stripe Convinced me that this van was ‘the bus’ that ran to Sidikaouki.

“ I am Rachid, and this is my friend Massir.”  Rasta-Stripe told me as they ushered us into the van.

I climbed in to be greeted by the gazes of many faces weathered by the harsh Moroccan sun, they stared at me in silent observation. Ed and Keith, two Aussie surfers I had met in the day before, climbed inside chattering in their Aussie accents, only to be greeted by the same startled stares.   They hopped into the van with our two new Moroccan friends, Rachid and Massir.

Morocco is a country rich in culture, sights, sounds, smells that vary widely.  One moment you could be inhaling the sweet smell of spices only to be bombarded with the stench of shit around the corner.  The city of Essaouira, where we had arrived the day earlier, on Christmas Eve, has a mind-boggling history.  Its strategic location led it be in the possession a long list of Empires from ancient history, well before the time of Christ. First the Phoenicians in the 12th century B.C., the Carthaginians (Hannibal) held sway over the territory in the 5th century, followed by the Romans around 40 B.C.  Morocco was later ruled by the Byzantines who held onto control after the fall of Western Rome.  The arrival of Islam brought a series of different Islamic Dynasties.  In more recent history Essaouira was a colony of the Portuguese and Spanish, which has left a visible influence in the architecture of much of Essaouira. In the 1960s the city was the home to a hippy scene including a house owned by Jimi Hendrix.  Acid- heads wandered like hindu cows, along the streets and back-alleys, winding further back into time the deeper they went into the heart of the old city.  I can only imagine what types of crazy trips must have gone down in those strange years.  Today Essaouira is a small thriving fishing village, host to growing tourism.  People are drawn by the beauty of the coastal city, which has kept its charm inside the walls of the 15th century Portuguese fortress.

Pondering the crazy historical blend of Essaouria, I found a spot on the floor in the aisle, sitting in front of Ed, whose 6’6 body had trouble folding into the little space available.  With surfboards on either side, we sat like some Aussie-American Surf Hot Dogs, as he hung out the van door shouting ‘SidiKauoki’ trying desperately to jam in a few more souls.  After two unsuccessful loops around the walls of the city we began the forty minute ride through rolling hills; barren except for Olive trees and herds of wandering goats, whose shepherds stood idly by as they found refuge from the scorching sun in the shade of the trees.  One moment we would be screaming down the one lane road, only to screech to a halt and skid onto the gravel shoulder for someone to get off in the middle of nowhere.  My seat in the aisle gives a new meaning to the term ‘riding bitch.’  Men stepped over me clutching bags of fresh fish whose blood dripped from the plastic bag, dinner bought from town before heading back into their rural existence, disappearing into the Olive groves.

Image

“People live out here mate…”  Ed whispered to me over my shoulder as one ancient man vanished into the trees.

Image

Our new friends Rachid and Massir sat smushed in the back corner, but continued smiling. Rachid pulled out his cellphone and after fiddling with it for a minute I heard a familiar tune. Dire Straits Sultans of Swing.  I began tapping my fingers, Keith began whistling and Ed humming.  Before long, the majority of the passengers were taking part in some way, be it a foot stomp, finger tap or a smile.  We emerged from the olive groves to a massive beach that stretched into the horizon.  The van slammed the brakes when Rachid shouted to the driver,  who was out of the van in a flash. Before we could wiggle our way out of the aisle, he was on the roof unstrapping boards.  As I squeezed out of the van door, I was greeted by a herd of camels, casually walking across the highway, and to my right, a big sand beach with a rocky point jutting into the ocean.  There was a peeling left reef that worked its way down the beach for a 100 meters.  Score.  Even when the swell forecast looked dismal for the entire country, a little bit of local knowledge went a long way.  Head high and one guy out.  Not because the beach was abandoned, but the European mobbers in their camper vans were having a mid afternoon nap, I assume they were surfed out.  I have to admit that at first I felt a bit envious, they looked quite at home lounging in fold out beach chairs, snacking away in their portable homes.  Camping on the beach and surfing with all the amenities from home, sounded like a paradise; but then I saw the old man.  He walked slowly as he lead his donkey over the hill and passed by their wagon circle, looking at them for a moment before continuing on his path.  They kept laughing and enjoying themselves, completely oblivious to his presence, and in that moment for some reason I thought of Cowboys and Indians.  These guys were like some modern day Oregon Trail pioneers, except instead of horses and wagons they had WolksVagons. Yet just like the pioneers of the Old West, they formed and wagon circle and barricaded themselves from the locals, effectively isolating themselves from the reality around them. I was snapped out of my daydream as Rachid zipped up his wetsuit and began shouting.

Image

“Ai, Ai Ai, aallllllaaah” he smiled as he sprinted off towards the waves.

“I guess that’s the Moroccan version of the stoked call, Yeowww.” I commented to Ed and Keith.

I changed as quick as I could and Ed and I took off for the waves.  We spent a few hours surfing a fun peeling left, which walled up nicely and broke cleanly, until Rachid pointed at his watch and paddled in.  When we were changing, he asked me.

Image

“Where you stay tonight, Essaouira?”

“ I think we’re planning on finding a cheap hotel.” I told him.

“No, you stay with us, in the house.” Stated Rachid, as if it were a done deal.

“Well, if you insist, sounds great.”

After hiking up the beach and climbing  through the underbrush  Rachid and Massir lay down in the middle of the road as a herd of camels casually crossed from one side of the road to the other, munching on branches as the strolled.

“Why did the Camel cross the road?”  I said to Ed sarcastically.

“Because the bush he eats is on the other side…?” replied Ed.

Image

When the van sped up the road a half hour later we had another interesting bus adventure full of uncomfortable bodily positions, bumpy roads and bodily odor only to arrive in Essaouira and follow Rachid and Massir through the confusion of blue and white streets. Carrying surfboards through the narrow maze we walked past cobblers and tailors, groups of men frying fish on street-side barbecues, and children running and giggling, a kind of Moroccan rush hour.  Ed struggled to keep up as he lugged his large board bag through the narrow back alleys of Essauoira’s historic quarter.  Rachid and Massir peeled off into a poorly lit street and into a small wooden door.  Paranoia would have wanted me to question entering… ‘Is this where they will have an ambush, attack us, take all our money and our surfboards’? Rachid flipped on the light to a staircase and patio area on the ground floor of the apartment building.  In the corner lay two halves of a buckled longboard.  He looked at in and smiled.

“Sidikauki.  Big.”

As we walked inside Rachid’s family’s apartment, I saw the hallway decorated in green tiles of concentric design.  The living room had a table in the middle and low level couches that spanned every corner of the room. Just then the front door swung open and Rachid’s brother burst into the room.

“Hello!  Hello! You are welcome! Please, my name is Zacharia, please you take tea?”  Zacharia explained he had studied English for two years, and spoke French, Arabic, and Berber fluently.  I told him he could add English to the list because he spoke very well. It was an interesting Christmas Day, one of extreme hospitality shown to us by our local hosts of Muslim Moroccan Surfers.  Image

That night we wandered the local market, a aesthetic plethora of sights, smells and sounds.  The entrance to the market was clandestine and the average passing tourist wouldn’t know that behind the ragged wooden door lay such a bustling treasure trove.  We bought the ingredients for a Tajine, a traditional Moroccan stew filled with lamb, potato, onion, carrots, olives and a bunch of spices.  As we were cooking, we passed the time joking and speaking about many subjects.  Our generous hosts offered all they could, if you drank your tea the cup was refilled almost magically. Before long everyone was very happy and laughter filled the air.

Then I heard it. Faint at first but growing louder, the sound was familiar but I couldn’t place it.  It was like the slow twinkling of a nostalgic memory, the quintessential holiday spirit booster that eventually becomes tortuous.    “I’mmmmmmm dreaaaammminnngg of a White Christmas.”     Christmas Carols? Rachid came out of the kitchen dancing in small circles, with the flaps of my Rip Curl surfing hat twirling with his spins.  In the spirit of Christmas I gave Rachid my hat, which he had been staring at intently the whole afternoon.

“I find music for Christmas” he said smiling.

All six of us sat slouched on the couches sharing stories from life in different cultures around the globe a version of 20 questions, except the themes were more about cultural curiosity and the similarities that we as individuals shared.  The tajine in the kitchen began spewing smells of curry and spice; after eating very little all day, surfing, and then waiting the hour and half required to cook the tajine we were all famished.

With the Christmas carols at a much less intrusive volume, the dish was bought to the small table in the center of the room.  Like a primal tribe, we huddled in a tight circle around the steaming dish, throughly excited to eat our Christmas dinner.   We ate in the local style; a piece of bread and your right hand served as a fork and your portion was the food directly in front of you.  Hesitant at first, Ed Keith and I looked at each other.   We had seen the bathroom, a small hole in the ground designed for age-old “pop-a-squat” technique, interestingly enough this hole also served as the household shower.  I had distrubing images as I imagined showering. If you slipped and your foot went down the whole….. I was also a bit preoccupied with the fact that the sink outside the bathroom had no soap, but hunger overpowered hygiene and I dug in.

The food was delicious and disappeared in a five minute feeding frenzy. Eating quickly combined with exhaustion and a slight buzz allowed drowsiness to creep into the room.  A few yawns later and we called it a night.  With some blankets and a soft sheep skin I lay their staring up at a framed excerpt of the Koran that hung above me.

I realized that Santa Clause and Rudolf probably didn’t include Morocco in their global gift flight. I toyed with the idea of Santa cruising around in a camel drawn magic carpet, laughing with sunburned cheeks and red eyes, gifting spices and hash.  At that moment it seemed just as plausible as an obese toy building jovial arctic hermit, who spent all year cracking the whip in his elf labor factory just to give out annually to good children. I had come to Morocco with a few presuppositions about what I would encounter; I was also especially worried about being an American traveling alone in a Muslim country.  Yet as I lay there sleepily, fed and warm in a borrowed bed, I realized I had been worrying for no reason. Perhaps I was a subconscious victim of Western Propaganda which brands all Muslims as terrorists, something that was obviously not true after experiencing true Moroccan hospitality. The good vibes, diverse culture, and the genuine people I met in Morocco made up my mind and left a lifelong impression on me. With this late-night epiphany I shut my eyes and drifted to sleep.  Merry Moroccan Christmas indeed. Image

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