Morocco: words and music

Start here. Turn up your speakers and click on this link.

It will take you to a tune called “Welcome”–not unlike the name of this blog, but for the exclamation point. It was recorded 10 years ago. I have no way of knowing how old it actually is. It comes from the Jews, a culture which largely left Morocco for Israel in 1948 just as it had left Spain for Morocco perhaps 4 centuries earlier and just as it had left Jerusalem in 136 and Judea in 586 BC. Walking thru the mellahs, the Jewish quarters of Morocco’s old cities you can feel that culture, almost absent but for a few folks, some buildings, some signs and some art. 100_3832.jpg

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Happy New Year is about time. Morocco isn’t.

100_3121.jpg In the medinas, the old cities, the ageless buildings are separated by alleys too narrow for cars or trucks. People live and men sell their wares as did their fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers and on back for as much as 12 centuries. By their sides you often see their sons, youngsters whose sons and grandsons will carry on the family name and the family tradition into whatever future there may be.

100_3136.jpg Buildings constantly require bracing or refurbishing or outright rebuilding, and this is always done in the ageless style of those around it. The only skyscrapers are minerets, the mosque towers 100_3120.jpg from which the call to prayer is sung, both in a style that hasn’t changed in the last 14 centuries.

At the other end of population density is the Sahara. 100_3268.jpg Yes, there are tire tracks in the sand, but they are no match for the wind. Yes, Bedouin nomads man the tourist tent camps, perform their traditional music 100_3242.jpg for visitors and even assist us in climbing the dunes. Still their traditional life remains as it has since before the arrival of history. Their ability to find water by smelling it has not disappeared. Their harmony with the desert remains.

Being a tourist on a two week tour in Morocco you don’t get to know a lot. But you do get to feel a lot. You see people living peacefully in conditions of intense crowdedness and no apparent luxury. You see people whose standard of excellence is drawn from living up to tradition rather than from accumulation. If a driver honks, it’s simply to let you know he’s there. Most often he doesn’t think that that’s all that important. Haggling is not so much a contest as a process of coming to agreement: the buyer finding a price which he’s willing to pay; the seller finding the price he can accept.

Private ownership of guns is illegal in Morocco.

The only people you see drinking alcoholic beverages are tourists.

There is a feeling that knowledge and concern do not spread themselves horizontally as much as run vertically: up to the heavens and down into the earth. There is a feeling of spirituality that permeates everything, even when it does so by it’s startling absence.

When I stepped out of my tent in the Sahara on our final morning there, I heard myself say, “I’m not leaving.” I hope I was right.

Published in: on December 30, 2007 at 6:42 pm  Leave a Comment