I have been away from my blog for a while, this is my first one for the year. So I would like to wish all my readers a joyful and prosperous 2018. Today marks the seventh anniversary since my first visit to Morocco. A year after that visit I decided to make Marrakech my home. I am so glad I did because living here has opened my eyes to many things and exposed me to so many different cultures and traditions. It has also required me to come up with a personal art of survival in this wonderful, crazy city.
Marrakech is the perfect therapy for the woes of everyday life. It is the city where you can let your guards down and learn the art of chilling. Put your hectic lifestyle on hold! Warm sun, bursts of colors everywhere, happy generous people who don’t keep track of time.....The perfect life, right?
For years I've worked and made a life for myself here in Marrakech and met so many interesting people who I am proud to call my friends. I was raised to be a survivor - my parents survived the war in Palestine, the war in Lebanon, and the struggle to exist as an Arab American.
Marrakech with its chilled, laid back lifestyle taught me a lot despite the fact that this city can drive a completly sane person insane. Most of us at different points of our lives face certain difficulties that force us to change gears, change our perspective, and change the way we view life.
Life knocked me off my feet "literately" external stress, emotional problems, chronic illness, the madness of this city and I was unable to walk at one point. I knew Marrakech was testing me, trying to tell me something. At first I didn't listen but when I did, the lesson was so valuable and made a huge difference in my own personal life.
If you happen to be in Jemma El Fna ("the big square") and all of the sudden everything stops. The music, the noise, just stops and all goes silent for a short period of time. If you are visiting for the first time it will take you a few seconds to realize why?! When the call to prayer comes blaring from the Koutoubia mosque all music must stop in a show of respect until the Muezzin finishes reciting. The Koutoubia mosque was first built in 1147 and underwent many changes until the end of the 12th century. The minaret that can be seen from all directions in the medina is 77 meters (253 feet) in height. In most Islamic countries there are five calls of prayers but remember we are in Marrakech so everything is different to anywhere else. Six times a day calls to prayer can be heard coming from Koutoubia's majestic minaret.
I can see the top part of the Koutoubia's minaret from my house and most often the shortest way home is to cut through from in front of the mosque. I made it a habit to walk home using the shortcut because I noticed that every time I passed by this mosque how relieved I felt no matter how bad my day was or how much catcalling I had encountered. Then I started walking from my house to the courtyard of the Koutoubia mosque during the early hours of the morning when no one is around and Marrakech is still quite and sleeping. Every time I went, it was there waiting for me. Rain or shine it was there standing tall and welcoming me. I increased my morning visits to the Koutoubia courtyard. "I have to be strong like the minaret of the Koutoubia" I declared to myself one day. I finally understood the lesson Marrakech was trying to teach me.
"Be like the Koutoubia minaret"
The minaret stands soaring high in the air unaffected by the lies and deceptions taking place in the famous Jemma El Fna just across from the Koutoubia's courtyard. She stands there during the scorching heat and the freezing cold weather, welcoming people to take selfies with her. She never says a word to disappoint the tourists or any person that happens to be passing by. Over the centuries she has remained unmoved against crimes, hate, mistreatment, injustice, exploitation, abuse, and neglect. She just stands tall without saying a word and demands respect silently from everyone. She loves all visitors regardless of their religion. She never gives up on the people who have sat there to admire her. She has never wept from all the misery she has witnessed or for being lonely. She doesn't run around looking for worshipers. Never disappeared or taken a day off because she couldn’t deal with all the madness surrounding her. She remains perfectly steadfast and unaffected.
This has been my morning ritual for the last few weeks, my art of survival in this unpredictable city. Whenever I find myself in a situation that is draining my energy I remind myself to be like the Koutoubia minaret, to remain calm and silent and let everyone and everything pass me by.
Be like the Koutoubia minaret, stand tall and strong, enjoy your unique beauty as this moment is all there is!