One of the strengths of G tours is the in depth treatment of religion and different tenets of Faith characteristic of the country you are travelling in. Our CEO, a Berber from the Atlas Mountains, began a discussion on Islam that lasted through a good part of our journey south through a rapidly drying landscape to Marrakech.
Unlike conversion to other faiths, conversion to Islam is accomplished with the following statement. “There is no true deity but Allah and Mohammad is the prophet of God”. The 6 beliefs of Islam are 1) Belief in Allah (God) 2) Belief in Angels 3) Belief in Gods revealed books 4), Belief in the prophets and Messengers of God 5) Belief in the Day of Judgement 6) Belief in Al-Qadar. The Five Pillars of Islam are religious duties to God, personal spiritual growth, caring for the less fortunate, self discipline and sacrifice.
To my best understanding after winnowing through a lot of information, souls are thought to leave the body immediately following death. Coffins are not used – just shrouds – for burial and after 40 years, another burial may occur on top of the first one. Gravesites are not marked and have no pilgrimage importance. Bodies are arranged facing east towards Mecca. The concepts of heaven and hell are similar to Christianity – your Final Destination based on your activities in your lifetime.
Sunni (85% of Muslims) and Shia Muslims are divided based on their beliefs on who should have succeeded the prophet Mohammed upon his death in 632. The Sunni felt that a new prophet should have been elected at that time, while the Shia felt that the position should have been awarded to a member of the prophets family. As a result Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected leaders, instead following the leadership of a line of Imans they recognize as being appointed by God or the prophets family. Significant problems have occurred throughout history as a result of the divide. Something other religions share…….
Our arrival in Marrakech was greeted by brilliant sunshine. Sandals and t-shirts replaced socks and fleece before we headed into the main square in Morocco for dinner and to breath in the atmosphere at the UNESCO heritage site Jemaa el-Fnna. I first came to know of the square through James Mitcheners novel the Drifters.
We had a really good time – BUT here is a survival guide. 1) get a map and orient yourself to the geography. If you arrive from Mohammed V avenue – to your left are the food stalls, further to the left are grocery (fruit and veg) stalls, straight ahead and to the right are dancers, musicians,buskers of all kinds, games etc etc. The souks are beyond the square. The food stalls are only up at night. 2) People are going to try and sell you things – that is how they put food on their table. If you aren’t interested in something do not even look at it. The restaurant punters are aggressive but if you wait until a little later to eat when the tables have filled somewhat you won’t feel so much like bait fish in a lagoon surrounded by sharks. If someone does approach you we said we just ate with a smile – we were then told how slim we were and that we needed more food – lots of laughs finished off the exchange and away we went. We did eat at one place and it was excellent! 3) Leave big cameras, passports etc in the hotel safe. Take just enough cash for the evening and carry it in an inside pocket. The smoothies and dried fruit are excellent and well worth spending a few dollars on even if you decide to have dinner. Vendors were friendly. After our dinner we wandered around, bought smoothies and dried fruit, watched the full moon rise though smoke from cooking fires, checked out the dancers, drummers and other entertainment. 4) If you video or watch a performance long enough you will be expected to pay for the privilege – 2-10 MAD will do the trick. 5) Same with photos – if you take photos of anyone or any animals expect to pay. 6) watch your back, stay sober and enjoy the chaos 🙂 One final suggestion – hire a reputable guide – trust me it will be worth every penny!
Marrakesh day 2
Today started with a historical walking tour beginning with the Jewish quarter,
continuing on to the Bahia Palace and Saadian Tombs, before finishing with a walk through the Marrakesh Old Medina.
and wonderful cooking class/ lunch in a local Riad.
Arab homes (Riads in Morocco) are built facing inwards contrary to western homes. While westerners tend to display their wealth, Arabs consider their wealth a very personal thing. their homes are focused inward on central courtyards with very little indication outside that anyone actually lives there. Many are accessed through narrow dark alleyways. The Riad were we cooked and lunched was a beautiful example of this. Wonderful day!
Having said that – I definitely preferred Fez over Marrakesh. Fez is a very underrated destination and I highly recommend visiting it.
We leave Marrakesh tomorrow for Ait Ben Haddou (an ancient Kasbah (Fortress village ) a UNESCO world heritage site in the Atlas Mountains. Apparently we are going to “Rock the Kasbah” – how that unfolds in a group of 55 Plus folks (with two exceptions – my apologies ladies) remains to be seen 😂.
Until then “Allah yahmik”