Took the train to Casablanca today, mostly to see the ah-mazing mosque: Mosquée Hassan II, finished in 1993 and the largest mosque in Africa. Also one of the few that non-Muslims can enter. I wondered away from our English-speaking tour group and lost them… but I found the Spanish-speaking tour group and stayed with them! I liked the Spanish tour guide better anyway. At one point he started speaking to me in Arabic: something like [I guessed/gathered]: are you Arab/do you speak Arabic?
“La!” I said, grinning [No]. My general brown-racial ambiguity making a reliable appearance. He asked where I was from – I told him: half-Filipina, half-Jewish-American. (apparently this combination + various sun exposure and hair length yields: Egyptian, Moroccan, Columbian, general Latin American, Northern Indian, Italian, etc. Fun, except that I almost never get Filipina, which can get kind of frustrating.)
Then, as we entered the Turkish Baths (wow) he said, in Spanish: “You look Moroccan.” I laughed. “Me han dicho,” I said, smiling.
Even despite the short-cut hair, I guess. A Moroccan étrangère? I was wearing my leather Moroccan (men’s) shoes, rather than converse or sneakers… which may have shifted the balance away from US-American.
Joining the Spanish group was like slipping into the Turkish baths (which, by the way, are initially at body temperature). He spoke Spain-Spanish, which makes sense, and spoke clearly, as a tour guide should. And it felt so natural to be there, felt easy and familiar. [readers: I lived in Madrid, Spain for a year when I was fifteen, which is the why of many things]. Clarity not quite like English’s air, but the slightly thicker barely-distortion of still water. How lovely.
Meanwhile, just as the Spanish tour group was behind the English one, the French one was behind the Spanish. I wandered over for a minute: If I had wanted to, I could’ve hung around, hearing about the Hammam in English, Spanish, then French. A fact which I reveled in for a minute. But I quickly returned to Spanish. The French was like a crackling desert compared to its limpid pool.
All in all, a good use of 60 dirham, especially since we came all the way from Rabat (not actually that far). The sea by the mosque, too, was beautiful! Little boys jumping off the quay, the rocks, the azure waves crashing on the battlement-like walls. I was first intrigued by the Spanish group because I heard the tour guide talking about three …some kind of architectural element, I guess (I got there mid-way through), which apparently were somewhere on the mosque. They could symbolize many things, he was saying: sun, earth, moon. Flour, water, salt – for bread. Islam, Christianity, Judaism – convivencia, as the Spanish express it. But the one I liked best was the first he gave: earth, air, and water: earth for the ground it was built on and with, water for the sea that it touches (and parts go below sea level), air for the sky it sits under. The three elements in which it is situated. Having marveled at the sea and sky as we approached (coming from the train station along the kind of poorer and under-construction highway) the power and beauty of this formulation was not lost on me.
À la prochaine,
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Luna Beller-Tadiar is a rising Sophomore at Yale University with strong interests in critical race, class, gender and sexuality studies, subaltern forms of life, art, and language. She loves all forms of the arts (including the martial ones!), and is constantly sketching in restaurants and dancing along city streets. She believes in understanding everything intersectionally, and is excited for the classes she will be taking on Moroccan history and literature to inform her experience and observations both written and sketched of Rabat!</p>