August 29, 2006

a month in marocAware that due to holidays and what-not, I haven’t posted in a while. Here’s an extract from a month in maroc to tide this over:

x, J.


In Casa, you know when you’ve seen it. Its minaret rising up over 200 metres toward the heavens, above the surrounding towers, shanty towns and shops.

The Hassan II mosque is the third largest mosque in the world. When in service, its retractable roof opens to the heavens, unveiling 25,000 worshippers to the sky. Costing more than half a billion pounds to build; it employed a 24-hour a day workforce for six years, hammering away until finally: completion. Whilst the surrounding area still takes shape, the building cuts a powerful figure. Behind it, waves crash onto the rocks on the waterfront. A true spectacle, at night its minaret lights up, indicating the way to Mecca.

Reaching its plaza, J.T., Fatboy, Olly and Laura descend the complex for the 2.30 guided tour. By charging tourists and allowing non-Muslims inside the mosque (a rarity in the Islamic world) the mosque pays for its upkeep, saving a further drain on the country’s already diminished resources. The building was, after all, paid for by ‘voluntary’ contributions from its population.

As they queue, conversation between the foursome is minimal, drained as they are by the afternoon sun and stifling heat. Now in its peak, it is an adversary not worth fighting.

After what seems like an age, they enter the building with their English guide in tow. They remove their shoes, as is the custom, and congregate in the main prayer room, resplendent in the finest materials from across the land. Only the chandeliers are imported, with Italy’s glass deemed superior than Morocco’s.

Their guide introduces herself as she covers her head. As she speaks, she plays, twirling her headscarf through her fingers a few times before placing in back on her head. She repeats her routine throughout the next hour.

First though, she’ll finds out where the group are from:

“UK.” “USA.” “Australia.” “England.” “Scotland.” “Holland.” “Nederlansch.” “Ireland.” “Ger-many.”

Next it comes to Fatboy, “England”. Next J.T., possessed he booms out in a fake German accent, “ENG-LANT. JA, ENG-LANT.”

The tour guide looks at him, bemused, whilst his three friends struggle to hide their laughter. She moves on. Maybe you shouldn’t act like this in a holy place?

As they walk away, Fatboy whispers, still laughing, into J.T.’s ear: “What was that?”

“I couldn’t help it… I heard the German bloke and I wanted to outdo him.”

A whirlwind tour of the impressive mosque, accompanying Absolution Rooms and Hamman follows, before the foursome ascend from the building’s bowels toward the sun. The staircase’s glare and heat increases with each step upward. Exhausted, they reach the summit of this tiled mountain. Standing in the plaza, in front of the building, a sea of pale brick and green tile-work and tiled roof faces them. Thrusting upwards, its minaret reaches toward the sky. Turning they survey the rest of the plaza, big enough to house an army. Behind it, Casablanca: home to over five million living souls and the countless bodies of history buried in the ground. It is a ever-growing, sprawling, growing city, with all but a few becoming poorer and more desperate by the day.

They walk across the plaza, towards the water edge. Below them, they observe five-metre high waves break with anger and fizz on the coastal walls and rocks.

“Quite choppy down there…”

“You don’t say?”

“Fuck off.”

As they adjust to the sun’s brightness and stare out to sea, the four split as the couple get separated from J.T. and Fatboy and wander off. Just as they realise, J.T. and Fatboy are distracted by the sight of 50-odd Moroccan kids running past a protective barrier to the edge. Below it, they look over a fifty-foot sheer drop onto the crashing waves. To the Brits, this seems like a dream; kids of all ages, opaque against the blinding sun throwing themselves manically one-by-one into the thrashing waves below. Not a care in the world. They jump, crash, splash in the waves and climb up and out via the rocks. They scale the rocks and wall, run right back up the stairs to the top and do it again. And again. After hundreds of jumps later, the police arrive to disperse the crowds. Or walk around whistling and shouting at the youngsters. They whistle some more and wander off. Ten minutes later, the kids are back.



a month in maroc.

August 5, 2006

Half of a 16,000-word novella, a month in maroc has been posted online, accessible under the ‘a month in maroc’ tab (top of the page). This iis a partial reconstruction of a backpacking trip I took with my friend, David Ho – a.k.a. Fatboy, Norm or Stan – around Morocco in late 2005. The route we took was:


I’m going on hols for a week to Lake Garda, the most beautiful place in the world, so will finish the update when I get back and upload the second half. Enjoy it if you read it and comment away.

a month in maroc