My friend M’hammad, noticing that I was curious about the water sold in downtown Tetouan by a colorful water seller, drove me to the source (Ain Bou`nan) and invited me to a tajine of anchovies and a glass of fresh mint tea made with the same water. By the time we were done, a customer volunteered to give the goat a hand. Here is a preview of the whole episode:
One man in Tetouan, the other in the nearby Mediterranean resort of Mdiq, invite passersby to weigh themselves for a price. I never saw anyone take a chance, but the men sat or stood patiently, knowing that growing awareness about health will sooner or later land someone on their scales. Should we call these entrepreneurs “scale men”?
I followed him one morning to the main cemetery of Tetouan, one that is as old as the city itself, where countless generations of the dead are buried. At first, the cemetery was built outside city walls, but with the growth of the city, the vast burial place was eventually surrounded by buildings on all sides. Poorly lit and neglected (as most Muslim cemeteries in Morocco are), it started attracting shady characters of all sorts, making the center of town (literally) a dark, dangerous area, suitable only for the macabre. M’hammad and his Tetouan Asmir Association were also worried about preserving historic tombs whose style is unique to Tetouan and al-Andalus. Thus came the idea of using local laborers to create pathways from local rock and use old materials to block entrance to the tombs and save them for future restoration. It’s a massive project whose goal is to turn the old cemetery into a lovely park. This barely funded project is being executed with a few steady hands and lots of passion. It is impressive.
Please watch the video above even if you don’t understand the parts in Moroccan Arabic, or darija,
I walked into the Cinema Rif in Tangier, one of the oldest movie theaters in the city—restored recently by Yto Barrada, after many years of neglect—and turned into a chic rendez-vous address for Tangerians craving cultural experiences besides the ubiquitous fare of soccer games on television, weddings, lavish dinners, and endless music festivals. The comeback of the Rif—now known as Cinemathèque de Tanger— has been the subject of a special exhibit at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. What I do like about Tangier is no matter how modern things become, something distinctively Moroccan perdures. I was looking at the movie poster in the photo above when a man sat right in front of me, as if intent of blocking my view. He was obviously just resting, but he gave me a splendid photo op.
The media is abuzz with news of ISIS, or the Islamic State, the Muslim thugs who have managed to terrorize the world with their well-publicized brutal murders of anyone who doesn’t look like them. The whole world has condemned them. Even the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Abdullah, described them, together with al Qaeda, as the main enemies of Islam, even though, as the French publication Libération wryly noted in an editorial, the Sheikh’s fatwa is not truly convincing, since his Salafist convictions are not that radically different from ISIS’s ideology.
It is somewhat fitting for Libération to produce a front page like the one above.The Islamic State is certainly a barbarian challenge to the United States, the first modern nation to separate religion from politics. Not long after its birth, the United States had to send battleships (not drones) to the Mediterranean to subdue state-sponsored corsairs who terrorized US ships pursuing trade in the region, explaining to emirs, beys, and sultans that their government has no religion.
The separation of religion and politics has become a fundamental tenet of modern life. It is a smart system that allows citizens to practice their faith without imposing it on others. Muslim-majority nations have yet to come to terms with this reality. Until they do, ISIS-type thugs will continue to appeal to mis-educated, frustrated, and confused young men—and some women.
There is no avoiding it. As I have said repeatedly, Islam need to be radically rethought and reformed.
When I am in the United States I never fail to notice signs of quintessentially American behavior. The first thing that struck me when I first landed in New York almost thirty-one years ago were bumper stickers on cars. That was American individualism on display, even though pasting bumpers on vehicles was also a bit of a mass phenomenon. The quest for unhindered individualism and the insistence on playing by the rules are two sides of the American coin of freedom, a currency that is nowhere as refined as it is in the land of Uncle Sam.
And so my fellow “Maineiacs” ride on, hard-working sober Yankees following in the footsteps of free-ranging cowboys and exuding the whiff of Texan defiance. Anne and Joe may be a retired duo whose only intent is to see a bit of the world, but their message is clear—they ain’t walking gently into the twilight of the long goodbye.
U.S. President Barack Obama reserved his August 16, 2014 weekly radio address to the topic of education.The issue of higher education is no less vexing than the super-charged topic of immigration. Both have to do with the American Dream. Even as American universities continue to stand out with their exceptional resources and productivity in the flashy Shanghai ranking of world universities, the debate in the United States is more about affordability. For families and students without enough cash to pay tuition and fees, access to higher education entails navigating a complex maze of discounts, grants, and loans, without any guarantees of profitable employment at the end of the journey. President Obama is seeking a solution to the access problem while wanting a rigorous education that challenges students. He may be opposed but he is absolutely right—without a good education that renews and revitalizes the American genius, the United States can’t coast indefinitely on the hard work of its pioneers.
This is the first audio recording I ever posted, so I am somewhat thrilled that a format exists for me to share it the same way I do videos. I gave an interview to the Chicago-based Radio lslam last Wednesday, August 13th, 2014, from my home in Tangier, Morocco. Due to the time difference, the date in Morocco was actually Thursday, August 14th, but no matter. The flow of global communications has yet to find a syntax to explain how a conversation can take place on different days.
In my last post, I complained about Arabs and Muslims being silent on the genocide of the Yazidis in Iraq. Today, while sitting on a plane in Rabat, Morocco, I read a harrowing account by Alissa J. Rubin, a New York Times journalist who was badly injured during an evacuation operation, about the courage of a veteran Iraqi Arab pilot who was so moved by the plight of the Yazidis that he made it his mission to escort as many of them as he could to safety. Helping the Yazidis avoid the terror of Islamic State assassins gave his life meaning. Ms. Rubin was on the helicopter that carried more than a full load of people and materials, but the helicopter was never able to gather enough power to lift and crashed in Kurdistan. Ms. Rubin was badly injured and dictated her story from an Istanbul hospital. Only one person died in the crash—the Iraqi general, seen below in a picture captured by New York Times photographer Adam Ferguson.
Read the full story here. It is a testament to the angelic side of our troubled humanity.
The United States has re-entered Iraq to fight ISIS, or the Islamic State, tout court. By doing so, the US is doing an enormous favor to the world community (especially the so-called Sunni Muslims who remain complicit by their indifference) by trying to stop the wholescale genocide of the Yazidis, an old religious and badly understood people with a hybrid religion who have made the northwestern part of the country their home since time immemorial. Now, the bearded Muslim terrorists are out to wipe them of the country, along with any Christian or minority they could find. A human cultural legacy is being erased and the world goes about its regular ways, as if nothing were at stake. I understand people are getting tired of the Middle East and its endless tragedies, but this is on a different scale. To witness genocidal acts and not do anything about them is deeply disturbing. The United States and President Obama need to be commended for getting back into Iraq to stop the atrocities—a legacy of decades-old botched policies in the region. And the raging madness of many Muslims.