Reflections on a Journey: Morocco Days 5-7 (Marrakesh)
From Fes we began the longest journey by train I have ever taken, 8 hours from Fes in the east of Morocco to Marrakesh on the borders of the Sahara in the south. Along the way you will stop at a number of Morocco’s other major attractions: Rabat, Meknes and Casablanca. The scenery not as breathtaking as our Andalusian journey but it’s still interesting to see the numerous changes of scenery; from the mountains of the east, fields in the Centre, and then eventually arriving in the desert.
Marrakesh used to be part of the so-called ‘hippy trail’, a destination where young, long haired university students during the 60s and 70s looked to get away from the mediocrity of the western world to where something different could be experienced. Nowadays its awash with tourists looking for all kinds of things, mostly with people who have too much money to spend, saw a sunny destination in a travel brochure and decided ‘what the hell? Let’s go there.’
The city is very different to Fes, (and according to Lonely Planet all of Morocco as well). There are historical sites worth visiting but not as many or grand as Fes. The Saadian tombs and the Kotoubiyya Mosque are the main highlights. The main attraction however is the city centre of Djen al-Fenna. A lively place awash with snake charmers, food stalls, merchants, if you want your typical orientalist inspired image of the Middle East look no further. Surrounding the centre are the numerous bazaars of Marrakesh. Most of the wares on offer are shipped in from other cities like Fes and sold on hiked prices to tourists, so make sure you haggle hard and don’t get taken in by any lavish flattery put on by a seller towards his goods.
And with our 2 and a bit days in Marrakesh our 2 week journey across Southern Spain and Morocco came to an end. Looking back it on it now I’m surprised at the distance we traveled in such a short time and the number of things and places we got to see. The definite highlights for me were the Cordoba Mosque and the Alhambra. I would encourage all Muslims living in Europe to try and go see these sights and take in the impact our Ummah has had on this continent. Take it as an inspiration to fuel our efforts into making this part of the world a better place to live for everyone. Carry on the tradition left over by those who came before us and left wonders and spectacles that have made the rest of the world stand in awe at what they achieved. Move out of our ghetto ‘us and them’ mentalities and instead move forward in a way that is consistent with our history and the Sunnah of our Messenger (ﷺ).
What was the downside of my journey, was the country of Morocco. A lot of Moroccans may not like me saying this, but for many years I had an image of Morocco as being this great centre of Islamic culture and history. But when you get there you are greeted by ‘Muslims’ all conniving to make a quick buck out of you. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the Moroccan people are extremely hospitable and welcoming, but if you visit the country as a tourist they’re going to be the minority that you meet. A typical example: Tell a seller you are Muslim, and all of a sudden he drops the price for you. Now as a Pakistani I always jump at getting something cheaper, but it’s forbidden in Islam to give short measure when you do business. Somebody’s religious affiliation doesn’t mean that you should hike or drop the price because of it. Reflect on this fact: Malaysia and Indonesia are two of the largest Muslim nations today in terms of population. Yet no Muslim empire ever reached these lands. The people converted as a result of the Arab traders who came to do business and brought their religion and manners with them when they traded, and as a result of their efforts millions of Muslims today are part of our Ummah, not just in these two countries, but in the Southern Phillipines, Thailand, Burma, Mauritius, and the whole coast of Africa. Now put this into perspective: Do you think a person traveling to Morocco today as a tourist would be akin to Islam given the interactions he would have with the people in the marketplaces? I highly doubt it.
But all in all, praise is to God who gave me the opportunity to undertake this journey and fulfill the commandment He has given us in the Qur’an: “Have they not traveled in the Earth and seen the final fate of those before them?” And now I look to plan my journey for next summer, but does my destiny beckon to Rome, or Istanbul…?