I’m in the Moroccan desert city of Marrakech, as people from all over arrive. We await the large Sufi Conference sponsored and paid for (airfare, accommodations and meals) by the Royals of Morocco. Sufism in Maroc is a hedge against fundalmentalism, promoting tolerance, inclusiveness and goodwill. It is a mystical tradition, the fragrance from the flower of belief.
We are in a 5 star hotel, and I write from a lobby with fountains and inlaid marble floors. Internet access is patchy, and I sent a few letters from the far corner of the balcony on the 5th floor which overlooks Marrakech, standing in the hot wind in the cooler afternoon, now that the temperature is under 100 degrees. Of course there is airconditioning. I had lunch with my friend Hamza who lives here with his family. Nine years ago he rode on camels with me in the Sahara.
Why am I here? I’ve been invited to read my poetry – from my forthcoming book – at the conference. There are many men, but few women here. It is amazing that anyone could just up and come here with ten days notice. We were in England teaching when we received the formal invitation. So it was easier. Then we were asked on the phone to bring teachers from the Chisti Ruhaniat Sufi Tarika. Cinda Basira and Tansen from England will be joining us Thursday,and Rahima from Germany arrived with us from Berlin. We had breakfast with the Nigerian Tarika. Every few hours more people arrive. I have no idea what will happen. Our good friend Ahamed – Jonthan Granoff – just arrived. Stay tuned. Hu!
Thursday morning, July 9th….
Last night a van drove us to a part of Marrakech I don’t remember at all. At 9 PM we were led through a small, very old keyhole arch down narrow lanes on a soft dirt path. Ancient doors with beautiful detailing appeared in the gray walls on the left and right. Cats. The beginnings of cool air. Then lanterns and a carpet, an open door. Voila! A palace? A restaurant? The ceiling was 4 stories high by American standards, exquisite carved wood. zelige (intricate tile design) walls and white, diaphamous, curtains. We sat at round tables and counted the plates to see how many courses we would eat. A Moroccan ensemble of 12 or so musicians began to play. Bubbley water or plain? Conversation. Prayers before dinner. The Niger / Mali Africans arrived with wonderful headdresses and sat at the next table. We copied them and ate with our hands. They seem like kings. There were maybe eighty of us by this time. More arriving all the time.
Then the olives and eggplant and delicious small dishes, the targe tagine with the meat and apricots, another tagine with chicken, vegetables and couscous. And finally…. fruit.
It was midnight. Ahamed and Pir Granoff wanted to see the square the “square” the Djemaa el Fanaa with the tall Koutoubia Mosque. I can’t upload any photos, but it was like noon on Saturday in the US. People and bikes and motorbikes were everywhere. Berber boys line-dancing to hand drums. Henna artists, and much to Pir’s delight – piles of cooked snail shells with their occupants steaming in butter.
Today the conference attendees are treated toa visit to the Zawia of Tamslot outside Marrakech. Time for lunch with Khalifa from Nigeria and Shabda. I may not be writing such detailed information now that the conference gets underway. Hu, Hu.