A beautiful sound flows gently thru the narrow corridors’ of the Maghrib during midday calling those who believe to prayer. Like the acappella sounds on the “A” side of a symphony, it’s not only a sound but a feeling. The Mosque fills quickly as men and women walk quietly in their sandals as the beat of their hearts are slightly louder with excitement… yet solace. The Imams’ recitation of the Quran across Morocco can only be described as awestruck as my chin is kneeled to my chest as we stand in worship of the One God. I leave this gracious structure with craftsmanship of highly skilled architects to find a man sitting disabled, his gleaming eyes directed into mine. I hand him something from my pocket and he thanks me only with a smile. The lunch hour looms and my host family (Abdullah and Zahra) whisk me to up the mountain of this Oceanside city called Agadir. I am sure that Morocco is the California of Africa, therein Agadir being its’ San Diego. I fall in love immediately.
We are greeted for lunch at a three story beach house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean by an enlightened soul…her name is Wafa Goghrod.
Wafa is a mother of three who speaks very little English. I soon meet her daughter Rim who is well versed in English. The Maghrib is populated by mainly Berber people and some Arab, both groups covering shades ranging from deep chocolate to white chocolate. In this house, they speak Berber first, Arabic second and French as a result of European Colonialism. Rim is all of 14 years old, yet wise beyond her years. After engaging me in general conversation about the fish that populate the Southern Seas she abruptly shift gears into politics. “President Obama is Muslimeen” she quite comfortably proclaims. I graciously correct her that he is in fact a Christian. In disbelief she challenges my conclusion further. “Obama is of Africa and his Baba (Father) was Muslimeen. So that makes him Muslim Malik”, she says. I again attempt at a correction in her logic when her older teenage brother Lyazid (pronounced Yazit) lounging his feet on the couch comes to my aid. “Obama is no good Rim!” he shouts across the room. “He supports the homosexuals in the military in America and no Muslim would ever do that”. A sad glare of disappointment crosses the girlish face of young Rim as she changes the subject. Lyazid, unlike most Moroccans are very political and have a grasp on world events. This I find to be refreshing.
Rim, like her brother speaks four languages bouncing from one to another much like the salt water that scrolls upon the large rocks just outside the picture window. I think to myself how smart Rim is and I relay to Wafa of a bright future that Rim is staring down. I asked this very alive young Berber girl as I tilt the red beach hat that she is wearing “Chicago style” (she later changed it back) “what do want to be when you grow up Rim?” She glances back at me, shrugs her shoulder knowing of all the endless possibilities that remain in front of her in the next decade. I get the sense that she is someone special, from a very special family and culture.
It is Wafa that runs the ship. Muslim women in the Maghrib are very independent yet dependent and respectful of the family structure. Watching Wafa negotiate her surroundings’ over the next few weeks confirms a statistic that I read concerning the independence of Muslim women in general…that eighty per cent of all purchases in a Muslim household are made by the woman…true decision making.
After some tea and sweets (no Moroccan would ever let you into their home without offering these two staples), I hear the cry of a five or six year old girl as she insist on taking a swim against the better wishes of Wafa in the cold Atlantic. Her name is Hibba and she wins’ the brief encounter. On her return she stands in the hall in a puddle of water as further proof of her conquest.
After much conversation Wafa is surprised to find that I am single. With conviction, she vows’ “I will find the perfect wife for you Malik”. I don’t object to nor doubt her capabilities. With only a chuckle, I reply “Insh’allah” (God willing).
I am to visit Wafa and her family a few more times before my departure from this great African land. The next day I am treated to a tour of her almost built Mansion on the mountain in the city. Half way thru the tour I ask “is there a room for Malik perhaps?” The last time I had been in a house that big was in Ghana at the Presidential palace in 1991 on a visit to see President Jerry Rawlings. Wafa graciously informs me that the vacant property that sits’ adjacent is available for me to build on. I pondered for a moment, realizing “not in this life”.
I am to see Wafa and her family for the last time at the Eid celebration with the extended family. The men gather separately in a room as the feast is served in three or four layers on one communal platter each time. We eat from the same plate with our hands. I am sure that I have never tasted food this good or ate so much. I remind her son Lyazid who is near me of the importance of travelling abroad in his formative years. I invite him to America for a long summers’ stay to immerse himself in English and to grow. “Fisibillilah”, I say to Lyazid. He smiles and repeats in English “going out on the path of Allah”.
Wafa is very much an integral part of The Muslim Street. “The Street” is filled with ordinary Muslims’ who live interesting and extraordinary lives. “The Street” is populated with the normality of all that is human, all that is Islam. I am left with much conversation about her completion of the Hajj to Makkah and many trips to Umrah. “When you get married Malik you must meet us to make Umrah Malik” she says. I am left with the inspiring visual of this lady who is a wife, a mother, a hijabi and much more. To Wafa Goghrod and her family who met I (Malik Aziz) a stranger from abroad and on whom would stop at nothing to extend kindness, warmth and glad tidings to other Muslims’…welcome to The Muslim Street.