Published: August 6th 2007July 15th 2007
Groups have a leader who speeds up the rhythem and calls out lyrics to be repeated by the singers.
Hello Everybody, Salamu alakyum,
Travelblog crashed last week and lost my last ten blogs. While I am very disappointed I hope that you all had a chance to see my last ones before they disappeared into cyberspace. I am now back home, having finished with Peace Corps and accepted a job teaching in Boise. This is my last blog and I am now retired from blogging. Yay!
Knowing my days were limited in Morocco I tried to fit in as many adventures as I could in the first half of summer.
Gnawa, June 21-24:
The Gnawa music festival in Essouira is infamous and every year a group of volunteers manages to go. Gnawa is a Sufi brotherhood and the music is designed to inspire and put people in a trance. The rhythms are repetitive, energetic and highly danceable. Songs tend to start out rather slow, with lots of chanting of Rasool-Allah (messenger of God, i.e. Muhammed), getting faster and faster as the singing and dancing become more frenetic. Gnawa groups each have their own dance routines, though there are several staple movements that are typical to the genre. There is a lot of twirling (reminiscent of the Sufi ‘Whirling
Set up along the sea wall these gnawa singers were among the most traditional of all the groups at Essouira that week.
Dervishes’ though faster) and rhythmic marching in and out of picturesque formations. Often one man will crouch down in front of the others and jump up, alternately throwing out his feet, which reminded me of Russian dances.
Essouira goes all out for this festival and stages are set up all over town. There were at least four main stages and countless smaller ones. Music usually started at about 11am, lasting far into the night. There were so many good acts it was hard to race between the stages, from the sea wall to the main square to the town wall’s gate to Marrakech to the beach. Stages were every where. We saw acts ranging from very traditional Gnawa sung by grandfatherly men to Pakistani drum & bass to young groups of Marrakechis singing newer Gnawa songs about the illusions of immigration to Cubans to a group from Benin to French saxophone infused traditional Gnawa. It was all there.
I didn’t get many photos because the crowds also inspired a large number of pickpockets. I left everything in the apartment as often as I could. This didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the sights and sounds though. Gnawa is a festival
H-Kayne was playing and everybody around me sang along to Moroccan hip hop.
not to be missed.
Camp, July 1-18:
Camp this year was in the same place as last summer - right by the beach in El Jadida. Camp is run by the Moroccan government but this year the American Embassy offered scholarships to kids volunteers work with in our sites. We were allowed to bring a maximum of six campers with us and most of these kids had never been so far from home. It is difficult enough to convince parents to allow their child to go to camp way out on the coast, more difficult if that child is a girl. Volunteers often spend many days drinking tea with families, assuring them of their child’s safety and sometimes downright begging parents to let the kids go.
Many inland children have never seen the ocean. For the scholarship we choose students 13-16 who are motivated and whose family would never be able to pay for camp. In most communities it’s easy to find students who fit those requirements. I didn’t get to go to camp with the kids from Kelaa since my region was assigned the third session of camp and I only had time to attend the
Essouira is famous for wind (it hosts international kite boarding and wind surfing competitions) so when Lena poured me tea it blew sideways missing the teacup.
first session before I had to head back to the US.
I was camp librarian and got to entertain the campers, check out books, games and sports equipment during free time and between activities. In the morning we had breakfast, announcements, English class (since the government stresses this is an English Language camp) and then we get to go to the beach. I didn’t have to teach English but I made sure I was at the beach every day with the kids. There were 94 of them and while not every one went to the beach every day, it was still a huge group that needed a lot of monitoring. After the beach was lunch, then rest (free) time.
On the second day of camp a young girl from a village way out in the desert wandered into the library after lunch. She eyed the books then turned to me asking if there was anything in Arabic. All the books were donated by the Embassy and all are in English. She had no previous experience with English but I helped her choose a picture book and she sat down near my desk to puzzle through the words. That
I visited the cistern last year but my photos this year are much better.
day I taught her every word in the book which she dutifully wrote down in her notebook, along with Arabic translations. She wrote down definitions for ‘the’ and ‘and’. I thought that was the last I would see of her in the library.
I had a couple competitions going in the library. One was a haiku competition, not particularly American, but even beginners in English can write the short little poems. The other competition was a reading competition to see who could read the most books by the end of camp. The little girl from the desert was back the next day, introducing herself as Hafida and asking what other books she could read. She plowed through all the picture books and started on the beginner ones, noting all new vocabulary and practically memorizing each book. Hafida won the contest, beating out campers who had been studying English for years.
Camp was a great way for me to end my work with Peace Corps. We played on the beach, spent a day visiting Casablanca and took outing around El Jadida. I played battle ship with kids in the library, checked out hackey sacks, basketballs and real American footballs
Africa's largest mosque, on the edge of the Atlantic in Casablanca. The roof opens up mechanically to let in the sun and sea breezes.
- which the campers thought were rugby balls. My mother had sent me an Idaho edition of Monopoly and it was a hit. At the end I had to say good bye to the other volunteers who had worked with me for the past two years and head back to Kelaa to pack up.
Saying goodbye to my host family, July 19:
Maryam was determined to send me off properly and arranged for a professional henna woman to come to the house in the morning. She started on my feet about 9am and didn’t finish with the hands until after 1pm. It was a long process and if I had sat through such a through henning two years ago I would have been fidgety and extremely bored. But this time I enjoyed relaxing back into the pillows, having Maryam feed me tea and cookies, watching nature documentaries on the Al Jazera documentary channel.
It wasn’t easy saying goodbye to all the friends I made in Kelaa, but I was excited to go home again and see my family there. It’s been a good (almost) two years in Morocco but it’s time to go home and get a
at the Hassan II tower. The mosque was built with contributions (extra taxes) from all Moroccans.
real job so I can come back here on vacation.
There are more photos below