Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Muezzin and the New Year

It had been our intention to have a holiday in places starting with 'Ma' but time, and money, ran out before we could take in Marseille, Maputo, Madeira or Manhattan (either in New York or in Kansas), so we've had to limit ourselves to Madrid and Marrakesh. Not that we're complaining: they're fine places to celebrate Christmas and see in the New Year.

Marrakesh is a wonderful place in which one of my favourite figures in history, the intellectual giant Averroes, died. So did one of the finest and still underrated British generals of the Second World War, Claude Auchinleck: Churchill, who combined extraordinary charisma and courage with an incompetence in military matters equalled only by his certainty that he was outstandingly gifted, replaced Auchinleck by that champion of vanity and ineptitude Montgomery, just as he, Auchinleck, had finally overcome Rommel at the Batlle of El Alamein in Egypt.

Fortunately, Marrakesh isn't just a place to die, but a pretty good place to live too. The Medina, where we're staying, is magnificent - though it could benefit by being pedestrianised. The bustle and the crowds are exhilarating, the noises and the smells mindblowing, but the motorbikes weaving in and out of the crowd are a real pain, and when a car or van tries to make its way through, it's a disaster.

But my most telling experience has been one that has forced me back to an earlier post, about the
Swiss decision to ban Minarets. Here they're everywhere, and of course five times a day they are graced with muezzin's cries. In the spirit of tolerance that I constantly try to cultivate, I have absolutely no objection to this, particularly since it contributes to the specific atmosphere of the place, so I'm happy with it even at quarter to six in the morning. Unfortunately, though, there is one muezzin, and apparently the closest to where we're staying - or perhaps the loudest - who doesn't believe in just addressing a swift prayer to the Lord, but delivers a full little homily every dawn.

Why is that necessary? After all, we're talking about an omniscient being here. He surely already knows about the devotion of his adepts. So presumably a quick reminder, in the form of a memo or post-it note, would do. You know, something along the lines of 'God is great. I devote myself wholly in full submission to his will. And I wish to express my gratitude for another day in which to prove that this is so.' The Lord could take note of the prayer and I could get back to sleep.

Why instead do we need a full quarter of an hour about all the different aspects of the devotion and submission on offer? Unnecessary detail. The bane of the office e-mail of today. And an obstacle to my getting my much-needed beauty sleep.

Apart from that, though, it's brilliant here. Wonderful food, excellent fruit juices, charming people. A great way to end the year.

So it's in that spirit that I wish you all an excellent 2010!

1 comment:

Mark Reynolds said...

I remember when Amynah and I stayed in Istanbul, the muezzin's in our friend's neighbourhood distinctly seemed to be in competition with each other for the most musical and flashy call to prayer, which struck me as contrary to the whole submission/humility thrust of the religion they were advertising. On the other hand, they did keep it brief. Glad you're enjoying your trip, and happy New Year!