The excited Al-Madina crowd assembled by the lounge at JFK airport buzzing around the brilliant Imam Mohammad Magid while waiting for their plane to depart for Morocco. It was a warm, pleasant day when we arrived in Casablanca. Our fellow travellers, a group of fifty people, boarded a bus destined for the port city of Tangier. On the bus we met our esteemed spiritual teacher on the tour, Shaykh Mohsen Al-Najjar and the lively tour guide Rashid who spoke about the heiress Barbara Hutton throughout our trip. Giant palm trees and elegant cafes line the streets of Tangier overlooking the Strait of Gibralter.
By late afternoon, we reached Hotel Andalucía where we all greeted by smiling faces and served glasses of exceptionally sweet mint tea. The following day our group went to visit the Maqam of Ibn Ajiba. Here, cheery children ran up to us trying to take pictures of Imam Magid while he was lecturing to our group.
Our next destination was the relaxed hillside village of Chefchaouen filled with whitewashed homes and sky-blue alleys situated in the Rif Mountains. While we walked along the narrow street, we met Ahmad, a white-haired man dressed in a hooded djellabas and pointy white leather babouche slippers who espoused words of wisdom as he directed us along twisty, winding alleyways to a wonderful eatery. Our knowledgeable guide, Rashid, promised us in his wonderful Moroccan accent, that the food at this restaurant is “walahi so delicious”. Indeed the flavorful kefta drenched in a tangy tomato sauce and the sweet stuffed fillo-dough chicken pastille along with tagine, the tender chicken almond and prune stew, was absolutely delectable!
After Chefchaouen, our skilled bus driver, Muhammad, drove us to the Imperial city of Fez. Fez is the intellectual and spiritual heart of Morocco. We arrived to our lovely Sofitel Hotel and served the national drink of Morocco… mint tea of course along with savory almond cookies. Afterwards, we visited Al-Qarawiyyin University, an academic and spiritual center that was a reminder of a former thriving academia. The city of Fez was reminiscent of Toledo, Spain with similar Andalusian-inspired architecture. The plain façade of the structures in Fez opened up to a rich, detailed interior world. During our stay in Fez, we also explored a pottery studio with local ceramic artisans.
The Mosque of Moulay Idris II, who was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon Him, was our next destination. Here, Imam Mohammad Magid translated a declaration made by Moulay Idris II for the city of Fez to remain a city of peace. While in Fez, our group visited the Maqam of Shaykh Mohammed Tijani, the founder of the Tijaniyya Sufi order. At the maqam, we heard rhythmic, mellifluous dhikr in wharsh.
The following day our group left for Meknes. After trying to dodge mopeds and donkeys, we lunched on skewered kebabs. We visited Bab el-Mansour with its grand, magnificent gate.
We headed south for Marrakech on a long, unforgettable bus ride passing panoramic views of the Atlas Mountains. During this ride, Shaykh Mohsen imparted valuable lessons to all of us. He spoke about setting the navigation system of our hearts to Allah (SWT) and in the company of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon Him. Shaykh Mohsen went on to remind us “that the more you need, the more you get” from Allah (SWT). We arrived at Tichka hotel late in the evening and were welcomed by two musicians singing traditional Moroccan songs. The next morning Muhammad drove us to the Koutoubia Mosque the largest one in Marrakesh. The mosques in Morocco have unique square-shaped minarets and Koutoubia’s minaret has been a model for a mosque in Seville, Spain. During our dinner at the hotel, friendly felines circled our feet under our dinner tables while we dined on harissa soup and more tagines.
We then went on to visit to the grand maqam of Imam Jazuli, where we enthusiastically listened and participated in the life-enhancing chanting from the Dala’il al-Khayrat, a prayer book praising the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) which was written by Imam Jazuli.
Our sightseeing included a visit to the enchanting square of Djemaa El-Fna where persistent, zealous vendors sold tagines, cutwork metal lanterns, djellabas along with many other exotic things. After a long day of shopping, we sipped freshly-squeezed orange juice while we watched the monkeys and snake charmers in the square.
The next morning we boarded the bus headed for Casablanca. Before checking into our hotel, we got to see a master calligrapher, Muhammad, create verses of the Quran in elegant script. Afterwards, we arrived at the Hyatt Hotel, with its plain, unassuming exterior but decorative lobby and carved domed ceiling. Once again, a reminder that Morocco is all about interiors. Our group then went to pray at the stately Hassan II Mosque which has a towering and the largest minaret in the world. This grand mosque overlooking the Atlantic, is the seventh largest in the world and the inside is filled with cedar woodcarvings, marble and zellij. After spending the night in Casablanca, we reluctantly departed for the airport to return home.
This trip was a sacred journey to a place filled with saints and saliheens, and we through the guidance of our esteemed scholars took our own personal spiritual journey of introspection and illumination. By the end of our trip to this mystical land, our group developed a genuine camaraderie, having shared warm memories that will remain with us for years to come.
-Amrin Quraishi Ajmal
By ImanWire , 18 Apr 2012