Monthly Archives: July 2012

Usain Bolt of the carpet-selling world.

Yesterday we spent nearly nine hours on a fast bus travelling to and from Fez to Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains.  Chefchaouen is fabulously pretty.  It clings to the mountainside, and uniquely is painted various shades of blue.  Blue because the original Jewish settlers, way back, discovered that the pale blue colour dissuades mosquitoes and other nasties from landing, choosing instead to fly on somewhere else.  Clever.

Of course, now the big deal is tourism, and so everyone and his cousin are selling leather bags, carpets or anything else remotely ethnic.  It was here, whilst dawdling around that we met and spent an hour with Abdul, who is the Usain Bolt of the carpet-selling world.   Abdul, plied us with green tea, “no pressure”, and began to tell us great stories from his home in the mountains.  I now know more about him and his family than I do about my neighbours back home.  He was a living work of art.  Needless to say, we left having bought a carpet / rug type thing.  I wanted to buy a massive wall one about 15” x 10” but Maria gently persuaded me that one the size of a hand towel would be fine.

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There is something superbly human and also Godly about a man utilising all his powers to provide for his family.  It sort of chimes with every culture throughout the World, in fact to provide for your family is an imperative as shown here in 1 Timothy; “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”.  So why is this a good thing?  Well obviously to care for one’s family is noble, credit worthy and an attribute which causes me to move from being stationary where all of life is set to revolve around my needs, to a dynamic image of movement, where I choose to serve needs beyond my own and in so doing I stray into reflecting something of the person of God.  So, when Abdul dances around me to persuade me to buy, is he actually personifying something of the character of God?  I would suggest, that even though perhaps he doesn’t know it, yes he is, because he has moved from serving his needs, to bleeding (sorry persuading) for the needs of others.

So in a world of relative truth, it seemed absolutely “right” that he should reach across the language and cultural boundaries and I should do likewise to meet half way, in the hope of making a sale. It was a sort of micro version of the United Nation’s worked out in a carpet shop half way up a Moroccan mountain.

 Another notable encounter was an almost elderly British guy we met, he lives in Chicago and Barcelona, he told me that he was a wholesale trader, in what I gingerly asked; “whatever people want” he said as he drew in a great lung full of hash smoke from his weird little cigarette.  He didn’t ask me to carry any parcels back to England though! Probably thought I looked to straight. Maybe Ill buy a Tommy Cooper Fez in Fez this afternoon, then when I get hit on to transport packages back to England I can say, “thanks’ for asking but not like that – like that ha ha ha”.

Ok, so it’s my first ever jaunt into Africa

Ok, so it’s my first ever jaunt into Africa, north Africa to be exact, Fez to be precise.  Difficult to believe, but it’s true – I’ve finally made it.  Here I am immersed in a 100% Moslem culture.  This 1400 year old city, parts of which appear to be original is a World Heritage Community.  The lanes, stalls and buzz blend ancient and modern.  A mobile phone stall sits alongside a butcher’s stall, which probably hasn’t changed in 1400 years.  One had a camel’s head for sale, nice with chips I’m told.

It can all be quite intimidating, such a masculine noisy culture.  People stare at Maria (blond blue eyes), and I’m a dead giveaway in my panama hat.  We did consider trying to blend in but realistically; it was never going to happen.

The Imman’s call out at regular intervals from the 420 Mosques and everyone observes the Ramanadan fast, not eating or drinking from 2.45 am through to 7.45 pm – every day.  I am of course impressed by the believers adherence to the law, the passionate retort from our cheery guide, Mohammed, “I’m fasting –I’m a good Moslem”.  I don’t know if I would so readily suggest I was a good Christian!  I guess that’s where these two great mono theistic religions divide, because I am a Christian not by my own goodness (heaven would be very disappointed by my goodness, or lack of it) but by the free gift from God, in Jesus.  Meaning, that even if I fasted every day for ten years, it still wouldn’t make me good enough, so with you know who, effectively fasting for me I appear amazingly and truly without shame.  Don’t get me wrong, my Moslem brother’s and sister’s are brilliant devout people, who deserve our admiration and respect.

However I’m a Christian, not because I’m religious, but because I’m grateful for Jesus absorbing my shame and delivering me from dogma.  Like Mel Gibson in Braveheart shouting “Freedom”.  Or maybe, I think I’m free but really I’m full of dogma, answers on a postcard please.