The Man Who Shook My Heart – Visits to Ifrane (The Garden City) and Rabat (The Capital)





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This Saturday and Sunday was packed with adventures once again! Our amazing driver and guide, Khaled, took us to visit the province of Ifrane this past Saturday, July 20th (Ifrane is southwest from Fes, located in the middle of the Moroccan Atlas Mountains, and pronounced If-raan). It was the greenest city I have seen in Morocco thus far.  Due to its rich source of life and beauty, one of its nicknames is “The Garden City.” Their were plenty of gardens to please our eyes and the fresh minty smell of the air brought comfort, peace, and happiness to me. Many people come here for vacations and during the winter, it snows plenty.

In the mountains of Ifrane, we visited a natural water spring where a water company called “Äin-Ifrane” has their factory located there. They package water bottles to distribute/sell to the rest of the country. They also have some water running free for anyone to use/drink and has some flowing down a stream leading to a dam used for agricultural purposes.

I had the chance to ride horses in two small cities called Azrou and Imuzar (cities within Ifrane). We also visited one of the oldest tree, Sidr tree, in Morocco (850 years old), and purchased a few souvenirs from one of the stalls.

Masóud (above) is the horse I galloped on in Ifrane. What a beautiful being he is.

One of the oldest tree, the Sidr Tree (850 years old), in Morocco.

From the souvenir stall, I purchased five minarets baked from clay that are classical Moroccan designs (all the minarets of the Mosques in Morocco has the same overall design in terms of art and architecture). The stall was located about fifty feet from the Sidr tree. The owner was an elderly soft spoken man. The man’s booth was made out of tint and logs of wood. He sold various types of rocks, pieces of wood with Quranic calligraphy transcribed on them, and few other items. My transaction with him was unique, memorable, and one that made me ponder about life and its many blessings.

A half a foot minaret baked from clay on display caught my attention. “You can even light a candle inside it to make it shine like gold through its windows in the dark,” said the shopkeeper. I asked him the price. He replied “Ïshreen Dirham” (20 Dirhams which is about $2). I asked if he had anymore because I wish to purchase a few more (I can give them as gifts to people when I return home). He showed me all he had in the back of his shop.

There were only four more, three of which were bigger in size (about 1 foot and costs 30 Dirhams or $3 dollars). I bargained with him a little bit trying to make it a good sale. The total without asking for a lower price would have been 130 Dirhams. After a few seconds of bargaining, he agreed to give me all 5 minarets for 105 Dirhams. I took out a 200 Dirham bill from my wallet and gave it to him.

Both of his hands dug into his pockets and he pulled out a bunch of coins along with a 20 Dirham bill. The man said in Darija – the Moroccan Arabic dialect which Khaled translated for me as we were conversing with the shopkeeper – “please take the change you need from my hands.” I looked at him bewildered. He said “please, I insist. I do not know how to do ‘riyadah’ – math/basic arithmetic.” I was shocked at this request and saddened by the reasoning behind it. This transaction made me emotional and I took the correct change and quickly left.

However, I left with guilt. I should have not taken any change. This man reminded me how very fortunate and blessed I am to be able to receive an education in America. He reminded me not to take anything for granted. His circumstance forces him rely on the trust of his customers and their arithmetic skills in order to make a profit from the sales. I wished I could have stayed with him a little while to teach him some basic math. However, my program’s schedule would not allow it.

Furthermore, Khaled informed me that this person and many others around this region in Ifrane never get a chance to attend school. They are born into poverty and have to start working as a child to help provide for their families and often times are never able to climb out of their social class. This interaction reaffirmed my wish to one day help make education accessible to everyone, even a man selling souvenirs on a mountain top in Morocco.

On Sunday, we visited the capital of Morocco, Rabat. It is a beautiful metropolitan city. There were many cabs, buses, and tramways. We visited the Hasan Tower (a Mosque that was to be built and was left incomplete because the Caliph at the time, Yaqoub Al Mansur, constructing it had passed away). Across the Hasan Tower sits the mausoleum of King Muhamad V and his two sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdellah (the current King, Muhamad VI’s, grandfather, father and uncle respectively). After visiting the historic sites, we spent the rest of the day at the beach in Rabat which has the largest swimming pool in all of Africa. Admissions is 10 Dirhams or $1.

The Hasan Tower. You can see the pillars that were suppose to hold up the completed mosque left incomplete. Even the minaret is not completed.

The mausoleum of the current King’s grandfather King Muhamad V and his two sons King Hassan II and Prince Abdellah pictured behind me. Guarding the entrance is a soldier from the current kings Royal Guard.

This coming week, we will shadow physicians in Neurology and Pediatrics. I will definitely be back to tell you about it.

Talk soon – Mohammed

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