During my stay in Morocco I had the pleasure of witnessing a very special Islamic holiday, or in Arabic an Eid (عيد). This Eid was to celebrate the sacrifice of Abraham’s son, Ishmael and how Allah provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son. Weeks before the actual Eid people buy rams and goats for sacrifice. On the actual day of the Eid the leader of the household will kill the lamb (there are some interesting videos on YouTube on how they sacrifice the ram, but as one may expect it’s a bit graphic so if you have a weak stomach I do not advising you to watch a sacrifice) and then for the next week or so the family will eat the ram or goat and give thanks to Allah. It’s really a unique holiday for an outsider to witness a religious/ cultural ceremony.
Unfortunately, I was not able to witness the Eid because I was travelling to Madrid, Spain for three days with two of my friends. A day before the Eid we took a train from Meknes to Tangier and stayed in Tangier for the night. The next day it was pouring rain and a lot of streets were flooded, but thankfully we found a taxi to take us to the airport for our flight. Once we arrived in Madrid we booked a room in the Cat’s Hostel in downtown. Apparently, this is one of the more famous, nicest hostels in Europe. The building was originally built in the 18th century there were signs all over the place describing the historical significance of the structure. We arrived in Madrid during the evening, so exploring was kind of limited plus the weather in Madrid was significantly colder than the weather in Meknes (thankfully though I brought a sweatshirt) but we did go and explore the night life. What I noticed first was the amount of people out and about at 10 p.m. Families were taking walks, people were walking their dogs, and people were just conversing in plazas, cafes, and in restaurants. One of the other aspects to Spain, and really in Europe, that I took a keen interest in was how attractive the women were. Overall, the people are beautiful in Spain and have a nice relaxing culture (probably too relaxed since they are experiencing a depression right now) and I don’t know what’s in the water or maybe it’s some weird breeding technique but Spain has gorgeous women. Gorgeous women aside, my first night in Spain was an experience I’ll never forget and I already had great impressions of Spain. The next day my friends and I went to explore the city. Madrid is one of the more historical cities in Spain so the architecture and the buildings are very intricate with some of my favourite buildings having Islamic influence with Arabic script and architectural style woven into the fabric of the buildings foundation. Our hostel had Arabic script along its walls which I thought was extremely cool.
The first place we visited was a Catholic church. This was my first time in a Catholic church, and this church took my breath away with the elaborate, sophisticated carvings of scenes from the Bible and paintings of various saints throughout the church. Towards the back of the cathedral there was an enormous organ which I really wish was playing and I could only imagine how the church would sound with the powerful music coming from that organ. In the center of the church was a statue of Jesus hanging from the cross and to the right of that, about 30 steps, was a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The whole church was in a shape of a cross with the Jesus statue in the middle; along the walls were various paintings and statues of saints. I had to chuckle at one point because many of the images of Jesus had Him with abs which I don’t think was historically accurate, don’t think he was really ripped but that’s just my opinion. Conveniently located behind the church was the royal palace and just for five Euros each we went on a tour of the palace. Now, I can’t say that I’ve ever been to a palace before, but this one had to be one of the better ones. It was neat seeing rooms from the 18th and 19th centuries still intact (in a way it reminded a lot of the White House). We saw the throne room which was really cool and after we finished our tour of the palace we saw the royal armory with manikins of horses and nights all about in their armor from the Middle Ages. After the palace we were all pretty tired so we decided to call it a day… until the night came then went out again. At this point and time I was really enjoying my time in Spain. I feel that I have a better grasp on my Spanish than I do with my Arabic so I was able to communicate with Spaniards with ease which was really exciting for me and rekindled my love affair with Spanish.
The next day we were all pretty exhausted from staying out too late (but I would say it was so worth it) so we started our day late. We went to a park and went people watching, the day was a crisp, cool fall day with couples walking about, runners running, kids playing, and people having a good time. It reminded a lot of those good times in high school when I was a part of Model United Nations and we would always have a conference at William and Mary and the weather would always be so beautiful like in Spain. After the park we went to an art museum during the period were they allowed people in for free which was awesome. I saw many masterpieces (which I believe were originals) from artists like de Goya and el Greco. It was definitely a once in a life time experience; the museum along with the park but things into perspective for me, I am so privileged to be where I am now and if someone was to tell me 5 years ago that I would be in Madrid, Spain or in Morocco for that matter, I wouldn’t have believed them. That Monday we left which was really depressing for me (but I knew I had to because Spain and the EU is a very expensive place to have a vacation) but I vowed to myself that I would visit again someday and maybe even get a job there which is not all that farfetched with my ever increasing proficiency in Derija and Spanish. I love Spain.