14 May 2014, Wednesday
Habibah, the staff at the Riad assisted with the luggage. She’s a young 28 year old mother with an 8 year old son, Muhammad Amin. We tried to communicate in the most basic Arabic. Francois called Habibah to apologise that she couldn’t send us off. How sweet! While we were about get in Said’s car, I heard someone calling out my name. It was Saad who waved like how an old friend would.
A 3hr journey from the imperial city to Casablanca on the highway. Said broke the news that it would be his last day with us, as he has another client. He told us that he felt that he wasn’t working but on a holiday with his sisters. Alhamdulillah. It felt too short, really.
Peak hour – traffic jam, cars honking. A preview of city life to prep us for the reality back at our fast-paced hometown the next day.
I couldn’t wait to see the majestic Hassan II Mosque which used to be the 2nd or 3rd largest mosque in the world after Masjidil Haram. We arrived just shortly before Zuhr prayers (the mosque is closed to visitors during prayers). So we missed the entrance to male’s hall.
After about 15 minutes or so in the mosque compound, I heard Said’s voice from behind us. “Girls! Would you like to pray Zuhr at the mosque?” Allah answered our prayers! We agreed to meet again at 2pm.
We realised much later that we left our prayer garbs in the car. Confidently, I thought, they might have some at the mosque. After ablution, we took off our shoes near the escalator. I asked from the first woman I saw at the praying area, in my elementary level Arabic, for an abaya. She signalled there was none and willingly handed me her beautiful woven shawl which comfortably covered my hands.
While waiting for Nihla to complete her prayers, I sat beside this kind woman. She asked me where I was from and my occupation. I couldn’t figure out her 2nd question. We giggled and she leaned over from her chair and hugged me (I was sitting on the carpet). She kissed my cheeks and touched my face lovingly like a grandmother, and said “Anti jamilah.” I could only say to her “MasyaAllah. La anti kazalik. Syukran.”
She asked the same question again but this time her colleague who speaks clearer Arabic, tried to explain and included doctor, teacher? I don’t know how to describe my job so I just agreed when she asked if I am a student. Hehe.
“Min balad?” she asked and then went on to talk about my trip. She was proud to hear that I’ve visited quite a few cities in Morocco. Heavy-hearted, we had to leave. I gave her a hug in return for kisses.
Back in the car, Said asked “Solatu? (Prayed?) How was it?” I told him about the lovely encounter. He commented “When you are nice to people, they will be nice to you. You girls are real Muslims.” I was puzzled.
He then told us of his strange encounter whilst waiting for us. He said that after he dropped us off, a much older man (a tour bus driver) approach him and asked if he was with us and whether we are true Muslims (i.e. if we are practising Muslims)? Said replied yes (masyaAllah…insyaAllah). The old man continued to remind him to take good care of them and Allah will reward you.
Said, shocked by this reminder from a stranger, shared that sadly, it was his last day with us. To which the man consoled Said by saying that it was ok and he was sure Said has taken care of us well.
Nihla and I were trying to stop our tears from flowing down. I told you…this was a spiritual journey.
Sadly, we had to say our goodbyes to Said, our little brother and travel companion of almost 12 days. I hate goodbyes. I don’t think I can ever be a tour guide. I get attached to people too easily.