The mystic marabout of Sidi Abderrahmane. #MoroccanFridays

Moroccan-Fridays

Original photo by my dearest friend and talented photographer – Lina. (Adapted by Writer’s Caravan)

Salam Aleykoum! This post is part of the Moroccan Fridays series in which I aim to shine a light on the country I grew up in. The series strives to explore various topics, swaying between reality and legends, geographical wonders and curious traditions. 

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mar·a·bout‌ 1 (măr′ə-boo′, -boot′)
‌n.‌
‌1. ‌ A Muslim hermit or saint, especially in northern Africa.
‌2. ‌ The tomb of such a hermit or saint.

The rocky islet by Mustapha Ennaimi

As a child, I never knew what the Marabout de Sidi Abderrahmane was. Standing proudly on a rocky islet overlooking at the vast Atlantic, this small piece of land is enshrouded in mystery. At first sight, it may appear like a cluster of white houses cut-off from the shore of Casablanca but there is more than meets the eye.

Before 2013, the marabout was only accessible at low tide. Mum and I would sometimes spend early Sunday mornings by the shore, wading in the water amongst the rocks, picking razor clam and mussel shells, competing to find the rare kinds of abalone shells – the ones with the iridescent, rainbow-like insides.

In 2013, a stone arch bridge was built. This facilitates the access to the marabout and turns a sanctuary into yet another tourist attraction… But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The bridge at Sidi Abderrahmane by Amina Tagemouati

The marabout is amongst the most visited in Casablanca and yet… the history of Sidi Abderrahmane appears to be vague and very little is known about his life.

Some say Sidi Abderrahmane came from Baghdad in the 18th century. They say his boat ran aground on the Plage Aïn Diab, once an untouched beach, now a neighbourhood brimming with trendy restaurants, bars and hotels with luxurious swimming pools. A pious and humble man, Sidi Abderrahmane took up residence on the coast of Aïn Diab where he prayed and welcomed people in need of advice and healing.

Others claim he was an illiterate man. They affirm he was incapable of learning the Koran verses and thus retired on the rocky islet to praise God with his lute. He was indeed known as Boumezmar – the man with the lute.

The plage Aïn Diab and the marabout at high tide by Carlos ZGZ

It is said that Sidi Abderrahmane was a hermit and a saint. One who had “baraka” (blessing ) and the miraculous power to walk on water. Women from all over the country went on a pilgrimage to be cured from infertility or heartache. He was also known to heal those who suffered from a curse or mental illness. After his death, the Sayyed was buried on the island and during the French Protectorate, the rock was proclaimed a marabout.

Today, the island resembles a miniature city. It consists of a few whitewashed houses with blue shutters and a mausoleum that comprises two tombs – that of Sidi Abderrahmane, shrouded with a green fabric (the traditional colour of Islam), and that of his loyal servant.

But the island holds more secrets. There is another place behind the mausoleum, a place that welcomes the “possessed”, those who come bringing offerings, appealing to the Sayyed to be delivered. After immolating a sheep or a black billy goat, the patients are locked in a chamber where they are washed with the seven waves of the Ocean. Following their purification, they are showered with a blend of 333 herbs while their clothes are thrown away in the Ocean to exorcise the evil spell.

The stone arch bridge by Kent MacElwee

Yes, in the holy tomb of Sidi Abderrahmane, a peculiar odour lingers in the air. There is the salt, of course, the marine breeze, but  also another unmistakable scent, one that hints at the practice of witchcraft. Melted lead and incense. For the modest sum of a few dozen Dirhams, women of all age enter small barrack rooms where fortune-tellers read cards and whisper spells.

In Casablanca, those dream merchants are called chouafates. And although visiting them is haram (a sin), the business remains the most lucrative one in the marabout.

And yet, to the innocent eyes of the 10 year old I once was… the marabout de Sidi Abderrahmane was only a faraway island. The only interesting activity I was aware of at the time was that of collecting sea shells and pretending my nails were as long as razor clam shells.

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Thanks for reading.
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28 responses to “The mystic marabout of Sidi Abderrahmane. #MoroccanFridays

  1. Fab post, Eli! I have been to Morocco twice, well Marakech both times, and climbed Mount Toukal twice also. I’d do it again, in fact had planned on it with my boys, but now with Carys, its unlikely to happen. What an amazing life you must have had as a child!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such an interesting post, Ellie (as usual)! I like both that you presented varying views and that it’s about a unique place most people would probably never become aware of without being lead to it with an introduction. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so very happy you liked it, Beth! Thank you for the compliment. :)
      I long thought on how to start the series and decided that the “famous” and the “broad knowledge” can be found on Wikipedia. So I guess that is my aim now… dig deep… :D

      Liked by 1 person

    • :D Your comment made me smile. I’m so glad I’ve managed to take you away to Casablanca and you should definitely start planning your next trip. Have you been before?
      Writing these posts is actually making me all jittery (perhaps not the right word) and eager to go back too!

      Like

  3. Very interesting. I wonder about the bridge, though. Perhaps the Marabout de Sidi Abderrahmane might have been a little more mysterious and exciting if it had been kept a little less accessible.

    Like

  4. Sad, but true… I never learned anything about Morocco in the American schools. All the more interesting for me to read your blog. I also enjoyed the background music…it really underlines your beautiful photography.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well… In a way, I’m glad you didn’t. I get to introduce you fully! :D
      I’m also glad you played and liked the music. I usually spend some time choosing the right melody and it’s great to know people like you press play. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I know the time behind finding just the right music. But it’s worth it because it’s incredible what a difference it makes as to how photos come over.

    Like

    • You’re right. I spend my days immersed in music so background music makes sense to me.
      I have actually been thinking to feature more indie singer-songwriters , less known but just as talented. What do you think?

      Like

  6. Fascinating and, if read with the music in the background, very atmospheric. I have been to Morocco, but it was as a callow youth with nothing in mind but drinking and… Well, you’ll get the drift. This series of yours is opening up a whole new perspective for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so happy you read it with the music on.
      Ha ha… Yes, I do get the drift! In any case, I’m very excited for the 2nd post and looking forward to “re-introduce” Morocco to you in a different light! :D

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello, we met at the Blogger’s Bash and I’ve finally found your site! I love this post – I visited Morocco a few years ago and thought it a wonderful place – this took me back there again.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Elissaveta! I know, it was one of those days that passed so quickly and I didn’t get to speak to everyone I wanted to – it is a shame we didn’t get to chat properly. And thanks for your nice words about my Twitter bio, I love yours too – the magic and mystery of Morocco is somewhere that has always called to me. Hopefully we can have a proper chat one day, I think we would get on too :)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: He who has no milk has no friend. #MoroccanFridays | A Writer's Caravan·

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